For this week’s post I interviewed Kim Murphy, author of the paranormal Dreaming series, Whispers series, and the Promise trilogy. Her books have won a Next Generation Indie Book Award, ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award, an IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book awards, and a nomination for RT Reviewer’s Choice Award.
She’s also a fellow history geek with a degree in anthropology, and has published a few nonfiction works about the Civil War (We had a minor geek-fest during our email conversation. It was awesome.). She also has two adorable dogs and is unafraid to address women’s issues in her writing, so she wins all the things.
Thank you, Kim, for joining us on Dragons, Zombies and Aliens!
DZA: Tell us a little bit about what you're currently writing.
Kim: I'm currently researching a spinoff/continuation of The Dreaming series. I haven't gotten far enough to talk much about it yet, but it will basically be some of the same characters from the trilogy in a different "realm."
Where did the story of The Dreaming series come from?
With my anthropology background, I've always been intrigued by the shamans. Historians often like to argue that the European cultures didn't have shamans, then I stumbled on the cunning folk. The cunning folk were the healers of European societies (each culture had a different name), using herbs and magic. Many had spirit guardians as well.
All of my stories are based in Virginia because it's easier for me to research. Again, historians argued that the cunning folk never made it to Virginia's shores. I haven't uncovered any records to the contrary, but during the 17th century the cunning folk were much more common than doctors. The average person of the era couldn't afford a doctor. Those who could often didn't trust them. Because the cunning folk were so common, I believe they did arrive on Virginia's shores. In fact, some of the witch trials held during the era have definite signs that the accused women may have been cunning women.
The Dreaming series is a mix of the modern and the 17th century. The two time periods have a definite connection.
What's been the most difficult part of writing The Dreaming series?
The most difficult part was researching the Native people of the 17th century. Most of what's written are biased historical records. I dug deeper by reading the anthropological records and contacting the Native people themselves for their side of the story.
Give us an insight into your main character. What makes them special?
In modern times and under hypnosis, Phoebe Wynne tells the story of an ocean crossing to Colonial Jamestown. Soon after, her tale continues with mass starvation in the colony. With no recollection of the current century, she claims that she escaped death by running off to the Paspahegh, a nearby Indian tribe.
The other main character is Lee Crowley, a seasoned police detective. He's skeptical of Phoebe's story, but being a Native American himself, he's intrigued. Phoebe also seems to understand his pain and anger of being caught between two cultures.
She shows him "the dreaming," which is a cunning woman's shamanic journey. I think that makes her special because even though Lee has no idea if she's telling the truth, it helps him make a connection to his own past.
Why did you want to be a writer?
Writing chose me. I've written stories (mostly historical/paranormal) for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my books, Whispers from the Grave, started out as a ghostly short story in a high school English class. The sequel, Whispers through Time, is dedicated to my seventh-grade English teacher because she encouraged me. What's even more fun is that we're friends as adults.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I often don't take my own advice, but the story doesn't need to be perfect in the first draft. Sometimes I'll waste time over a word or sentence that doesn't sound right, and I'm not satisfied. That's what edits are for. Finish the story first. Once it's written, then worry about the flow.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that I haven't included?
Walks Through Mist is the first book in The Dreaming trilogy, followed by Wind Talker, and finally Circle in Time.
Thank you for inviting me on your blog!
You can find Kim on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
You can find her books on Amazon and Books-A-Million (BAM).
Warning: all the spoilers for American Gods season one.
I had no idea what American Gods was until it became a television series. I don't read Neil Gaiman, so I didn't know this bestseller even existed before it hit the screen. Yes, I know, that makes me fail at geek. It's the same reason I don't read Stephen King. But while I might not be able to stand Gaiman's writing style, I love the stories. Coraline is one of my favorite kids' movies, so I knew American Gods was going to be good. And weird. Very, very weird.
These are the questions:
What's the deal with Bilquis?
The ancient goddess of love is my one criticism of this show. She seems like a rather useless character. All we've seen her do this season is have sex and suck people up in her vagina, and while her backstory in the finale is intriguing, it doesn't do much if the character herself isn't...well, useful. And the only useful thing she's done this whole season was show how low gods can get if they're forgotten. But we already knew that: the sisters live in poverty, and the ancient god in the Ice Age was wiped out completely. If we really needed to know that a god could be homeless and sick, then we got that in the one opener. Every other scene she's been in with her pants off is completely unnecessary.
Granted, this is only the first season. This season is just the opener, a long variation of "Once upon a time." It's supposed to ask far more questions than it answers. And that's fine. But still, why is Bilquis there? The other characters that dart in and out of the show that Odin tries to recruit--Vulcan, the three sisters and their jerk flatmate Czernobog, Mr. World--they have a fraction of Bilquis's screen time but their purpose is clear. The sisters give Shadow a disturbing prophecy and a coin that's "the daughter, not the father." Mr. World is clearly the new gods' boss and scary AF. Vulcan gives Odin a sword and an excuse for war. Bilquis...eats more people with her "vagina nebula."
Laura and Robbie were killed (excuse me, "sacrificed") on Odin's orders to insure Shadow Moon had nowhere to go and nothing to lose, guaranteeing that he would go into Odin's service. The god has been manipulating Shadow's life for years, at least as far back as the wayward robbery. And he probably had his old friend Loki (re: Low-Key Lyesmith, Shadow's fellow prisoner helping him with the weights in the pilot) make sure he was hale and healthy during those three years.
The question is why. What's so special about Shadow? He made it snow one episode, but is that an innate magical ability or something anyone can do with a little effort?
And how is Shadow going to react when he finds out?
How many Jesus Christs does it take to celebrate Easter?
All of them.
Odin dismissed the Jesuses (Jesi?) as sons of a god. But if a leprechaun can play such a major role, why not a demigod?
Would Jesus be considered an old deity or a new one? He's certainly younger than Ostara and Odin, but much older than Media and Technical Boy, and probably Mr. World, too. And does it matter? Jesus is a pacifist. We saw how he reacted to the soldiers shooting at the Mexicans: he didn't smite, he shielded. He never wanted to take over Ostara's holiday and feels terrible when he realizes that's exactly what he's done. So now that the war has started, Jesus may not choose a side. He may decide that the humans are more important than the gods and focus on protecting them rather than trying to win them over. Although that's a pretty easy decision for him to make. He doesn't have to win anyone over; he's already one of the most popular and celebrated deities in the world.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to binge-watching Game of Thrones before season seven starts. Then American Horror Story. And all those Marvel movies. That should be enough to hold me over for a year before American Gods season two comes out.
What were your thoughts on American Gods?
(If you've read the book, NO SPOILERS! Please and thank you.)
It’s Father’s Day! Today we honor our fathers (or father-figures) by taking them out to lunch, doing whatever he thinks is a fun family activity, and suffering through the Dad jokes. It’s a day to be grateful to our fathers for doing their best to take care of us, even though some of you might think you have the worst parents ever.
Maybe you do. But you probably don’t. Most of you could find worse fathers in real life, but where’s the fun in that? I decided to put together a list of the worst fathers of science fiction and fantasy. So let’s thank our dads for not acting like these assholes:
Darth Vader (Star Wars)
It wouldn’t be a “worst fictional fathers” post without him (no, seriously, it wouldn’t. Google it. He’s on every single one of them. It's like a law or something).
First, he’s an absentee father. Sure, Leia had it pretty great as a princess while he was trying to take over the galaxy, but Luke was stuck on a desert planet in a hut. And when Anakin does decide to get into his kids’ lives, he does it first by kidnapping Leia and destroying her home planet. Anakin, the idea is to give the world to your daughter, not blow it up! And this is all before chopping off Luke’s hand in a fight with laser-swords. He’s lucky nobody lost their head.
Fire Lord Ozai (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
We should’ve known Ozai would be a crappy dad when we found out he would be voiced by Jason Isaacs (a.k.a. Lucius Malfoy). His son Zuko said it best: “a terrible fire lord, and a worse father.” He’s emotionally abusive throughout Zuko’s entire childhood. Reading the graphic novels, we find out that the reason for this abuse was to get back at Zuko’s mother for loving another man (he’s not the best husband, either). Then he burns off half of Zuko’s face in front of the entire nation for speaking out of turn and exiles him. And then, when Zuko finally realizes what a dick his dad is and decides to leave, Ozai tries to kill him via lightning. This is actually pretty realistic, since the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when they try to leave.
Ozai’s not much better to his favorite kid, either. As bad as Zuko’s issues are, Azula is completely screwed up, and that’s before she goes insane. What’s worse, Ozai hating you or Ozai liking you?
Anthony Cooper (Lost)
Some of us have been swindled by our parents. They’ll promise to get us a specific gift if we do X and then not deliver, or we’ll loan them ten bucks and they’ll never repay it. But I don’t think any of us can say that we’ve been swindled out of a kidney.
For those of you who don’t remember, because Lost was a long time ago and there were a million characters with twenty different storylines, Anthony Cooper was John Locke’s dad. Locke was the bald guy originally in the wheelchair, and the reason he was in that wheelchair is because his organ-stealing papa pushed him out an apartment window.
Anthony was a con artist who ditched the fifteen-year-old he impregnated, then turned around decades later and was Father of the Year when he conveniently needed a kidney transplant. After the surgery, he ditched yet again, then came back after faking his death to convince Locke to retrieve a few hundred thousand dollars from a safety deposit box... which he did before Anthony disappeared again. Their third encounter resulted in Locke suspecting that Anthony was responsible for a murder in his latest con. To prevent Locke from telling anyone, Anthony pushed him out the window.
The really sad part? In the alternate universe, we find out that Anthony was a really good dad, even though he was still a con man. So while he certainly had the potential to be there for Locke, he just never acted on it.
Stannis Baratheon (Game of Thrones)
Stannis wasn’t the best dad even before he burned Shireen alive, but at least his awkwardness wasn’t from malicious intent (unlike a certain Lannister). He’s just crappy with kids. Good thing Davos was in the picture, or Shireen would’ve been even more miserable.
Queen Selyse was an even worse parent than her husband, if not outright emotionally abusive. But at least she sort of redeemed herself in the end and tried to stop Melisandre from killing Shireen. Stannis didn’t seem to regret it at all, as if Shireen was just another casualty of war. It’s not like he could have, I don’t know, left her at Castle Black away from the war, not brought her along at all, or maybe retreating to Castle Black to wait for the blizzard to pass. Those were all such impossible decisions.
Denethor (Lord of the Rings)
Denethor is another parent who made the classic mistake of playing favorites with his kids. At least Boromir turned out to be a decent person. You know, before the Ring tried to turn him against the rest of the Fellowship.
The last time they saw Boromir, Denethor was oh-so-proud of his son for re-taking Osgiliath from the orcs, and so disappointed in Faramir for losing the city beforehand. I’m sorry, Denethor, maybe you missed the nation of orcs on the edge of your border? The one Boromir thought was too powerful for Gondor to take so he left to get the Ring to use as the ultimate weapon? And then there was that awful scene where Denethor tells Faramir to his face that he wishes he had died instead of Boromir. Charming guy, really.
Shou Tucker (Fullmetal Alchemist)
This guy is the scummiest scum who ever scummed the earth. And shut up, that sentence totally makes sense and is completely justified. Stannis Baratheon at least had a tiny sliver of justification for killing Shireen: it was his men’s best chance for survival. Shou Tucker just wanted to keep his job. Yeah, losing his state alchemist license would’ve sucked, a certain blow to his career, but even the biggest workaholics would say that that’s no excuse for fusing your four-year-old kid with your dog. And worst of all, because he’d done it to his wife two years earlier and she killed herself because of it, Shou knew that life as a chimera would be a miserable existence for his kid. That didn’t stop him.
The Elric brothers’ confrontation with Tucker is definitely one of the creepiest scenes in the whole series. Not the homunculi, or Scar, or that sociopathic arsonist Kimblee. Those guys you know from the start are bad. But Shou is just so unassuming and non-threatening. The worst monsters are humans.
All the gods in the Percy Jackson Series
Olympians can’t parent for crap. At best, they completely neglect their kids. At worst, they send them on horrendously dangerous quests across the world. Poseidon knew that his twelve-year-old son would be sent to face horrible monsters and dangerous gods as soon as he was claimed. Did that stop him? Nope.
Athena sent dozens of her kids to their deaths until Annabeth succeeded in getting her statue in Mark of Athena. Zeus/Jupiter forced the woman he knocked up twice to give her two-year-old son to the wolves so he could join the Roman legion. Hera threw Hephaestus off of Olympus for being ugly. The list goes on.
You’d think these guys would know by now that they’re really bad at parenting. Maybe they should start using condoms.
Know someone who should be added to this list? Comment below!
Everyone in my family loves superhero movies. In the last ten years we’ve seen almost every one of those blockbusters in theaters. If it’s a Marvel movie, we dutifully sit in the dark for twenty minutes for the end-of-credits scene. When we leave, we geek out in the car and argue over which was the better fight scene.
I loved seeing Steve Rogers get crammed into a tiny elevator with a dozen bad guys and say, “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?” My heart was broken by Captain America: Civil War and again by Logan. I was enraptured by Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. I saw Wonder Woman on opening day and am counting down the hours to Justice League. It doesn’t matter if it’s Marvel or DC. Superhero movies are just awesome.
They also destroy young men by promoting toxic masculinity.
Whoops! I'm a man-hater.
Before you start blowing up the comments, let me clear up some confusion. Everyone has their own personal definition of what is “masculine” or “feminine.” However, broadly speaking, masculinity is the cultural norm of how men “should” act. It’s purely a social construct. What’s considered masculine in China is going to be different from Rwanda, which is different from Brazil. Even within the United States there are differences. For example, the average guy from San Francisco is going to have a different idea of what it means to be a man than a guy from rural Texas.
Masculinity is constantly changing, but it has undergone its most dramatic change in the last few decades. For centuries, Western nations have defined a man’s role as being dominant, aggressive, the provider, the protector, and stoic. Compare this to a woman’s supposed role of being submissive, meek, weak, nurturing, emotional, etc. But with the invention of effective birth control, the women’s rights movement, the work of the LGBT+ community, and now third wave feminism, we’re in a gender limbo of sorts. People of my generation (re: millennials) are having a tough time figuring out the new gender norms.
With me so far? Masculinity in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s the defining characteristic of most men on the planet. When it’s defined to mean protecting loved ones, taking responsibility, and wearing sexy lumberjack shirts, it’s great (don’t judge me for my lumberjack love; I’m from Minnesota).
Let me repeat: being masculine or feminine is not a bad thing. And, conversely, being both or neither is not a bad thing. They’re just a part of human culture, a way to navigate gender. Most of us incorporate both aspects into our personalities. I use the thin line dividing the two as a jump-rope: my knitting and karate; the mixture of dresses and men’s pants in my wardrobe; my equal love for Metallica, Imagine Dragons, Avril Lavigne, and Florence + the Machine.
But like all things, there is a dark side to masculinity. The gross, shadowy corner we’re going to be exploring is called toxic masculinity.
What is toxic masculinity, anyway?
Toxic masculinity, otherwise known as hypermasculinity, is all the negative traits of what it means to “be a man” boiled together in a thick, nauseating soup. If masculinity is an apple, then toxic masculinity is a rotten apple. This is an excellent definition from the Good Man Project:
“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits – which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.”
Here’s another one from Yan Roblou’s article, “Complex Masculinities: the Superhero in Modern American Movies,” found in Culture, Society & Masculinities, Vol. 4:
“To be ‘masculine’ is not to be ‘feminine’, not to be ‘gay’, not to be tainted with any marks of ‘inferiority’—ethnic or otherwise.”
This is the attitude most closely linked to domestic and sexual violence. The idea that emotions are “feminine,” therefore a weakness, is a big contributor to the suicide rate of men, which is three times higher than that of women. It’s the club that has all the “rotten apples” and “not all men, just those men” as members, all those “isolated” incidents that we like to think are just one-offs, when in reality they’re part of a much bigger problem.
So what does this have to do with superhero movies?
Icons like Captain America and Batman are what set the standard for what it means to “be a man.” They’re our role models, our ideals. How many boys dress up as superheroes for Halloween? How many products read, “Always be Batman?” How many comparisons and compliments are given to men for looking or acting like Superman/Batman/Whateverman?
My recent articles, “Starfleet Miniskirts: Really?” and “How Sexism in Speculative Fiction Contributes to Rape Culture,” received a lot of criticism by men saying that Star Trek, James Bond, and Bruce Wayne are not real, that they’re just movies, so it’s not a big deal. But it is. What we see on screen, we emulate in real life. Hollywood has more power over our cultural and social norms than the White House. If the “ideal man” as seen on TV bottles up his emotions, solves problems with his fists, and interacts with women only for sex, then that’s what the fans are going to do.
Don’t believe me? 1980s Ireland had horrible censorship laws, and a writer who grew up in that environment said:
“In this fairly bleak landscape there were moments of brilliance that to this day stand out in my mind with crystal clarity. TV programmes that somehow escaped through the web of censorship and repression and talked about difference, love, equality, social justice and inclusion. Almost invariably, these programmes were science fiction, embodying an almost impossible vision of Utopian society and optimism about humanity. Hulk; Spiderman; Batman; Wonder Woman and of course, Star Trek. For better or for worse, my personal ideals and values and social justice dreams were set by utopian science fiction and the superhero genre, and I have never doubted the hugely important power of the media to teach and model.”
As much as we try to deny it, we surrender an awful lot of power to our televisions. This is why we need to pay special attention to the messages it sends to us and our kids.
Movies that promote toxic masculinity:
Marvel and DC teach us that all problems are solved by punching each other in the face:
“A staple of the superhero genre is the tendency to concoct these elaborate scenarios in which the iconic “good guys” end up having to fight each other for some reason or another. This is often framed as a way to resolve their interpersonal issues before they can go beat up the “bad guys” and save the world. Look no further than Hulk’s rampaging brawl with Iron Man in the second Avengers film, or Batman’s upcoming cinematic showdown with Superman. They’re the blockbuster versions of kids arguing in the schoolyard about which superhero would win in a fight. The ultimate macho pissing contest. Who’s the toughest tough guy of them all? This is evidenced by the showcasing of fights between Thor and Iron Man, Bucky Barnes and Captain America, and so on and so forth. Heck, now we even have Kirk and Spock throwing punches at each other on the bridge of the Enterprise in the rebooted Star Trek movie, Starfleet protocols be damned.” (Pop Culture Detective Agency)
The movies mentioned above (in order) are Avengers: Age of Ultron, Batman v. Superman, The Avengers (2012), and Captain America: the Winter Soldier. We also have the horrible Spider-Man 3 where Peter and Harry have to brawl each other before going after Sandman (I’m sorry, did I just remind everyone that this film exists? My bad). Oh, and there’s Ant-Man. His first interaction with Falcon was a fistfight, after which Sam Wilson apparently decided, “Yeah, he’s cool enough for #TeamCap.” Guardians of the Galaxy is another. All five of them were trying to kill each other before they teamed up to break out of prison. The list goes on.
The Dark Knight Trilogy manages to avoid this trope, but it has an arguably worse flaw. Batman is supposed to be untouchable and stoic, being a symbol of justice and awesomeness and whatnot. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, is a human being. And the only emotions we ever get from him as an adult are anger, occasional dry amusement, and...yeah, that’s it. The rest of the time he’s pretty much emotionless with a resting bitch face. We get one tiny scene of sadness after Rachel’s death (no tears, of course), and that’s it.
Other action movies pose the same problem: the Die Hard series, the Fast and Furious franchise, the John Wick movies, etc. These men are getting shot and watching friends get killed before their eyes, yet they only dwell on it for a few seconds before moving on to the next bad guy. The message is loud and clear: if you have a problem, your first reaction should be to kill it, and you’re not allowed to cry, be cutely happy, be afraid, or be anything other than angry. Unless you have a vagina.
Movies that fight toxic masculinity:
Always look for the silver lining.
Counter to Batman v. Superman, Captain America: Civil War at least ended on a realistic note. All the problems that started the inter-Avengers war are still there at the end of the movie, and they’re exponentially larger because of the fighting. It also does a much better job of coming up with a reason for why these two otherwise intelligent, adult men would want to beat the crap out of each other, unlike BvS. But even then, the only “acceptable” way to handle the situation as it escalates is anger and violence. Honestly, if Black Panther had done two seconds of research, he would’ve realized there was no way the Winter Soldier would be caught on camera during a mission, and was therefore framed.
It’s been argued that Man of Steel takes a small step in the right direction. Earlier versions have Clark Kent erase Lois Lane’s memories whenever she finds out he’s Superman (because, apparently, he can do that?). In this version, however, he does not. He respects her enough and trusts her not to blab to the media, even as she works for the media and is in fact a better reporter than him. More than that, we see Clark get bullied and picked on, both during childhood as well as adulthood. Instead of stomping on those puny mortals to prove he’s tough, he stays rational and deals with it without resorting to violence.
Iron Man 3 gave Tony Stark PTSD, which is an incredibly realistic response to trauma. You can’t tell me Hawkeye doesn’t have the same problem after Loki took over his mind. Tony’s breakdowns do not emasculate him. They show us that he’s human. They present a harsh reality that many real people go through and, if anything, they make us respect him more.
But the real progress has been Wonder Woman. Granted, it certainly helps that it centers around Diana rather than the male lead, Steve Trevor. But Steve and his peeps are great around their Amazon ally. They help her rather than try to one-up her. Sameer flirts with her, but never crosses that line that separates “playful flirt” from “creep.” Charlie has two PTSD flashbacks, but his friends don’t see him as weak because of it. Even the villain, General Ludendorff, views his female partner Dr. Poison as an equal who deserves respect, and they’re not even romantically involved.
What arguably does an even better job than Wonder Woman is Pixar’s The Incredibles (which came out in 2004). Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is an emotional wreck, and it’s completely understandable. He loses the life he loves, has a chance to get it back, gets betrayed, then is told that his entire family is dead. Of course he’s going to break down. And of course he’s going to be remorseful when they’re all taken captive. Later, he tries to convince his wife to stay out of the fight because he’s afraid of losing her again. That plans lasts all of five seconds before the whole family takes down the giant killer robot. Is Mr. Incredible any less of a man for crying over his “dead” family, emotionally apologizing for screwing up, and then working with his wife to save the day? I don’t think so.
Am I suggesting we have our heroes try to talk about their feelings with the Joker, or try to hug it out with Ultron? Of course not. The last time someone tried that with Joker, she ended up as his psychotic girlfriend, and if there weren’t big explosions and epic villain defeats we wouldn’t have these movies in the first place.
The problem is that so many of these male characters are essentially robots. They do all these great things, go through so much trauma, and the vast majority of them don’t even blink. If they do have an emotional response, it’s anger. These are the kinds of characters held as role models to modern men and young boys.
Do we really want a twelve-year-old boy scolding his friend for crying because his heroes on screen never shed any tears? Do we want the ten-year-old dressed as Batman for Halloween to try to go through life alternating between emotionlessness and anger? Do we want these boys to learn that the only way to solve their problems is with their fists, or a bomb? Because that’s what they’re learning.
Last weekend I house-sat for a friend and watched their cat while they were out of town, but I had foolishly left my laptop, notebooks, and books at home. So I browsed their shelves, 98% of their library being history or historical fiction. As a recent graduate with a B.A. in history, that would’ve been fine. But I had a hankering for something more speculative. After finding probably the only YA novel they owned--Artemis Fowl--I snuggled with their cat on the couch and read the whole thing through.
(If any of you think that’s an impressive and unusual feat, then you clearly don’t know many bookworms. Assuming there are no plans that involve social interaction, book-binging with a cat is a pretty typical weekend.)
Basically, a twelve-year-old brat tricks a bunch of fairy-people into giving him gold. He does it because his family went from billionaires to poor l’il millionaires a few years ago and he wants to fix that. Also, his family is in the crime business, so morals aren’t really a thing.
That’s a great theme throughout the book: morals. Artemis’s (the aforementioned brat) plan centers around kidnapping a fairy, Captain Holly Short, and holding her for ransom. All of the major characters face a moral dilemma in the following twelve hours: Artemis is surprised at feeling guilt for his actions, Holly has to choose whether or not to save one of her kidnappers, Commander Root has to balance saving his subordinate against keeping the secrecy of the fairy race, etc.
The book itself is funny and very well-written. It takes on themes like guilt and ethics without being preachy. It’s suspenseful and hilarious to see a twelve-year-old take on the entire fairy underworld.
The biggest disappointment of the book was Juliet, one of Artemis’s servants/bodyguards. Teenage Juliet and her big brother are members of the Butler family, which has served the Fowls for centuries. They’re renowned for their excellent fighting skills, which her brother (only ever called Butler) uses on multiple occasions. When we first meet Juliet we’re told she’s big into wrestling and is one of the few people close enough to Artemis to sass him, and he may or may not have a crush on her.
Okay. Sixteen-year-old wrestler, bodyguard extraordinaire with attitude. Sounds like a cool character. I’m sure she’ll have at least one fight scene (since her brother has three), and that she’ll be a major part of the plot moving forward.
Nope. Juliet is delegated to DID mode (damsel in distress) after Holly uses magic to manipulate her into letting her go. Holly spends the majority of the book as the main DID, being the kidnapped fairy held for ransom, which is somewhat annoying since she’s supposed to be the fairy equivalent of SWAT. But she more or less gets herself out of the Fowls’ captivity, so it’s less annoying.
Holly also fights a troll a couple of times. The first time she is very low on magic and just barely pulls it off. The second time, when she’s reclaimed her magic and is much more powerful, her role is reduced to healing Butler so he can defeat the troll to save Juliet, which is managed without any of the technology/magic Holly needed to do the same thing.
Oh, that’s another thing. Butler should’ve been killed off. Artemis got away with his plan scot-free, having risked everything and lost nothing. Had he lost the closest thing he had to a friend/family, that would’ve been a tremendous emotional suckerpunch. The story would’ve been much more powerful. It also would’ve given Juliet and/or Holly a chance to defeat the troll in an awesome fight scene.
Obviously the story itself is very good, else I never would’ve read the whole thing in three short hours. The characters were intriguing and the plot kept me guessing. I may spend some money investing in the next book in the series, since the epilogue alluded to Holly becoming a total BAMF in future clashes with Artemis. There’s also some terrific world-building going on that I’d like to see more of. But if every book has zero losses and a minimum of girl-driven storylines, then I’m not going to waste my money. Not even Artemis himself could convince me otherwise.
Reviews for new movies will be posted on Monday, assuming I can catch them on opening weekend.
Minor spoilers for Wonder Woman.
By now you’ve probably already heard the news: Wonder Woman is awesome. Moviegoers can’t stop raving about it. You may have also heard the very few negative reviews that focus more on Gal Gadot’s body, or the fact that the film is too “PC” to be a good superhero movie. Luckily, they’re vastly outnumbered.
My greatest concern for the movie when I stepped into the theater was that there would be a romantic subplot. Remember in Batman v. Superman, near the end, Wonder Woman says that “a hundred years ago I turned my back on mankind,” because of the horrible, bloody things we do to each other. Of course, it could actually mean that she turned away because her poor little heart was broken by a boy she liked. Everyone knew that Chris Pine’s character wasn’t going to make it. Would his BAMF death be the shallow reason Wonder Woman turns away from humanity, rather than the gas, the bombs, the disease, and all the other terrible travesties of war? That was my greatest fear.
Obviously there is chemistry between Wonder Woman and Chris Pine’s character, the only British spy who does not have a British accent. They do have a short (and, to be perfectly honest, adorable) fling. But thankfully it’s an added bonus, rather than the focus of Diana’s character. We see her go from a fearless newbie who knows nothing about the world to a wiser, powerful superhero. The romance is an important factor in that transformation, but it is far from the only reason she changes. 90% of the movie is on-the-nose gender jokes and slow-motion, 300-esque fight scenes. In other words, a standard superhero blockbuster.
It was a great movie, and one that was long overdue. Wonder Woman was created in 1941, and this is her first-ever live-action, big-screen movie. With Captain Marvel scheduled to come out in 2019, it might be enough to convince Hollywood to make a few more woman-centered superhero movies.
What did you think of Wonder Woman?
This post was first published in February 2016 on the original Dragons, Zombies and Aliens website on Blogspot.
I’m gearing up for the CONvergence-Con in July, which I am super giddy about because it’s going to be my first time on a panel. It’s also going to be my first Con. I admit I’m a little nervous, but since the topic is “New Hollywood Tropes,” I should be fine. I probably won’t be cosplaying, but I will be enjoying other people’s outfits. I’ve already started browsing online, and I am impressed. The theme for this year’s CONvergence is To Infinity and Beyond, so we’re going to be seeing a lot of Whovians, both sides of the Force, and Trekkies.
The first time I saw a Star Trek uniform for women, my first thought was Oh, that’s cute. And it is. Those dresses are adorable. But then my second thought was, Wait, why is a government uniform "cute"? I thought back to the movies and the show and realized that all of the women are wearing miniskirts. In the military. At work. 300 years into the future.
Yes, yes, I know. Starfleet isn't actually a military despite the guns and wars and ranks. But they are a government program with a ranking system based on the U.S. Navy, and its people spend an awful lot of time traipsing through strange wildernesses and fighting hostile aliens. Have you ever done any of that in a skirt? Not fun. Not fun at all.
I can understand the original series (TOS) having the skirts. It premiered in the 1960s, just when women empowerment and second-wave feminism were starting. And I give full props to the writers for having so many women characters, the first interracial kiss on television, and all the other progressive values and philosophies that we all love, from a time period where that kind of thing could've easily gotten them fired. Or worse. So I'm not going to go nuts over the costume designs of a brilliant TV series from fifty years ago, even if they are a bit objectifying.
It is now the 21st century, people.
Starfleet is supposed to be a peaceful, quasi-military based off of the U.S. Navy, right? Well, here's a modern-day women's uniform worn by officers in today's Navy:
Here is the Starfleet uniform for men. Note the lack of skin showing and objectifying the body, because these are work uniforms.
And now, Starfleet standard issue uniform for women, both in the original show and from Into Darkness:
I don't know about the rest of you girls, but I would freeze my ass off in this. And running away from aliens and monsters and all around the ship? Forget it. So I'd petition for long pants for the winter wasteland planet and shorts for Vulcan, something the guys should have, too. We don't want anyone getting heatstroke here.
Now, in researching this blog post, I did see a few exceptions. Whenever a captain or other high-ranked woman outside of The Enterprise appeared on the original series, they were often in pants, not a miniskirt and tights with knee-high boots. Next Generation (which aired in 1987) had women who didn't wear miniskirts either:
I had to wade through a lot of little tight dresses and questionable Halloween costumes to find this, so I hope you're happy.
This means we went from having some women in miniskirts and some women in pants in the 1960s, to most women wearing realistic quasi-military uniforms in the 1980s, to all miniskirts all the time in the Alternate Original Series in 2009, with a few exceptions from Uhura and one scene from Carol--after being shown in a bra and panties--that put them out of uniform.
The miniskirts look great and are sexy, yes. But woman officers do not get their position by looking great and being sexy. They get it the same way Kirk and Spock and McCoy and all the others did: hard work, talent and skill, and an unhealthy dose of stubbornness. They do not deserve to be objectified by skin-tight dresses.
There is no way in hell that miniskirts would be the standard issue quasi-military uniform in a society as progressive as the Federation. When the next Star Trek movie comes out, I really friggin' hope that we see some more realistic uniforms. It's probably not going to happen, but I still hope.
What do you hope to see in the next Star Trek film? Leave your comments below!
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!