Story Publication: Secrets at Strange Horizons

In writing news today: I have a story out at Strange Horizons!

A few things you may or may not find interesting:

A. “Three May Keep a Secret” is a YA story with a questioning bisexual protagonist and her new hipster bestie.

B. It’s also a ghost story. I like to think it’s a little creepy.

C. I’m a little nervous about this one. Okay, I’m a lot nervous. There are a couple of reasons for that: one, the story deals with some sensitive material that I’m hoping isn’t harmful to any readers. (Appropriate trigger warnings can be found at the link.)

It’s also a story that’s probably gone through, like, 57 different revisions. I think it’s a much better story for it and, honestly, I’m pretty proud of how it’s turned out But this one didn’t come easy, and that also makes me a bit nail bite-y.

D. Finally, a random line that tells you basically nothing at all:

“Shit, there’s not even a candy store for 70 miles.” He crosses his arms. “This town is bullshit.”

Hope you enjoy!

A New Story At Lightspeed, Award Eligibility, And Recommended Short Fiction of 2016

It’s that time of the year again: the Awards Eligibility post–otherwise known as the Nominate Me Because You Like Me, You REALLY Like Me post–as well as My Favorite Short Fiction Recs of 2016. We’ll begin with my own award-eligible work first, because it’s a much, much shorter list.

I had two stories come out this year; amusingly, they turned out to be perfect bookends. “The Elixir of the Not-So-Disgusting Death Smell” was published in January at Mothership Zeta, and I’m crazy happy it’s there–I wrote the very first draft of this story years and years ago, and other than being the story that got me into Clarion West, it’s also the story that helped Young Carlie decide to focus on writing the kind of work she actually liked to read, namely speculative fiction. If romantic comedies with mad science, zombie hijinks, and Girl Scout cookies are your thing, then this might be a story worth checking out.

If you’re inclined to read only one of my stories, though–and who could blame you, time is short and there is SO MUCH good work out there–I’d actually push for “Every Day is The Full Moon,” which just came out today in Lightspeed.

lightspeed-cover

I’m pretty proud of this one. We’ll see if that pride takes a hit after I read reviews or not (although I’m happy to say I’ve got at least one awesome one at Quick Sip Reviews), but regardless, this piece means a lot to me. It’s a YA story about girl friendships and abuse dynamics and what the power of love actually means. It also has werewolves, fairies, demons, Valkyries, and a bunch of other neat stuff. Because I’m an honest soul, I feel I should tell you upfront that this story is written in 2nd person POV, if that’s something you absolutely can’t stand. But also because I’m trying to balance low self esteem with an honest assessment of my skills, I’ll also tell you that I’m actually pretty decent at writing in the 2nd person.

Now. As far as everyone else’s work goes, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 + 1 Favorite Short Stories that I’ve read this year. They aren’t ordered in any meaningful way whatsoever, and I’m referring to the list as “10 + 1” rather than “11” because . . . well, because I read fanfiction, and that’s just the kind of mood I’m in–although I suppose you could look at this list as a compilation of my Favorite 10 Standalone Stories + 1 Series Starter.

Regardless. If you haven’t read these stories, I highly recommend checking them out.

10 + 1 Favorite Short Stories (or Novelettes) of 2016

1. “This is Not A Wardrobe Door” – A. Merc Rustad – Fireside

I’m hard-pressed to think of a more charming or optimistic story, which is something I think most of us could use these days. The ending is just what I’d hoped it would be, even though I didn’t actually expect it. Also, there’s a little bit of shade thrown at Narnia, which I can’t help but approve of.

Dear Gatekeeper,
Hi my name is Ellie and I’m six years old and my closet door is broken. 

2. “How To Host A Haunted House Murder Mystery Party” – A.C. Wise (Bourbon Penn)

I just loved this story. I loved everything about it: it’s simultaneously both witty and melancholy, meta and elegant, not to mention a clever, gothic spin on some of my favorite tropes, like strangers invited to haunted houses or dinner parties with murder. By coincidence, I read this story a few days after watching Clue for the, oh, 112th time, which I think made this reading especially delightful.

Invite extra guests. Invite at least one person liable to turn up late. Provide at least one guest with the wrong address so they become lost along the way. They will consider themselves lucky, once all is said and done. Every tale needs a survivor.

3. “A Menagerie of Grief” – Kelly Sandoval – Flash Fiction Online

Just lovely. A perfect exploration of grief, and how it can be highly individualistic, how it can tear people apart or slowly push them back together.

They didn’t get along, Shane’s pretty little dog and my great ugly dragon. It was the dog’s fault. The way it pranced at Shane’s heels, so clean and appropriate, while my pain smoldered in the living room, curled around the couch where I’d taken to sleeping, its breath fogging up the windows. At night, the dog whined for hours. I could hear it pacing the bedroom, scratching at the door. Was it already trying to leave him? Maybe he only kept his grief for my sake. For the show of it.

4. “And In Our Daughters, We Find A Voice” – Cassandra Khaw – The Dark

A violent and gorgeous Little Mermaid retelling. This is the first thing I’ve read by Cassandra Khaw, and, yeah, definitely not gonna be the last.

My sisters die voiceless in a froth of red foam, gasping mouths and gaping eyes, no different from common fish.

5. “Blackpool” – Sarah Brooks – Shimmer

Disclaimer: Sarah is my friend, so, objectivity, or whatever.

Sarah’s prose is just so goddamn elegant; I was in constant awe/envy of her work when we were at Clarion West together, and, happily for me, “Blackpool” is my favorite of her CW stories. I’m so happy it found a good home at Shimmer because it is well worth a read.

The Detective seals the tears into a little plastic bag. When he examines them later he finds that they are genuine. He takes out a tear and places it on his cheek. It is cool on his skin.

6. “Once I, Rose” – A. Merc Rustad – Daily Science Fiction

The best Valentine’s Day story, ever. Short, wonderful, and romantic as hell.

Attempted Methods Of Communication Thus Far:

* Shedding petals into the words HELP ME. [Too difficult to arrange with no hands.]
* Pricking every finger that touches me; someone must realize I am not a rose. [People are imperceptive.]
* Asking the bees to carry my message to someone. Anyone. [Humans understand bees poorly.]
* Thinking your name as loud as I can, remembering how we said we would always recognize each other’s ghosts.

7. “A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover From the Bottom of the Sea” – Ada Hoffman – Strange Horizons

Also romantic, although differently. This is a lovely story with gorgeous imagery and a reminder to accept that not every battle is yours to conquer.

“Tell me the future,” you will say to your runes, but they will not quite tell you that. Instead you will cast them, again and again, and each future you see will be different.

8. “The Opening of the Bayou Saint John” – Shawn Scarber – Strange Horizons

I love the mythology here, this strange, fantastical world that’s been created out of the eerie swamps of New Orleans. Wonderful imagery and structure.

I grab the sharecropper by her dress and hold her. She fights to break away from my grip, but I am no woman. I may appear as a woman. Many a man has foolishly approached me as though I am eligible for their affections. But I am a thing. I am made of the swamps and dead sparrows and all the sorrows that wash up on the bank of the Mississippi.

9. “A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” – Karin Tidbeck – Uncanny

If you ever wished the term “ghostwriting” was a bit more literal, this is the story for you. Clever and enjoyable, particularly for writers.

As for the ghostwriters: writing for a corpse is traumatizing. You can’t just make someone do that and then chuck them into the street without helping them process the experience.

10. “Superior” – Jessica Lack – The Book Smugglers

Just a really cute YA, M/M romance between a superhero’s intern and a supervillain’s apprentice. I especially like how no one’s straight-up evil, even the characters you’d expect to be. And despite the word count (almost novella length), the story just flies by. Solid comfort read.

“Kidnapping a minor seems pretty bad.”
“Um, dude, all kidnapping is bad,” I say. “So is creating killer chimps using the cosmic power of Neptune.”
“Jupiter.”
“Whatever.”
Tad is adamant. “I had to do four hours of research. It’s the power of Jupiter.”

(Plus One): “Hurricane Heels” – Isabel Yap – The Book Smugglers

This is actually a series of five interconnected stories, but I’m specifically highlighting the first one, partially because picking multiple stories is cheating, but also because the first one is easily my favorite. “Hurricane Heels” is about a bachelorette party that goes right to hell, and it celebrates what’s best in life: girl friendships and fighting monsters and jewelry that turns into weapons! My inner 12-year-old Sailor Moon fan is so stoked right now.

In hindsight, we should have expected things would go to shit. Like always. But it was Friday and Selena was getting married, and we wanted to drink and dance and not blow up monsters for one night.

Happy reading!

Coming Soon-Ish: Adaptations, More Adaptations, and The Woe of High School

Beauty and the Beast

My interest in this is mild. On one hand, Beauty and the Beast is kind of my favorite, I like Emma Watson quite a bit, and some of the cinematography looks lovely. On the other hand, I’m having a bit of a hard time taking the Beast seriously, and despite a couple of interesting changes (Belle is going to be the inventor of the family? Excellent), this remake is looking a little too shot-for-shot for me, like, I could go watch this in theater or I could just stay home and watch the animated movie again for free.

Not that I actually have this choice, mind you. Mekaela has already informed me that I’ll be going to see this movie whether I like it or not, so, fine. I’ll go. But I’ll be chewing on my Milk Duds in a sulky manner and silently snarking about Beast’s stupid face the whole time! (Until we get to the library scene, of course, which is when I will promptly melt, because let’s not even lie about that.)

Ghost in the Shell

So. The look of this movie is fantastic. I know extremely little about the manga and anime upon which it’s based, but watching this trailer, my inner SF/F nerd instantly started buzzing. The world looks fascinating and original and heavy influenced with Asian design . . . except for all the white people. Yeah, the white people are pretty noticeable.

I knew about the controversy surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s casting prior to watching this–I mean, of course I did, I’m not dead–but when I watched the trailer in full, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every role who had dialogue or otherwise seemed important went to a white person, while the Asian actors in the film mostly seem to be around to shoot things or get shot. And that’s just kind of shitty even when you haven’t adapted a Japanese story into a Hollywood film where you’ve kept the setting but not the people. That’s just kind of crap.

Look, unless I hear it’s awful, I’m probably going to watch this. I don’t want to pretend I’ll do otherwise, because problematic or not, the movie looks really interesting to me. But there’s no reason that this movie wouldn’t have also looked interesting with, say, Ellen Wong as Major and Tamlyn Tomita as the presumably nefarious mentor doctor lady. Hollywood could and should have done better.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

This looks cute. I never read the books or saw the Jim Carrey movie, but I might check this show out at some point: it looks whimsical enough, and there’s quite the cast (some of whom are presumably guest stars). Other than Neil Patrick Harris and Malina Weissman (AKA Young Supergirl), we have Alfre Woodard, Joan Cusack, Patrick Warburton, Aasif Mandvi, and even Mr. Trick/That Guy From Grosse Point Blank! (IMDb tells me his name is K. Todd Freeman. Someday, I will know the name of every That Guy.)

I’m not desperate to see this or anything, like, there are no grabby hands here, but it might be some decent light-hearted humor on a bleak day. (Well. Light-hearted might not be the best word, after all: “Perished means killed.” HA! That right there is what won me over, like, ten seconds into the trailer.)

Before I Fall

This is sort of interesting. It’s like Groundhog Day, but instead of an arrogant city jerk learning that kindness is key and small towns are great, it’s a teenage girl learning that being mean to unpopular kids is a total dick move, and also, pay attention when you’re on the road because getting into a collision with a truck is probably going to ruin your whole day.

Honestly, this trailer looks a wee bit melodramatic for my tastes, but I generally enjoy Groundhog Day stories (more than I like the actual movie itself, honestly, heathen, that I am) and the idea of applying that concept to different genres appeals to me. But I’m not sure I’m expecting much from this. I’m also not quite clear why our young leading lady can’t change her fate; I know it’s common in destiny stories to always end up at the spot you were trying to avoid all along, but that’s not usually a Groundhog Day thing, is it? It’s not where you end that usually repeats, after all, but how you begin; that’s kind of the whole point.

Maybe just adamantly refuse to get into a car for the entire day, like, not for any reason? See how that works out for you?

The Edge of Seventeen

As far as YA movies go, I’m actually much more hopeful about this one, even though there are no speculative elements, and you all know that I prefer my stories with either murder or speculative elements, preferably both. But this looks entertaining: grounded, funny, not too sappy. I like that it’s rated-R, actually; for most kids, high school isn’t PG-13, after all. And I haven’t seen Hailee Steinfeld in anything since True Grit, which she was excellent in.

It’s not a theater movie for me, but I could see it as a rental. So Mek, fair warning: this might be your payback.

And finally . . . Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Look, I have no idea what this movie’s actually about, but this is like Luc Besson times a thousand. This is The Fifth Element met Star Wars and had a baby while listening to the Beatles, and I don’t know if it’s going to be good or not, but I’m definitely in. (I’m almost feeling generous enough to forgive that ludicrous boob armor. I mean, come on guys. You get points for using “Because” but still. This is ridiculous. This article has been around for years. You should know better by now.)

Season Finale Round Up: May 20th-May 27th

Another week of Season Finales, this time all from CW shows. And maybe I’m just being an incredibly cranky bastard lately, but I really only liked one of them. Again! Come on, finales, stop letting me down!

As always, SPOILERS, SPOILERS EVERYWHERE.

The 100

100

The 100 had a problematic third season: sometimes exciting, sometimes infuriating. I’d had doubts that Jaha’s subplot was ever going to pay off, but boy, did it ever: I loved almost everything about the AI storyline. I was less enthused, unfortunately, with the first half of the season; which means pretty much anything Pike brought to the table. My most serious Season 3 complaint was not Lexa’s death, but Bellamy’s OOC choice to participate in the grounder massacre. The 100’s MO has always been characters making hard choices, and I like that they sometimes make the wrong ones. But I still have to buy the choices, and I just never quite did with Bellamy. The 100 fumbled this execution almost as badly as they fumbled Finn in Season 2, and I find I’m even less willing to forgive them this time around.

Still, the finale itself was enjoyable. I always figured one of our main players would end up putting the chip in their head, and I’ll admit, I really wanted that person to be Raven. (Because she’s the best, and also because I was always bummed they never really went anywhere with the fact that Raven was the only person who could throw off ALIE, at least initially.) Clarke, sadly, was the incredibly obvious choice. I was way more interested when she was just the ‘flame keeper,’ not ‘temporary inheritor of the flame.’ Still, her taking the chip meant we got a better sendoff for Lexa, and while Lexa’s death didn’t personally trouble me to the extent it angered much of the fanbase, it was still really nice to see her return, kicking all kinds of ass. Damn you, Walking Dead spin-off, for taking Lexa away from us.

Other random notes:

A. Oh, Paige Turco, don’t make me tear up. Come on, don’t . . . damn it, Turco.

B. I’m not a medical professional (I only work with them) but I remain skeptical about the validity of this blood transfusion. Also, why exactly does Murphy have to be the one to pump the heart? Shouldn’t the only doctor in the group be doing important things like that? Oh, I see, the doctor’s too busy looking at Clarke’s face and saying things like “fight it” or “stay with me” or whatever she actually says. Yeah, okay. That makes sense.

C. Seeing Clarke and Jasper and everyone else in a modern-day city was a little jarring, but also kind of neat.

D. I see that electrocution is once again being used to conveniently hold off our enemies instead of frying them dead. Oh, handy electrocution.

E. I love that Monty somehow remains the optimist of the show, despite the fact that he had to kill his mom twice during this season. Still, I think maybe it’s time for Jasper to pull his head out of his ass and comfort Monty for once next season? I do love this exchange, though: “I’m sorry I stabbed you/I’m sorry I shot you.”

F. I don’t know why everyone’s looking all horrified that Octavia killed Pike after all; that was obviously how this story was going to end, and thank God, too. If we’re supposed to be hinting that Octavia is going to emotionally suffer from this decision next season, like, oh, she has a guilty conscience now, or killing Pike has left her more emotionally hollow and evil or whatever, I don’t buy it. Pike needed to die. I’m just happy no one else did. We had enough death this season. (I do wish we could have seen Indra, but at least we got verbal confirmation that she made it.)

I’ll definitely be back for next season (have to see how that whole potential nuclear apocalypse plays out, after all), but I’m hoping The 100 is a little less problematic next season. Maybe less of our heroes engaging in genocide for obviously stupid reasons?

FINALE GRADE: B+
SEASON GRADE: B

Arrow

felicity

Oh, that was just dull. Arrow started out the season pretty strong for me, and there were, as always, a lot of moments and characters I enjoyed. Curtis is a great addition. Neal McDonough, as always, is a goddamn delight. I could watch Domestic Oliver forever, and who doesn’t like Donna Smoak and Quentin Lance? Plus, when Felicity was on, she was ON.

But fourth season started fizzling out in the middle, as it is wont to do. Between Oliver’s dumb ass secret, Oliver and Felicity’s annoying breakup, Felicity’s miracle cure, and the flashbacks that, at this point, I’ve actively started tuning out . . . yeah, we had problems going into this finale. And there was an idea in “Schism” that I really liked, with everyone ending up in almost exactly opposite places from where they were a year ago, but because the execution throughout the season was so flawed, it all kind of fell flat for me. It seemed like it took forever for Andy to die, but Diggle’s turn to the Dark Side afterwards somehow still felt rushed, and seriously, Lyla. Even if he wasn’t lying about the whole ‘murder vs. self defense thing,’ come on: Diggle killed his brother, what, a month ago? Shit, I’m still upset about mean things people said to me last decade. Why are you so surprised he isn’t back to normal yet?

Thea, too, has just been all over the place. I don’t think the show has any idea what to do with her, which is annoying. I could potentially really like Thea if the creators could just settle on a decent storyline for her. Oliver’s stop-and-go journey towards the Light could use a fair bit of work, too. (It’s nice that Felicity stayed with him, though, despite the fact that they aren’t currently together. Emotional maturity? What a concept for this show.)

And as great as Damien Darhk has been, that’s entirely because Neal McDonough is a charming madman who I would watch read the phone book, presuming he could find one. By the end, his whole plan and dead wife and death-to-the-world shtick were all pretty boring. Worse, I couldn’t buy into Oliver’s speech, like, at all, and it had nothing to do with the acting. The speech was just so hilariously mistimed and silly. I’m really all for the idea of the Green Arrow being an inspiration (instead of a symbol of violence and fear and all that), but dude, a hint of practicality would not go amiss.

And while I’m totally down with the concept of HOPE defeating DARKNESS, Jesus Christ, you guys. This might have actually beaten out Supergirl in ridiculous word repetition, which probably shouldn’t be so surprising, considering this is a Greg Berlanti show. And Berlanti’s superhero shows have a lot to recommend, they do, but he and all his writers should have to sit in a dark room listening to nothing but yowling cats and endless bagpipes until they’ve figured out a way to write a script that has no key thematic word used more than three times per episode. Preferably less.

But why get worked up, right? After all, who knows if any of this even happened? Thanks a lot, Barry Allen. (See below.)

FINALE GRADE: C
SEASON GRADE: B-

The Flash

cisco

I disliked this finale. A lot.

Zoom, unfortunately, ended up being a pretty underwhelming villain, which is sort of what I feared from the very second I heard Tony Todd had been cast. Tony Todd has an amazing voice. Tony Todd has the voice of an evil and wonderful god. Anybody that does not match up to the glory that is Tony Todd’s voice is just setting himself up to be the next Darth Vader letdown. But in fairness to Teddy Sears, he was actually much more enjoyable once he became a villain. (As Jay Garrick, he was white rice on vanilla ice cream slathered on eggshell wallpaper.) A decent villainous performance, unfortunately, does not make up for the most boring of villain agendas, and 99% of this finale felt like it had no real stakes. This was a huge letdown after the tremendous threat that Zoom has been all season.

And Barry continuing to have the worst plans of all time did not help at all.

Frankly, I cheered when the rest of the team knocked Barry’s ass out and locked him away because, seriously, Barry’s plans are AWFUL. I feel sorry for the kid, and Grant Gustin does a hell of a job selling tears (like, he is really good at it), but Barry’s total failure to understand the potential consequences of his actions just kills me dead every time. This is actually worse than the Terrible Time Travel Plan of last season, except . . . oh, we’re . . . we’re going back to that, too?

Look, last season I was a little disappointed that the show didn’t having Barry rewrite time and reboot the whole universe, mostly because that would have been a pretty exciting shake-up. This season, however, I did not want that shakeup. This season came with a lot of things I really, really liked, like pretty much everything about Cisco’s meta-human powers, the multi-verse and all its potential, and, of course, Earth-2 Harry. I would honest-to-God watch a spinoff with just Earth-2 Harry and Cisco. I don’t know what the Harry Cisco show would be about, but by God, I would watch every second of it.

But now . . . who knows? Obviously, Barry still has to become The Flash somehow, otherwise the show will have significant problems. And the multi-verse has to stay open, or we can’t do our already-promoted four-show-crossover extravaganza. But who’s building the particle accelerator? Will Eobard-Thawne-Harrison Wells still kill Original Harrison Wells? Will I even get Earth 2 Wells? (I MUST. I MUST have him.) But how will Eobard know to kill Harrison Wells if his time remnant isn’t captured by the Flash team and told basically, well, everything? That’s how Eobard knows to kill Harrison, isn’t it? And that’s how he knows to hire Cisco for sure. Even if he does build the particle accelerator, who knows if Cisco is around to get affected by it. What if Cisco isn’t a meta-human anymore? (THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.) And how will this affect the other superhero shows because it totally would. Everyone on Arrow is dead right now if Barry isn’t The Flash. Is everyone on Arrow dead right now, Barry? Did you kill everyone, you little shit? Actually, I’m pretty sure Kendra and Carter from Legends of Tomorrow would probably be dead too, so who the fuck even knows what just happened on that show. Vandal Savage is probably still alive. Then again, if Barry doesn’t save Team Arrow, that means Team Arrow can’t stop the nuclear apocalypse, correct? Everyone is dead right now, Barry, and it is ALL YOUR FAULT.

At this point, I’m hanging onto the hope that Barry’s rebooted timeline lasts for all of one episode before he realizes what a terrible mistake he’s made (or Rip Hunter and his Merry Team of Time Bandits shake some sense into him) and he fixes everything. Normally, ambitious cliffhangers that get easily resolved in one episode are a big annoyance for me, but honestly, I think it might be the best solution here.

Other things I’d like to see in Season Three:

1. More Iris being awesome and less of Iris as a love interest, because I’ve basically lost faith that anyone on a Greg Berlanti show can be both. I mean, except for Patty, of course, who was a way better fit for Barry, which is why we stupidly and unceremoniously shoved her ass out the door, of course. Iris, though, has had some pretty stellar moments this season, and exactly none of them have revolved around her potential romance with the Scarlet Speedster.

2. Jesus Christ, fix Caitlin. Commit to her being evil, or continue her post-Zoom PTSD, or give her any storyline that doesn’t revolve around a man, but something needs to be done about her, pronto, because she is an entirely useless character at this point who can’t even be counted on to not suddenly become horribly racist on occasion. Yeah, Flash, I haven’t forgotten that.

3. Less stupid decisions, especially from Barry? But I suspect that’s asking way too much.

4. More Cisco and Harry, Earth II. They’re the primary reason this season is getting as high of a grade as it is, despite the Zoom letdown and the Utter Fail of Caitlin Snow. They are the reason I get excited to watch The Flash every single week. THE HARRY AND CISCO SHOW FOREVER!

FINALE GRADE: C-
SEASON GRADE: B+

Season Premieres & Finales – March 2016

Ugh, I’m so far behind on things. I really should just wait until later tonight when I can discuss the season premiere of Daredevil, but that means I’d have to, you know, actually stop watching Daredevil long enough to write about it. Which, ha. I’m only going to stop watching Daredevil when my sister needs to sleep. (Damn her. Damn her to hell.)

So. We’re just going to do a combo post today, two birds, one stone, you get the idea. As always, SPOILERS ahead.

SEASON PREMIERES

Hap & Leonard

hap leonard

For the most part, I enjoyed this. I read the first two books in the series a long time ago, and the show seems to have stuck pretty well to the novel’s 80’s, offbeat, country noir tone. (I actually still own the first book, but I’m waiting for the season to wrap up before I look it over.)

The show has a fantastic cast. I like Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) and I’m interested in their friendship, specifically those ominous looking flashbacks. Christina Hendricks appears to be a hippie femme fatale, so that’s fun, and I see Jimmi Simpson is continuing his career path of Total Weirdo Character Roles. (It’s not a complaint, mind. I always enjoy seeing him.)

The only one I’m not currently feeling is Chubs, not because the actor is bad, but because I suspect he’s going to lead to six episodes of fat jokes, and boy, is that something I’m not looking forward to. But otherwise, I’m interested in the show. It’s not quite filling the hole in my heart that Justified left behind, but to be fair, that’s a pretty significant hole.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B+

Damien

damien

Oh, wow. Oh, man. That was terrible. Like, on a level even I wasn’t anticipating. Maybe not in the realm of 2 Broke Girls or 10th season X-Files terrible, but yeah. I won’t be coming back for more.

Look, the concept of Damien is kind of interesting. I’m all about fated characters potentially breaking away from destiny, especially if their destiny is to be evil. (Good Omens, for example? Totally my thing.) So the idea of Damien as this protagonist dude who has all these repressed memories and has to come to grips with the fact that he’s the Antichrist is somewhat intriguing to me. Especially if you consider what his infamous birthday day party would have been like for a kid who doesn’t know he’s the son of Satan. Like, holy shit, that’s the most traumatic birthday party ever! There are potentially interesting ideas here.

But oh my God, the is writing terrible. The show gives us an okay teaser, but as soon as the hilarious opening credits roll, we jump into an exposition nightmare. It’s bad. It’s so, so bad. It kind of reminds me of the Supernatural pilot, but even worse. The ex-girlfriend, Kelly, jumps on the Something Biblical is Happening train ridiculously fast, and that’s not even getting into the scene where Damien’s trying to deny that anything strange is going on . . . until five seconds later, in the same scene, when he and Kelly wildly reverse positions. I’d like to say that Kelly’s death is a surprise but unfortunately it isn’t, although to be fair, that’s very possibly because I was already familiar with Megalyn Echikunwoke, the actress who’d been cast as her sister, and I was like, “Show, you’re not fooling me. I know this is your actual leading lady.” (And as a side note . . . um . . . why the hell are Damien, Damien’s Friend, and Kelly’s Sister all riding alone in the backseat of the ambulance with Kelly’s body in an unzipped body bag? Like, is that normal? That totally doesn’t feel normal.)

On the positive side . . . well . . . they actually say Book of Revelation instead of Revelations! So, that’s cool! Barbara Hershey seems wonderfully creepy. And there’s a shot of an upset Damien touching a huge statue of Jesus Christ and making it crumble to pieces. That’s actually kind of neat, or could have been. But the show overplays its hand trying to be ominous, especially in the scene where some Rottweilers hellhounds kill that old guy. It wants to be scary and tense, like SO HARD, but really, it’s just various shots of religious iconography set to the movie’s Oscar-winning theme music, and admittedly, that music is amazing, but you know, you can’t just pair it with anything and call it a day. The whole show just feels kind of lazy.

I eagerly await your cancellation, Damien, so I can go watch Bradley James in something more worthy of his talent. (Also, maybe we can get that Vixen live action TV show? Or Echikunwoke could at least join Legends of Tomorrow and liven things up a bit.)

TENTATIVE GRADE:

D

SEASON FINALES

Agent Carter

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Overall, a pretty solid conclusion to a very enjoyable second (and possibly last) season. (Please come back, show. PLEASE COME BACK.) I did feel like Whitney Frost went down a little too easily, like, the fact that she didn’t notice the giant cannon thing behind her was hilarious, but I probably could have let it go if there had been more complications or a fight involved or something. Unfortunately, the Big Threat seemed to be dispatched awfully quickly, and I feel like Whitney deserved better because she was a fantastic villain.

On the upside, I’m relieved that Sousa didn’t die in the vacuum like I totally assumed he was going to. Seriously, I so had this guy marked for dead, and I’m glad to have been wrong. (It’s nice that Peggy has her own Man in a Refrigerator, but I didn’t really want her to have another one, at least, not so soon.) And I’m happy that Sousa and Peggy got together, although I feel like the storyline with Sousa’s fiancee this season was an unnecessary and dumb complication that should have just been written out entirely. (Again, I assumed she’d come back and play some kind of role. For her to just disappear like she did, meh. Why even have her?) I did like how Peggy and Wilkes ended things, though, and I’m excited about her staying in LA. More sunshine! More Rose!

I’m a little surprised that everyone seems to assume Jack is unequivocally dead. He could be, of course, but he didn’t get shot in the head or anything, and he wasn’t making Dead Face. I guess we’ll find out if, mercifully, Agent Carter comes back for a third season. (Seriously, show. COME BACK TO ME.)

FINALE GRADE:

B+

SEASON GRADE:

A-

How to Get Away With Murder

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Oh, this show. I fell mad in love with HtGAWM last fall, but second season has been a little off-balance for some time now. I still enjoy it, but I’m also deeply relieved to say goodbye to this season and move onto the next, like, I don’t even care how ridiculously quick the Hapstall murder mystery was taken care of; I was just thrilled it was DONE.

The season finale was, you know, okay. Cicely Tyson is always a delight to watch, and I’m happy that Annalise seems like she might kinda, sorta be on the emotional mend? Like, I’m all for her being a damaged, flawed character–Viola Davis is, quite obviously, a powerhouse, and I expect her to get the meatiest material to work with–but after a while, self-destruction actually gets a little repetitive, and I’m desperate to see the show focus a little more on her as the cool, hard-as-nails badass she used to be. It’s rare that I say this, but I actually think the show might do a little better to focus on weekly cases again. I miss those from first season. They gave it a sense of structure.

The very sudden demise of Adam Arkin was great, too, although I’m not gonna lie: I’d have been happier if they’d killed Wes instead. (Yeah, I know it’s not going to happen. I can still dream. I find Wes incredibly annoying. Sorry, Dean Thomas.) And Oliver’s deception is interesting, and by interesting, I mean holy shit, what a dick move. I really need this to be about something more than the fact that Oliver doesn’t want to move to California. Like, if he’s involved in some secret conspiracy or mystery, awesome, but if it’s just because he wants to continue hanging out with Annalise’s crew to provide some thrills? Please, no. I kind of need a halfway decent character to root for in the bunch, and that person should be Oliver. Connor and Oliver are, like, one of my favorite ships ever. Please don’t make me hate them.

Here’s what I need to see from Season 3:

A. Less Annalise damage, and more focus on the other characters. Seriously, Viola Davis is amazing, but the rest of the cast is pretty great, too, and we’re really underutilizing them at this point. Especially Michaela. Please give Michaela a better storyline. In fact, please give Michaela a storyline that doesn’t mostly revolve around a man. Even if that man is Asher. (I, uh, have not made up my mind about this ship yet.)

B. Also, we should probably really delve into Laurel’s family stuff now, instead of just skirting around the edges as we’ve been doing.

C. More Connor/Oliver time. Feel free to include Oliver being cute, remembering that he once wore glasses, and finding out that he’s hanging with a bunch of murderers and dead body-disposers. Connor, meanwhile, can feel free to take off his shirt, tightly hold onto a pillow, and/or have more nervous breakdowns that may or may not include manically singing.

D. No more about the Hapstalls. Seriously. For the love of GOD, let that be the end.

E. Maybe a scene that’s actually in law school?

F. MORE CRAZY MURDER. Always.

FINALE GRADE:

B

SEASON GRADE:

B

The Shannara Chronicles

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So, that . . . kind of sucked? Like, okay, this show wasn’t amazing, but I thought it had some potential in the beginning. Unfortunately, I didn’t really like where it went at all.

The idea of Amberle becoming the tree was kind of cool, and I’m happy that she wasn’t immediately all like, “Well, if that’s my duty, then of course I’ll do it!” But that she only became ready after having sex with our boring half-elf hero? Please. More importantly, I’m seriously annoyed that her fear of, you know, becoming a tree for the rest of her life was somehow all about Will. Like, come on. Even if these two had chemistry (which they don’t) or had been together a long time (which they haven’t), this would drive me crazy. Also, the L-word? Nope. Not having it. This show’s romantic relationships are the very definition of bland.

Interesting to note: there are a lot of women sacrificing themselves in this finale. (The men, you’ll notice, don’t sacrifice shit.) Eretria staying behind so the others can escape works for me, and Amberle becoming a tree (theoretically) does too, but Commander Tilton, the badass warrior elf? She doesn’t even die doing something important; she is literally only killed for Ander’s epic man pain, and guys, this dude already lost his dad and his brother in this season alone, not to mention his other brother in the past and is about to lose his niece. Tilton’s death is some serious bullshit. (Also, did Zombie Arion feel totally random to everyone else? Have there been other zombies running around before?)

Also, the whole story with Bandon felt pretty mishandled to me. I really wanted to care about him, but everything was so poorly plotted that I just couldn’t bring myself to. It sucked for Catania, too, who showed such promise in the pilot and then just become Bandon’s Totally Insignificant Love Interest. Frankly, I’m slightly surprised she didn’t sacrifice herself as well.

ALSO, shouldn’t Will suffer something for using magic to bring Eretria back to life? That’s how big deal magic works in this verse, right, that there’s pain and consequence for spell craft? (Like how Will’s Daddy’s life turned out totally sucky?) If this is coming in second season, well, I won’t be around to see it. Despite the show ending on something of a cliffhanger, I was so utterly disinterested by the last few episodes that I have no desire to continue watching the show. I’d love to see MTV take on YA epic fantasy, but this one is far too generic for me.

FINALE GRADE:

C-

SEASON GRADE:

C

Season Premiere Round-Up: 1/1/16-1/22/16

Loving TV, as I do, I found myself writing mini recaps/reviews of all the season premieres I watched last fall, up until December, anyway. Then I kind of forgot about it because, really, not much premieres in December. (Other than The Expanse, of course, because the executives at Syfy are apparently contrary bastards.) And I went right on forgetting it, too, until the other day when I was watching the third episode of Teen Wolf, Season 5B, and was like, “Oh, yeah. I was doing kind of a thing, huh?”

And so. A handful of season premiere impressions: some timely, some belated, and all, rather obviously, with SPOILERS.

The 100

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Mek and I found The 100 last year on Netflix and quickly marathoned through two seasons. While the show started a bit slow for me (if I could have murdered Octavia and Bellamy in the first couple of episodes, I would’ve, and probably wouldn’t have wept for Clarke, either, if she just happened to, I don’t know, fall victim to a herd of rampaging wild deer or something), it definitely got SO much better, and I spent most of last year looking forward to a new season.

This is a pretty solid start, letting us know what all our characters have been up to for the past three months after the devastatingly brutal events of “Blood Must Have Blood, Part II.” Clarke has become everyone’s Most Wanted and, also, a redhead! (Disappointingly, it appears she’ll be going back to blonde soon.) Raven’s leg has gotten worse (which I’m happy about it because I love that it’s a continuing storyline, not just a bullshit Magic Heal). Bellamy has a girlfriend! (And I bet the Bellarke shippers are pissed.) Lincoln and especially Octavia are struggling with their identities as somewhere between Sky People and Grounders. And the gang goes on road trips and listens to the Violent Femmes! (I mock, but I actually enjoy CW’s anachronistic music for the most part, and this scene totally amused me. Also amusing: the kid who plays the piano at the end. Raven asks for a song, and I’m immediately like, “Oh, is this the infamous Montage Boy?” Turned out, it was. Also, apparently, a real musician whose stunt casting, predictably, went straight over my head.)

In fact, I only want one character to get brutally trampled upon and die in a stampede of angry rhinos now: Jasper, who has, unsurprisingly, not taken Maya’s demise very well and has become a suicidal drunk who’s mean to Monty. (He’s also shaved his head, which is obviously the second best Grooming Option for the Depressed, next to growing an Angst Beard. Surprisingly, it looks decent on him.) And the thing is, I get his trauma and I should feel sorry for him, but I’ve never particularly liked Jasper and his whiny “Only My Love Life Matters” approach to moralism, and seriously, anyone who’s mean to Monty DESERVES TO DIE. (I’m seriously hoping he gets more to do this year. Monty is the best. He deserves his own angst time, damn it.)

I’m kind of interested in the weird Jaha story because I want to know where it goes (presumably, he and ALIE will become the show’s Big Bad?), but anytime The 100 cuts away to him, I’m immediately like, “No, no, go back to the characters I actually care about!” But it’s great how much I’ve 180-ed on Murphy, who started life as a totally boring antagonist and now I’m very much rooting for. “I’m so out of here,” Murphy says, and yes, YES, Murphy. This is the proper reaction to Crazypants Jaha, the psychotic AI, and Johannes Brahms. (Of course, then he changes his mind because of a girl. Oh, Murphy. I am disappointed in you, buddy.)

FAVORITE PART:

I did love Murphy’s line, “Pain. Hate. Envy. Those are the ABC’s of me.” Still, my favorite part was probably when Monty unsympathetically threw the bucket of cold water at Jasper’s face. Here’s to hoping he upgrades that to a punch across the kisser next.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

Agent Carter

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Yay, Agent Carter is back! “The Lady in the Lake” and “A View in the Dark” was a solid two-hour premiere, although honestly, I’m not sure how much I really have to say about it. Nothing about it seemed particularly ZOMG AMAZEBALLS, but I had a good time watching it regardless. It was nice to see Peggy Carter back in action, crisp and kickass and fashionable as ever. Punching everyone in LA seems like a fabulous hobby, and I would happily watch her take it up.

Also nice to see Souza (whose new, adorable GF, I’m desperately hoping, is not secretly evil), two strong female antagonists (especially Dottie! Hi Dottie!), and the return of Jarvis, bored out of his mind and occasionally chasing flamingos. I also quite enjoy Jarvis’s wife, Ana, although I am a little disappointed that Angie’s disappeared into the television void. And Rose, the SSR telephone operator/receptionist, has come to play! I’m super jazzed about that.

Wilkes, Peggy’s new love interest, has supposedly been killed, although I don’t buy it for a second. (Although, to be fair, I’ve been wrong about that kind of thing before. Still. An explosion that’s evaporated his body? Yeah, okay, guys.) And I’m kind of waiting to see where Jack’s storyline goes (though I’m not nearly as interested in him as I am in Peggy, Jarvis, and Souza). Is he going to become a bad guy, do we think? Or is he going to realize he’s joining Hydra and eventually get murdered for it?

FAVORITE PART:

Hm, I’m not sure. I couldn’t help but adore Peggy and Jarvis looking at the flamingo in the car. They’re just so charmingly . . .British together. I don’t know. Also, Rose telling Souza that he should tell Peggy about his girlfriend, and then offering him a snarky cookie when it ends up being too late. (And this exchange too: “Daniel, you’re a nice guy.”/”Oh, that’s just mean.”)

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

Teen Wolf

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Oh, Teen Wolf, how I have missed you!!! It’s lovely to have you back.

This is a solid season opener, although–like many of the season premieres–it spends most of its time setting things up, so you know the really exciting things are coming later. Scott has started the uneasy quest of getting the band back together after Theo so easily and thoroughly divided them last fall, and it’s not off to the best start, since his Super Angst is (likely) what’s preventing him from healing properly. (Like in Season 3A, when Derek was supposedly but obviously not actually dead. Can’t Heal With a Broken Heart was incredibly silly then, but it’s pretty much just canon now.)

I like a good deal about this episode: Scott and Stiles being forced to work together again (especially after Stiles throws Scott against a wall and slams him to the ground, which, not gonna lie, I kind of enjoyed watched), Scott offering to listen to Malia if she needs it, Mason’s reaction to Liam tearing a page out of a library book instead of using the copier like a civilized werewolf, and, obviously, all of Stiles’s stuff with his dad. (The repeated head injury/blackouts made me laugh a little–it’s really just a matter of time before this kid ends up with brain damage–but I totally adored the moment when the Sheriff woke up, so. I let it slide.) I was less impressed with the fact that all you need to do to find the Nemeton, apparently, is use your Werewolf Eyes, cause, seriously, nobody thought of that before? And I still think it’s weird that Stiles and Malia apparently broke up last season because that’s really not what I got from that scene, but all in all, I was pretty into the premiere.

Especially that last flash-forward, where Theo and His Evil Chimera Pack slow-mo walked into Eichen House to get Lydia, and a seriously pissed off hellhound came to meet them. Hot damn, Parrish. (Sorry for the pun. Heh, no I’m not.)

FAVORITE PART:

Oh, probably when the Sheriff wakes up. Sue me; I’m a sucker for Stilinski Family Feels.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B+

The Shannara Chronicles

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This isn’t bad, so far. Some things I like; other things, not so much. Shall we good/meh/blarg it?

THE GOOD:

Amberle. Of the three main characters, Amberle’s easily my favorite so far. I question some of her decision making skills (like, maybe we should talk to someone about these visions before immediately running away?), but I buy her badass moments, and I adore her silver elf-ear jewelry. (Seriously, I want these.)

Amberle’s handmaiden. Is she coming back? She oughta come back.

The cinematography/special effects. MTV shows don’t usually have a gigantic budget (hence the shitty green screens and often laughable CGI on Teen Wolf), but this show looks pretty damn great, especially given its network.

Ander. I like this guy, and I really hope he doesn’t end up dying or turning out to be a Big Twist Bad Guy.

Manu Bennett. Allanon is gruff and enjoyable, and it’s nice to see Slade as a good guy this time around.

The surprising amount of bloody violence. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I wasn’t expecting Teen Wolf levels of violence from YA high fantasy. I’m happy to have been wrong and hope the gory fun continues.

John Rhys-Davies. Less because he does anything worthwhile (I’m basically just waiting for him to get horribly murdered) but because I like the actor.

THE MEH:

Will. When he’s going for comedic, I’m generally amused. When he’s going for emotional . . . yeah, I’m not quite there yet.

All the characters are . . . pretty damn trope-y. (Especially naive country boy Will and Ander’s annoying, I-Don’t-Trust-Druids-And-I-Wanna-Be-King-NOW brother.) Now, obviously, it’s extremely early, so maybe everyone’s going to end up subverting their tropes and end up in interesting places . . . but so far I’m not seeing much evidence to suggest that.

THE BLARG:

Eretria. I want to like her. I really do. Morally ambiguous thief girls? Totally my thing. But she didn’t strike me as tough or cutthroat or awesome; mostly, she just struck me as annoying and trying way too hard to seem badass. Perhaps the actress will settle into the character? I mean, there is definitely potential for growth. (Plus, she was Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth! Damn it, I want to like you SO MUCH.) It also probably doesn’t help that she and Will, who seem destined for one another, have about as much chemistry as a rock and bag of low-fat pretzels. (Eretria has far, far more chemistry with Amberle, so I could maybe be okay seeing them get together. Unlikely, perhaps, because I doubt that’s in the source material, but then again, this is MTV. The network gets a lot of shit from a lot of people, but they’ve done a pretty good job with gay and lesbian representation in their other shows, and I don’t think they’ll abandon that here.)

The annoying I-Wanna-Be-King Now prince. He’s not as serious of a problem for me as Eretria because I’m obviously supposed to actually like Eretria. But at present, he’s a one-note tool, and I have little interest in watching him snipe at his father and brother or betray his family and try to take the throne.

FAVORITE PART:

Hm, I’m not sure. Maybe the whole opener when Amberle wins the race? I enjoyed that. Also, whenever Allanon mocks Will. That’s obviously good, too.

Legends of Tomorrow

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You know how some pilots just scream PILOT? Yeah, that’s how watching this episode felt. It wasn’t terrible or anything, but it just felt so compressed, so basic. They had to spend a lot of time going over the character backstories for anybody who doesn’t regularly watch Arrow and The Flash, which makes sense, but I couldn’t help but feel that new viewers would still be like . . . wait, who in the what now? Meanwhile, the rest of us, presumably, just tuned out Hawkgirl and Hawkman’s reincarnation story because it was kind of boring and unconvincing the first time around.. (Yes, I remain bitter that we didn’t get JLU Shayera Hol. You’re my favorite, Shayera!)

My random thoughts:

A. Oh man, Stein is a DICK. Drugging someone so they’re forced to travel through time with you on an almost certainly doomed quest to try and defeat an immortal super villain, all so you can have a little adventure and meaning in your life? Wow, no. I mean, I forgive it because I like Victor Garber, but no. He owed SO MUCH more of an apology to Jax at the end of this episode.

B. I do like that not everyone is initially eager to jump on board because, like, dying isn’t fun. I also like that Captain Cold and Heat Wave tag along primarily to steal shit.

C. Much to my shock, Heat Wave actually made me laugh intentionally a few times. Could he indeed be turning down the TOTAL CRAZY just a little? Because if he does, I could potentially actually like him.

D. I was convinced that Rip secretly wanted Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and White Canary to leave the ship because, otherwise, it seemed like a monumentally stupid plan to leave them alone. Apparently, it was just a monumentally stupid plan. Worked for me, though: I love the scene with the three of them at the bar. How long do you figure before CaptainCanary becomes canon? (ColdCanary? WhiteCold? I’m not the best at shipper names.)

E: Finally, and unfortunately, Vandal Savage continues to underwhelm me as a Big Bad.

FAVORITE PART:

Probably that bar scene. Otherwise, one of these two Heat Wave lines:

“Deafness wasn’t one of the side effects.”

“Why did we become criminals?”
“Because we hate working and love money.”

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

Galavant

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Honestly, I was shocked that this show didn’t get cancelled, and I wasn’t sure I was going to pick it up again. But a season premiere titled “A New Season aka Suck It, Cancellation Bear” was too hilarious to pass up.

Mostly, I’m in the same place I was last season. Some stuff cracks me up. I absolutely loved the opening song. And Galavant and Richard are fun to watch together. On the other hand, some of the humor feels tired and gets on my nerves. And my inner feminist sighed pretty heavily when Isabella, after mistakenly coming to believe that Galavant doesn’t love her anymore, decided to give up escaping her imprisonment/arranged marriage to her 12-year-old cousin because nothing matters if Galavant doesn’t love her. Like, really, Isabella? Really? It’s a fun enough show, and I will always be happy that Timothy Omundson has work, but even it miraculously makes a Season Three . . . I’m not sure I’m sticking around this time.

FAVORITE PART:

We didn’t actually see it, but apparently four pirates willingly walked the plank rather than hear the Galavant theme song one more time. Love it.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B-

“And Secondly, I Don’t Need People to Help Me Grow Up. I Drink MILK.”

So, last year (especially the tail-end) was pretty busy for me. I watched all kinds of movies and television shows that I fully intended to review, but somehow I never quite got there. One of those shows was an American anime called RWBY (pronounced Ruby) that my friend Cory recommended. RWBY is about a group of friends with magical abilities and ridiculously awesome signature weapons who fight monsters while training at what’s essentially an elite warrior academy high school.

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It is, without question, entirely my jam.

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The 2015 Movie Superlatives

Okay. One week into 2016 and we finally have the last of my End of the Year posts. Welcome, friends, to the 2015 Movie Superlatives! (Feel free to imagine some loud cheering here, like you’re at a colosseum death match or something.)

Other people are around to tell you the Most Raw Method Performance or the Most Inspirational True Life Story of Whoever. I rarely watch those kinds of movies, though, unless someone’s forcing me to. If, on the other hand, you want to know who won awards like Worst Romance, Most Fabulous Fashion, and Chief Asshat, well, you’ve come to the right place.

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