Category Archives: SFFH

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:

gal-gadot-wonder-woman-news-sdcc1

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.

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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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Rest In Peace The Mary Sue

I absolutely hate the entire concept of Mary Sue, which I regard as an incredibly sexist device for trying to slam female writers of fan or published fiction, and very ignorant when applied to published authors in understanding how they work. (And no, don’t bother to bring up Gary Stu; nobody cares about that and they came up with it as a sop to critics that Mary Sue was too unfair. It’s a sexist knockdown and always has been.)

So as such, I was not entirely comfortable with the name of the feminist website The Mary Sue, even though they were in a sense knocking the sexism of the term. Their tagline was “A Guide to Geek Girl Culture,” however, and they covered geek culture from a female slant and focused on women’s voices and participation in that culture which is a good thing. I did read articles from there that sounded interesting that people made me aware of, and I did link to some of their articles, finding them interesting and useful and with good info about upcoming geek releases. Above all, for many female fans, The Mary Sue was a safe space where they could talk about geek culture and be heard without being attacked, sneered at and having their conversations derailed by the usual troll attitudes.

However, The Mary Sue is owned by a media company and that company decided to A) merge the successful Mary Sue site with a less successful general geek site on their slate; B) strip off all the woman stuff to make the site more “inclusive,”; C) bring in male editor/writers who have no clue how to do PR with feminist readers and let them shoot their mouths off; and D) bring along a bevy of troll comment makers to whine about the annoying women-folk.

Abrams Media is owned by Dan Abrams, a lawyer and news commentator and general feminist supporter. So why he and his staff decided to gender wash The Mary Sue when it was one of their most successful operations is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the advertisers, as advertisers so often do, demanded the change. But the reality is that once a site does this, it’s probably not coming back. The female Editor-in-Chief is already pleading that she has orders coming down from on high and that really, they aren’t going to ditch the ladies, but you know, inclusion and changes, etc. Odds are, she may not get to stay in that position long.

So it’s a shame, but hopefully other sites will fill in the new gap, as well as existing sites. Here’s the deal: sites that focus on feminist issues, women characters and female creators in geek culture are “inclusive” precisely because they are doing that — they are making sure areas that usually get excluded, excised and ignored because they are about women are included in the conversation, and doing so with the understanding that those conversations are actually of interest to all genders. Having to dump feminist content to be “inclusive” is an argument that means you want to exclude that very vibrant and vital part of geek culture from the conversation and stick to the social default — male issues, characters and voices. If that’s how you explain what it is you are doing, then you’ve already hoisted your flag that not only are you not women friendly, you feel more comfortable with them shut out, especially when any topic involving marginalization occurs.

As soon as The Mary Sue dumped its tagline, it was dead on arrival. It seems unlikely a really strong phoenix version will rise from its ashes, given the statements they’ve made so far. So rest in peace, The Mary Sue. Let’s hope your writers can find other venues.

 

 

 

 

 

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Godzilla — Roar!

Went to see the new Godzilla movie last night. Things I learned:

1) Godzilla has less screen time than you would expect. (But he has the most adorable eyes!)

2) So does Bryan Cranston.

3) Breathing under a mask is loud.

4) Do not mess with school bus drivers.

5) The military never listens to scientists when it comes to monsters.

6) Apparently, the military does not have a lot of EOD specialists lying around. Or tools to break plastic glass.

7) The director of the movie is obsessed with train tracks.

8) Everyone now in San Francisco will get cancer, and definitely don’t eat the fish there.

9) The neatest part of the whole movie is watching a hotel resort I stayed in get destroyed. (Look, it’s the boat dock!)

10) The thing that frightened me the most was a pelican.

11) Woman in the fridge!

12) The plot was slightly less nonsensical than the plot of Pacific Rim, and definitely was a brain trust compared to Prometheus.

It was silly and generally fun, but a bit too long maybe. The monsters and monster battles were pretty well done. I happen to be someone who liked the 1998 Godzilla film (which was very successful financially,) but I will say that this one is probably more in keeping with the spirit of the original Godzilla films. Consequently, it does not have a lot of (intentional) humor to it but there are plenty of smashed buildings. And Godzilla himself has the patience of a saint in this movie. Really, don’t expect him to put up with all this stuff in the sequel.

 

 

 

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Videos for a Rainy Friday Evening

My desk looks like a tube of paper exploded on it. So have some entertaining videos:

1) The wonderfully clever short film called Darth Baby’s Lightsaber. This is my new favorite Star Wars parody:

2) The amazing group Arstidir (close as I can get to reprinting properly,) sing an old Icelandic hymn in the stunning acoustics of a German train station:

3) Dan Newbie‘s rendering of the theme to Game of Thrones on water glasses, jugs and pans:

4) The trailer for the up-coming new t.v. show, Constantine, adapted from the comics and airing on NBC in the U.S., which looks pretty good:

5) The trailer for the new New Zealand mockumentary film about vampires, What We Do in the Shadows. I’m hoping it gets widely distributed:*    *Apparently, it’s not a film; it’s a t.v. series, which is even better.

6) And lastly, an amazing street performer reproduces Bumblebee from the Transformer movies in Michigan. I don’t know if this is the same guy as the one in New Orleans but it seems very likely, and I don’t know who he is but the special effects people in Hollywood should hire him:

 

 

 

 

 

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Comicon!

This is how I do Mother’s Day weekend, booya!

Ash, Ash, Baby!

Ash, Ash, Baby!

Your Left, Your Left, Your Right, Left, March!

Your Left, Your Left, Your Right, Left, March!

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