Category Archives: SFFH

Some Web Series for Halloween

As one of my favorite series, Space Janitors, has started up its third season with a bang, I also found some other web series that I enjoyed that are fun for Samhain. First off is Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry and Bad Hat Harry’s produced sitcom Spooked:Paranormal Professionals, about paranormal investigators. The episodes are about twenty minutes long, which is nice. There are four episodes for the first season which came out this summer. I’m not sure if they’ll do another season, but I certainly hope so. They have some excellent guest stars in the series, such as Tom Lenk. Here’s the first episode, “Our First Assignment”:

Second, fantasy author Rachel Caine has turned one of her series, The Morganville Vampires, about a Texas, U.S. college town secretly run by vampires, into a new web series, Morganville: The Series, and she’s got some serious talent in it: Amber Benson and Robert Picardo rocking the house. The younger actors in it are a bit stiffer and less polished than the Spooked crew, but each episode (about 8-9 minutes long,) gets more interesting. Here’s the first episode, “Glass House“:

 

Have a happy, safe, harvest festival of candy and parties, everyone! And may all your jack-o-lanterns glow!

 

 

 

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“Knights of Badassdom” Delightful

I finally got to see “Knights of Badassdom,” the larping comic horror movie that got announced with much fanfare awhile back and then was buried in distributor hell. While it was clear the independent production had a few budget issues for special effects and the film was a bit more bloody horror than we’d expected, the geek-honored cast embraced the story with full out silliness and style. The feel was very much like Bruce Campbell’s “My Name is Bruce,” and duly honored live action role playing in its satire. Ryan Kwanten, Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn, Summer Glau, Jimmi Simpson, Brett Gipson, and Danny Pudi star and Joshua Malina does a cameo. Margarita Levieva was particularly excellent as the demon accidentally conjured up, (taking on the visage of Ryan Kwanten’s character’s ex-girlfriend,) and got downright spooky. Don’t try it if you don’t like slapstick and gore, but it was better and more fun than a lot of thrillers I’ve seen this year. I recommend it for all lovers of noble paladins, giant ape monsters, and Peter Dinklage swinging swords while waiting for “Game of Thrones” to start back up.

knights_of_badassdom_cast

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Keep Flying with “The Verse,” Firefly Style

The television show Firefly basically became, with one short season on Fox in the U.S. and a follow-up movie, Serenity, for the fans, the mini-series that could. Over a decade after its ending, it’s still loved and feted internationally, and hosts an empire of comics, toys, models, games and merchandise. (My daughter currently has an official Jane hat in her room.)

One of those purveyors of “geek” merchandise, Loot Crate, does subscription gift boxes, and to promote its newest one, it decided to fund a “fan” short film in the Firefly universe, employing the help of several Firefly fan organizations and having Quantum Mechanix, the creators of Firefly Online, do the ship model effects. The result is “The Verse”, a 17-minute short film on the Web that looks and feels close to Joss Whedon’s western with spaceships, with characters loosely similar to the original show’s, but different enough in ways that make them rather interesting.

“The Verse” appears to have had official permission or at least no official objection from the show’s rights holders, since it’s helping sell Firefly merchandise and it’s free. And for us Browncoats, it’s both a pleasant shot of an old fix and a murmur of hope that maybe an official Web or t.v. spin-off of Firefly might get off the ground somewhere. I wouldn’t mind seeing more chapters of “The Verse,” in any case, though the actors need to get a little more comfortable with the dialogue style.

So if you want to have some fun, take a gander at a labor of love and commerce that still charms our attention:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diversity Issues Are An On-going Campaign

Normally after I’d done a mini-rant on how Wonder Woman is getting marginalized and washed down, I wouldn’t plop down another group of diversity writing links so soon after, but there’s been a lot happening this particular spring and summer, a lot of it deeply saddening. The good side is that a lot of people have been writing interesting pieces on the issues, pulling up stats and social research, explaining for the umpteenth time what privilege is — since people seem to have a very hard time understanding that not being discriminated against in the society for being in a demographic group is actually a privilege that has wide ranging effects. But since I was otherwise occupied, those pieces I thought worth looking at piled up. You may have seen some of these already, but they are here for your reference. This batch is from earlier in the year, plus one older one:

1) Soraya L. Chemaly looks at how women’s speech is suppressed and erased on an every day basis, starting in childhood, with lots of lovely links to research studies, in “10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn“.

2) David Mura adds some interesting thoughts in the wake of discussions over author Junot Diaz’s piece on MFA degrees regarding people of color, in “POV on the Response to Junot Diaz’s MFA Vs. POC“.

3) Anne Ursu on her blog looks at how women YA and children’s writers get erased and the issue of diversity problems in children’s/YA publishing in her piece called, “‘The John Green Effect’, Contemporary Realism and Form as a Political Act“.

4) Devin Faraci at BadAss Digest looks at the inequality towards female directors in Hollywood and film in “2002’s K-19 is the Most Expensive Live Action Film from a Female Director“.

5) Model View Culture‘s Editors penned “An Open Letter on Feminism in Tech” about sexism in the tech industry.

6) Todd Harper at Polygon talks about the suppression of diversity in games and the particular excuse that having diversity destroys enjoyment in “Erasing Your Audience Isn’t ‘Fun’“.

7) Vixy, a blogger, writes about the answers to the question “What am I supposed to do about it?” regarding discrimination in society, in “So What Am I Supposed to Do About It? #YesAllWomen“.

8) Arthur Chu writes at The Daily Beast about the sexist scripts male “nerds” are taught in “Your Princess is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds“.

9) Damien Walter at The Guardian talks about diversity in SFF and regarding awards issues in “Science Fiction’s Real-Life War of the Worlds“.

10) SorryWatch talks about sexism towards female athletes in “Wanted: #1-ranked Tennis Player, No Fatties“.

11) Andy Duncan has a brief word for pals complaining that there’s too much complaining about diversity in “Politics in SF, What Side Am I On?“.

12) And finally, one from 2012 that I was introduced to, by Doug Muder, on privilege, that I thought was very apt, “The Distress of the Privileged“.

 

 

 

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Wonder Woman and the Costume

Getting back in the saddle again, and one of the funnier things that happened when I was on hiatus was the release of photos from the supremely weird DC Comics movie venture, Batman v. Superman.

I have not had occasion to write about Wonder Woman for several years, largely because nothing much was happening with Wonder Woman. The television series was scrapped, the new look and new story version of Wonder Woman in the comics (the comfy pajamas look,) went bye-bye at the conclusion of that alternate universe idea, and she returned to an outfit that was a variation of the older version that also is in the animated stories, and got another slightly changed origin story. And of course, there was no Wonder Woman film on the horizon because it was “too hard” for them to do apparently.

Then came word that Wonder Woman might be in the possibly going to get made Justice League movie, DC’s attempt to build a Marvel-style multi-franchise. And then it was announced that she would have some sort of bit part in Batman vs. Superman, and be played by actress Gal Gadot. Shortly before and at the San Diego ComicCon, DC released some promotional stills that included the new movie Wonder Woman in her new costume.

What were they going to do? Would they go with the classic signature stars bathing suit, (which originally had a skirt that got shorter and shorter and then removed,) like they did in the t.v. show of the 1970’s? Would they put her in pants, like the comics attempted and they’d planned for the t.v. show? Would she have a full out unitard like Batman and Superman? Here’s what they went with:

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That might seem a tad familiar:

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Yep, they made Wonder Woman into Xena: Warrior Princess. This is not entirely unfair, as the look and some parts of the character of Xena were loosely modeled after Wonder Woman (ancient Greco-Roman don’t you know,) but the similarities are quite striking. Wonder Woman now has, like Xena, a sword, over the knee boots, bracers on her arms instead of bracelets, a leather doublet, a skirt of leather strap panels, all turned a dark wine red color akin to Xena’s reddish brown outfit.

In other words, their solution to the not really a problem costume problem was to go with yet another generic (and still impractical) style of costume — the fantasy lady quest warrior. Other than that she still has the lasso attached to her hip, you’d be very hard press to know that this picture of Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman unless you were told, and not instead a photo of some new character for the next 300 film sequel.

The irony of course is that in keeping their rebooted Superman, Henry Cavill, who is firmly rooted in the modern world, and having an aged version of Batman, played by Ben Affleck, DC/Warner actually had some grounds for giving Wonder Woman one of the more contemporary looks to match them. Instead, they went pseudo-ancient, so perhaps Wonder Woman is popping in from another dimension to borrow a cup of sugar. And when she does, she’ll be just another generic if kick-ass female, not distinctive, iconic, her own person. Not red and blue and gold — because Superman wears red and blue. Not immediately recognizable, like Batman in his unchanging black cowl. Just a female in red leather with a sword who could have been called anything.

Here’s hoping that they don’t decide to cut her out of the movie altogether in the end. Because for the last 75 years of Wonder Woman history, she is apparently very, very scary just as herself.

wonderwoman_large

 

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Interesting Writings on Writing and Publishing

Lot going on here and in about three, four weeks, I’m going to be making some changes to the blog, but until then, have some more links! These are about writing fiction, book publishing and SFFH media:

Author Ferrett Steinmetz talks about selling his novel.

Lauren Davis talks about the perils of genre shaming readers and writers.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff talks about issues in critiquing people’s writing.

Mary Robinette Kowal talks about turning off your inner editor when writing.

An article on award-winning SF author Ann Leckie, her novel Ancillary Justice and its impact in the field. (I quite liked Ancillary Justice — more on that later.)

Ask a Game Developer explains what it is important to focus on in higher education if you want to get into games development.

Gwenda Bond explains quite simply about fiction being a symbiotic market for authors and how you should concentrate on your own career in fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Editors Like Stories

A bit back, we were having a discussion on SFFWorld.com about submitting short fiction to SFFH magazines. That SFFH as an area of fiction still has a viable magazine market in this day and age is a truly wondrous thing. It’s due to the deep interest of fans in checking out a variety of voices, a lot of interesting on-line magazines trying new models and older print ones trying new approaches, and a lot of authors willing to give short fiction a shot, even though it no longer pays a living wage.

When submitting short fiction to magazines, writers do have to be aware that individual magazines (and anthologies,) have specific audiences and select stories in line with those needs. Consequently, when the magazine puts down guidelines about what sort of stories they do and do not want to see (as well as the usual admonishment to read their magazine to get familiarity with it,) writers do have to pay attention. There’s no sense in beating your head against a brick wall.

The problem is, writers often don’t know how thick the brick wall is or even if it’s there. You usually can’t know, in fact, unless you submit a story and see if it flies with the particular publication. Because the reality is that the terms we use for various sub-forma of short SFFH fiction are often vague and open to a wide variance of interpretation. Outside of things like sending a science fiction story to a magazine that never publishes science fiction, or vice versa, a writer may not really know what the boundaries are. The requirements of many of the magazines are in fact fairly wide; a magazine might publish science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery all in one go.

And editors of magazines like stories, so much so that they may publish stories that aren’t quite what they would usually go for in the magazine but they think the stories are too good not to share with their readership. And sometimes, they think a writer’s story does fit within their parameters. A story that a writer doesn’t really think is steampunk, for instance, but does have a Victorian setting and one or two details that might be considered kind of steampunky, may totally work for a magazine editor as steampunk. So the range of magazines a writer can submit to is usually a good deal broader than what stated guidelines may imply. Writers simply can’t completely know what might make it through, and the penalties for trying a submission out within reason are slim to none. (The postage cost used to be considerable, but electronic submissions are fairly common now.)

A clear example of this issue was displayed in an April article at io9.com by Charlie Jane Anders, given the provocative headline: “10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories That Editors Are Tired of Seeing.” How useful — stories that editors didn’t like, didn’t want to see anymore, so you know what to avoid and never try. Except if you read into the article, the reality is that editors aren’t necessarily tired of certain stories and are often just noting some recent trends in what they’ve been sent. As Anders herself says:

Also, no editor ever wants to say “I’m tired of unicorns,” because right now someone is probably writing a unicorn story so good it’ll make you weep to read it — and chances are, the editor who just swore off unicorn stories would buy that story in a heartbeat. So this mostly isn’t a list of stories you shouldn’t write — more a list of areas where you’re going to have to work harder to stand out.

In actuality, it’s not even a matter of “standing out” more on a subject that has commonly appeared. Nearly every subject in SFFH has already commonly appeared, and stories about such subjects might not be filled with dazzling prose and certainly not with new plot twists, but may still connect with editors who feel it is right for their magazines. And the situation is often self-selecting — editors may see more of one kind of story because writers have gotten the impression that it’s the kind of story their magazine likes.

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