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Reign Report: "Blood for Blood"

The good news about the second season of Reign is that we're getting actual production stills that give us something to look at!

The bad news: this episode was kind of a mess. The season had such a great start that this episode (which tried to shoehorn in royal blackmail via really good nurse-actress hoping to trick Francis into admitting he killed the king, which is just a WILD thing to try to get to pay off, plus religious intolerance that suggests another grain-shortage actual power problem and sort of fizzles out, a broken marriage that's great but relies on a weird single-episode blip from last week, and of course, Kenna finding a sexy diary, which is still more than Bash gets to do, because this show has lost track of its cast in a serious way. For actual analysis, head to the AV Club, where I try to break it down.)

In the meantime, I would really like the costume department to think about how closely they are tying Catherine to the extras as we go along, here. I don't need her in filmy Free People or anything, and some of her dresses can be camp-fabulous (she wears a jewel-encrusted turtleneck sweater later, because of course she does, she's the Golden Girl who poisoned everyone), but her dress and that extra's dress are markedly similar, and that's not what you want in a dowager queen whose royal husband died and whose real husband is hanging around the north of France herding sheep or something. She doesn't need to look young, but she needs to look relevant. This dress accomplishes nothing.

The good news is that Mary and Lola's dresses are amazing for this; Mary's having a very defensive week and Lola is desperate to prove that she's not the King's sexual property, so Mary's in spiky shoulders and Lola's in filmy sequins.

Not, according to Cathering, that it will do Lola any good. In the completely random Sexy Diary subplot – perhaps one of the worst the show has ever had – Kenna and Lola read a sexy diary. Catherine, of course, has already seen it and made excellent use of its sexual ranking system of the men at court. "Henry died. I live."

Madam, do you EVER. Catherine and the I Will Ruin You Sexually Tour, 1550whatever.

Also, a wedding, because this episode could not stop itself.Collapse )

I do not drink....vampire puns.

roaring 20s

Today at the AV Club, I have a TV Club 10 article! Usually these focus on ten standout episodes of a single show, but why try for something difficult when you can try for something impossible? I went for ten episodes of vampire television that are either exceptionally good or noteworthy in amazingly hilarious ways. (You can tell the general rubric we're working with when I mention that every single vampire series had two things in common: bloodlust, and nightclubs.)

Watching something like 200 hours of vampire television with a rubric as to the "best" ones is...illuminating. Many vampire episodes function as metaphors; then you hit a Xena episode that essentially consists of the actors holding up signs that read HINT: WE ARE GAY, and you have to recalibrate for everything. It's always interesting to find subtle vampires: they're thin on the ground, except occasionally in Ultraviolet, which at least handled the Pregnant with a Vampire Baby thing with some nuance that is lacking in the many, many other instances of Pregnant with a Vampire Baby. It's fun to find the campiest ones: that was a much harder thing to award, and it went to Vampyr: a Soap Opera because how can you not reward a TV opera movie with financial-district vampires, but it could easily have gone to Kindred, which did not have much to say for itself as a work of art, but my god, "The Rise and Fall of Eddie Fiori" was so deeply Vampire it was a gift that kept on giving.

It was an occasionally infuriating, occasionally dreadful, occasionally sublime several hundred hours of television, and coming up with the final 10 required a lot of explanatory rules (explaining that a good vampire episode of a show is not necessarily the best episode of a show ever made, just the one most focused on a particular facet of being a vampire, and explaining that one or two ended up in the 10 More section just because of their influence on later work, not on inherent merit). But here we are, and there's the list, and now I'm off to reenter the world, taking so much garbled vampire mythos rules with me that I will become a character in an episode of vampire TV who doesn't know how they work any more, which frankly serves me right.
nerd alert

On Sunday I wrote my last-ever episode recap of Boardwalk Empire, as the series drew to a close after five seasons. The fifth season was an interesting experiment—not always successful, but interesting—in how to navigate a huge time jump with an enormous cast at a very fast-moving period in history, and as I said in my final review, appropriately titled "Eldorado," the whole season functioned as something of a Victorian death: just short enough not to outstay its welcome, and just slow enough to make amends.

Boardwalk Empire is one of those shows that never quite got traction (it held on to a small, loyal audience for the majority of its run). And I get it; besides a tendency to drop a plot point for two seasons and then bring it back at a crucial moment, which I respect but which discourages casual viewing, the show had a marked tendency to introduce a cool woman character and then sideline her, and it never gave Chalky half the time or arc he deserved, until season four, when it gave him that arc and then ruined his life. But it was beautifully done, from costumes to music to the distinctly cinematic flair to the direction. It was also consistently one of the best casts on TV, from the leads down to the day players, and their ability to convey whole characters in a single line or have a loaded conversation that covers five years of backstory in less than fifteen seconds made it a pleasure to watch. I suspect the show will find new life when HBO's streaming service debuts.

My recaps of the entire fifth season are archived at the AV Club; amid the good acting and the occasional wrenching scene, it's a season-long lesson in how flashback affect pacing and how to juggle an ensemble to give people the greatest overall feeling of narrative satisfaction. (I'm still not sure we got that, but for the things the show cared most about there was enough, and there are always scenes that stay with me, often quiet ones, but wonderfully done.)


Sleepy Hollow is not having a super great second season. Sure, Katrina pushed a lady right off a cliff last week, and they are pushing the Ichabod and Abbie feelings to the max, but the longer season has actually managed to sideline some characters in aimless side plots while new characters, like Hawley, swallow up screen time. This also feels like the second or third filler episode of the season, and we're only six episodes in, which doesn't bode particularly well. (DEFINITELY not boding well: Katrina's demon pregnancy, which is just such a ravine of bullshit I can't even get into it. We'll be mad next week. Plenty of time to be mad next week.)

This episode, "And the Abyss Gazes Also Into You," actually introduced a character I was interested in—Joe Corbin, son of Sheriff Corbin, who knew both Abbie and Jenny in their youths and had very different relationships with them, all of which is much more engaging than Hawley.

Here, Corbin does his best International Male impression while trying not to resent Abbie for getting his father' attention. (I do love that the episode sort of understands that Joe has minimal room to complain given Abbie's situation, so her sympathy is occasionally undercut with a look like He'd Better Be Wrapping This Up.)

She's sad for him! It's fading fast.

But then Joe goes to Quantico, leaving us with Hawley the Smarm Machine who has taken to staring soulfully at Abbie while she has zero idea what he's doing or who he is. And adding insult to injury, the show also introduced Big Ash, a Shawnee biker and occasional wendigo hunter who shows up for a single scene and manages to be cooler and more interesting than Hawley. In my io9 recap I was professional and left this screencap as it was, but here I have no such compunction to be accurate about stuff, and so I just fixed it.

See? All better.

Reign Report: "The Lamb and the Slaughter"

Last night, literally everything that could possibly happen on an episode of Reign happened. Over at the AV Club, I ding it for being overstuffed, even though I give it points for trying to have an episode overtly about women negotiating relationships based on limited choices, even if it ended with Narcisse standing over the body of his wife and confiding in Lola, who I swear has gotten more romantic bounce-around than literally anyone else on this show.

It was also a christening, which meant a parade of costumes, the best of which was without a doubt Mary's red gown, worn here as she and Lola make up after their fight, but definitely highlighting exactly what their power differential is, and the reason this fight will come up again.

So many costumes in one episode would normally would make me very excited except that there was so much else going on I could hardly concentrate.

This butter baby, for example, which was so amazing that they devoted a whole beat to Bash just staring at it, and Francis trying very hard not to stare at it at all.

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Sleepy Hollow: "The Weeping Lady"

nerd alert
I had to check that title, since I literally don't even remember what this episode is called in the face of the revelations we had. Namely, Katrina Van Tassel met up with a lady to talk about Ichabod Crane, and when that lady gave her shit, Katrina brushed her right off the side of a cliff. So while technically the villain of this episode is the ghost that drowns any lady who gets Too Close to Ichabod, like this Laura Palmer cosplayer:

Th real villain of this episode is pretty much Katrina. AT LAST. AT LAAAAST. The rest of the dirt, and it's seriously worth it, is over at my io9 recap, including a quick breakdown of where Hawley lives, which is still better than what Hawley yet deserves. (He followed Abbie around the library trying to bend over to get in her eyeline when she didn't want to talk to him any more, and while it shows how skilled Abbie is at the polite brush-off, it does not endear me to Hawley at allll.)

But back to Katrina! This is honestly the most they have ever done to give her some depth, and while it's still all very weird and disjointed, she is welcome to pitch people off cliffs as much as she wants to if it means she actually has a personality. She and Ichabod had a fight when she tried to handwave the whole thing away! A FIGHT. It was so great.

Meanwhile, they are really trying to make a redemption arc for Headless so that he can get all Spike about his feelings for her, which will work a lot better the more he keeps his shirt off. And not even for cut-torso reasons, but just because while this is some deeply impressive Blue Steel:

The bullets and the flaming hell-axe sort of reduce the romance of it all. (Not reducing the romance: the string section, which went out of CONTROL as soon as he was glarefully telling Katrina he doesn't like seeing her unhappy. It was English Patient levels of emotional cues.

The other emotional cues of this episode were between Ichabod and Abbie, who last week were crime-solving partner types and this week were the sort of people who drag their drowning partner out of a hole in the library floor and then cradle their head and shout their first names while desperately trying to revive them. (That is...a lot, frankly. This was a very parallel-shippy show. I'm assuming Ichabod and Abbie are textually endgame at this point, but if they aren't, somebody should tell the show.)

They are also the sort of people who throw wakes for their partner's reenactment friend.

A funeral friend is a true friend. A funeral friend is an honest friend. A funeral friend is a friend your jealous ghost ex wants to drown for being so close to you. A funeral friend is a friend you'll have to pretend to be married to when you infiltrate a fancy party during sweeps.
It's my first comic book day ever.

CATWOMAN #35, "Comfort to the Hurt of the King," is in stores now!

It's been sort of a surreal process; I got the first call about the opportunity from Mark Doyle at the beginning of the year, and after I got the gig came the plotting and planning and arcs and character sketches and some historical research because why not? before I ever sat down and began my first script, and since then it's been costume references and more plotting and more writing and sitting with my chin in my hands looking at pencils.

Early reviews have been positive: Comicosity, Comic Vine, and the auspiciously named Adventures in Poor Taste all enjoyed it. (You can catch a preview of it at io9, if you're curious!) I am obviously thrilled. I would also be lying if I said I wasn't also a little relieved.

Stepping into such an established comic with such a high-profile character has been an illuminating experience. (I was not prepared for this Comic-Con ad, for example, which made me laugh incredulously.) And this is the first time I'm working on something over which I don't have ownership; as much as I love Selina Kyle, I'm only borrowing her, and while I knew that going in, it occasionally feels a little strange. But it's such a fantastic gig to play with for a little while, and I am so remarkably lucky to have had the team I had. Mark's a fantastic editor, and Garry Brown, the artist, has been a dream to work with. I knew going in that I had some hard-line things that I wanted—a Selina who could be sexy but wouldn't be sexualized, women who fought in flat shoes, etc.—and while I was ready to fight for them, I never had to. The whole team seemed to be on the same page from moment one, and the next thing I knew Garry had sent me a fight scene with women punching like piledrivers.

Though, that wasn't the first thing he sent me. The first thing he sent me were pencils for a page that 12-year-old me would not believe she'd have the chance to write someday.

Cut for size, click for the whole thingCollapse )

I'll have more to come about this issue after it's been out long enough that I'm not majorly spoiling anything (given all the costume references with which I flooded Garry, it seems a shame not to do an occasional outfit breakdown). In the meantime, thanks so much to everyone, comic book readers or not, friends and strangers, who have been so enthusiastic about this run. I'm having a blast; if you're reading, I hope you are, too.

Reign Report: "Coronation"

Guess who had their big day last night!

An iffy tactician and her husband!

Don't get me wrong, her strategic scrambling has come together this season as an actual through-line and not just a series of awkward decisions enacted at random. The entire second season so far has been great; I wrote up why over at the AV Club, including asking why Francis is not wearing French blue, because the one thing this show remembers historically is that red is an English color and Mary literally wore it one time to be political. Show, please. Please.

However, I'm the first to admit that, Francis' color scheme aside, this was a week of great dresses on our main ladies.

Kenna as hipster floaty queen, Greer as preemptive widow, and Lola as glittery Earth Mom carried through the whole episode.

In this one, Celina Sinden is about to attack Mary with all the power of the xenomorphs over whom she is the queen if Mary can't get her shit together like instantly.

She did, though!
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Catwoman Updates!

roaring 20s
Some quick Catwoman updates, since my first issue (#35) comes out October 22 and I have been slow to update, because I'm me.

First: The cover for Issue 37! (Subtitled, A Whimsical Fight with Black Mask). Since we decided to have the tux be the unifying cover image for her, and this minimalist style is working so well, I really love the ways Jae Lee is showing the wear and tear on that uniform the more she's having to fight for her life. Plus, I mean, the claws.

In terms of what's lurking behind the cover, I have an interview with Jessica Boyd inthe HERoes column at Comicosity that asks about my favorite representation of women in comics, my favorite cover, and the impact of vocally feminist women fans.

That last was also a topic of discussion that I had with Mallory Yu at NPR, discussing women in comics, women reading comics, women making comics, and women wearing flats when fighting in comics.

And lastly, an announcement! I'll be writing the second Catwoman Annual! It will come mid-run (landing December 24, I believe), and will, among other things, explore some of the tactics Selina Kyle used to reach the position she's in when we see her in Catwoman 35. The rest of what it explores is still a spoiler. *shakes fists at sky*


Sleepy Hollow: "Go Where I Send Thee"

nerd alert
This week's Sleepy Hollow was technically a monster-of-the-week, actually a euphemism parade, and one of the shippiest episodes yet. It starts with a driving lesson (Abbie and Ichabod, even though Jenny's apparently the one who did all the actual teaching, this episode will let nothing come between its bantering leads!), ends with a coffee date, and in the middle has a missing-child case that only barely registers on their shenanigans horizon.

Ichabod Crane, forbidden by Reyes from participating in law enforcement work given that he's in no way a trained or licensed law enforcement professional, participates instead by creeping in the bushes outside the house of a family that's just suffered a kidnapping. It's hilarious!

The villain is a Pied Piper ("a" – there are, apparently, enough for one Piper a season), who takes the blood of a Lancaster daughter because even when a dude is the one who pissed off the demon, women are the ones who suffer. The horror of that realization is drowned out by the fact that he uses a bone flute, and everyone in the entire episode is interested in the possession and power of the bone flute, and there was just a lot happening.

However, aside from Mabie's Tavern and the constant ship markers they are flinging at us like Gambit with playing cards, my favorite moment might have been the most blatant apple-box foul this show has ever given us. Their height difference is accurately reflected in an actual conversation in the episode, and is more or less accurately reflected in this end-of-the-sports-movie slow-motion walk back to the house:

Their tense discussion about whether they can trust Hawley:

The only times Tom Mison has been able to look Nicole Beharie directly in the eye are when they are both lying flat on the hallucinatory-journey table, or they are sitting on chairs and she has a booster seat. Here, she's pictured standing on the second-floor porch of a house.

Frankly, it's also why I question the standing-table idea for a lengthy scene, especially in an episode that had a lot of what felt like attempts to create frenetic motion with the camera that required abrupt tracking-shot cuts and weird wipes. You can barely get them in the same frame unless they're sitting; how does busy camera work behoove you?

In fairness, this shot is about that lamp, and that' a pretty great lamp. I imagine shopping for this set must be amazing. (The books: the originals of the century-old police records they look up later, one assumes.)

And as always, you can read the whole rundown, including height differences, bone flutes, and racing posters, over at io9!
nerd alert

This week, Dracula Untold gets the dubious honor of trying to restart the Universal monster franchise all by itself! The question on everyone's mind is, "Wait, they're rebooting Dracula?" because this movie was not marketed particularly well. The question on everyone's mind after they hear about it is, "Wait, seriously?" And oh, yes. This movie is STONE serious. This movie is so serious that Luke Evans' abs and his forehead have an equal number of ridges at all times.

The question on everyone's mind after that is, "But is it any fun?" The answer is a resounding "kinda." Here are ten things you should know.

Abs, bats, and wives.Collapse )

Reign Report: "Drawn and Quartered"

So, this was actually a great episode, in that my major complaint about the show (its tendency to drop subplots and characterizations without a second thought, so for example Catherine's use of a python to suggest Nostradamus not leave town was never really ever addressed, and by that I mean they barely interacted for the rest of the season – not because he was avoiding her, just for plot, and even then there was none of the snake-related tension you might expect) was addressed. EVERYBODY got some consequences! Bring your one-night-stand and her kid back to the castle? Her existing friendship with your wife is torpedoed. Shove a powerful nobleman's son into a dungeon to die? That nobleman's going to be proving his power by forcing your hand on some stuff! Constantly hang out with your douchey ex? Your fiance's probably going to be sad about it. And of course, my favorite: try to gently poison Catherine for her own good? Ooooh, buddy, don't. (The slightly more analytical version of that is at the AV Club, and I actually suggest you read this one just because the plotting impressed me. This season might go from super-fun mess to amazing pulp if this keeps up.)

It was a serious episode, as evidenced by the many Serious Capes. Some of them were fine, like Greer's mourning cape, which was of a piece with the other clothes this episode that reflected her relationship troubles:

Castleroy can't be sure about her loyalties, and even though she reminds him he knew exactly how she felt about every goddamn thing in the world when he agreed to marry her, which is totally true, he's a little upset at the idea that she's constantly going to see her ex, because he'd like to think Greer likes him a little bit. I call moderate BS on this; we knew Castleroy was going to vanish, but my god, not like this! Don't have him turn into a dickweed just to further your wretched dudebro OTP! Castleroy's doofy well-meaning gallantry that turned into supernatural feminst gusto and good kissing with a talent for open communication was hilariously unlikely, but turning him from that into a jealous jerk would be overkill. Show, please, let him just die of plot-itis and be done.

Still and all, it was great when he punched Leith out of grief over his dead daughter and then squeezed Greer's shoulder like he needed the support. I'm not made of stone.

Is Lord Castleroy turning into a grizzled yet angstily attractive pirate king right before our eyes? He sure is. Does this cape have its own skirt? It certainly does. Does that look pretty doofy? Hoo boy, does it ever.

Is it still the best cape in the episode? By a mile.

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Sleepy Hollow: "Root of All Evil"

roaring 20s
This week on Sleepy Hollow, an actual show that exists, the bad guy laid out his plans for world domination by painstakingly building a diorama of the town.

I'm into it because 1) this show is trying not to take itself seriously and I like that, and 2) it suggests it's taking things just seriously enough to introduce continuity even if it's just the tiny-town-becomes-increasingly-detailed-with-evil kind.

But that's not really what the show cares about. Over at the io9 recap, I finally introduced a little MSR-inspired feelsometer, based on the fact that the show has just doubled down on the number of "we only have each other" related things Abbie and Ichabod say every week while Abbie is trying to reconnect with Jenny and Ichabod is trying to remember why Katrina is considered an asset.

Frankly, if we're just done with Ichabod's angsty backstory except as an adorable man on a quiet journey to pine for Abbie and learn how to use all the remotes, that's probably fine. Katrina spends this episode looking peaked in a seafoam dress and getting nothing done, and aside from the amazing diorama, even Henry has been demoted to Guy Waiting Around for the Apocalypse while he lights beds on fire with his mind, so his whole thing's a mess. (His confession about his shambles of a life is amazing, and reminded me that if Queen Catherine ever met him....she'd instantly murder him, actually, she doesn't put up with name-dropping.)

Plus, I feel like the visuals themselves are starting to weigh in on the will-they-of-course-they-will aspect of the Ichabod and Abbie pairing. A shot in which Ichabod is talking and has narrative control of the scene:

Moments before that, while they were narratively equal, the distance is slightly different:

In that he's now close enough for her to perform an eye exam on him.

I love how over the proximity of men Abbie is for this entire episode. There's a new guy who's clearly there to lock lips with somebody (I suspect Abbie, for Jealousy Points, and because Jenny should still get together with the commando from last season who clearly had heart-eyes for her. Or really, anyone from her past; she had a very plot-specific past that has come in handy a lot, we should get to see her living up the old days sometimes! But now Han Solo Stand-In is blonding around everywhere, and Abbie is in the background barely able to even handle another dude who's a foot taller than she is and is waving sharp-edged paper around:

She's a gift. [More priceless facial expressions, including her Welcome Back Jenny face, over at io9!]

Reign Report: "The Plague"

Welcome back to Reign, the show that doesn't care harder than any show has ever not cared! I'm lucky enough to be covering for Caroline at The AV Club for the opening few weeks of the season, which means the bulk of my commentary will be found over here, all official-like, for the moment. (Since it was the first episode of the season and I had to break down all the returning subplots plus remind everyone Leith is Gross Gatsby, it's a monster.)

My unofficial commentary will remain here! And of course, our primary concern is this nerd and the queen who occasionally tolerates him:

Here, technically, she is talking about how they are unprepared for the spread of plague. In reality, we can only assume she's making it clear how weird it is to even look at him after he shaved, as he studiously waits his turn for petty revenge. (Later, when he approaches the throne, Catherine motions the guards to let him through and he looks so gently happy about this restoration of trust after last season; then he joins forces with Mary to poison Catherine a little to get her out of the way, which he thinks is an awesome move to save innocent lives and which he'd better HOPE Catherine never finds out about.)

But the plague not only gave us a chance to rid ourselves of several members of the supporting cast in a single blow! It gave us a huge group scene, which means costume delights and a chance for everyone's subplots to briefly intersect. (Since Mary's marriage she apparently doesn't need help with her clothes any more, which means the handmaidens cross with all the rarity of planetary alignment.)

Kenna cannot even believe she got away with being one of the better-dressed people in any given frame of this show. Behind her we have the usual Ren Faire assortment, a Children of Dune formal robe in dusty blue that I'm into only for the sake of early James McAvoy nostalgia, and then, inexplicably, there's woman in white with an actual late-Elizabethan bodice and neck ruff, which I always thought would make some kind of tear in this show's space-time continuum if it showed up, but I guess not!

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Short Fiction Update!

kitty the typewriter girl
So alongside Dream Houses, the novella that will be premiering at Capclave, I have a few stories (and a reprint) that will be available in October! Either they're already out and I've missed them, or they're on their way shortly. I'm collecting them here because there's no way I will remember to do so otherwise.

Earlier this year I participated in two Kickstartered anthology projects. First: Neil Clarke's Upgraded, which should be available now in physical and e-editions! My story, "Small Medicine," is a standalone story, but shares a universe with "The Nearest Thing".

Second: Help Fund My Robot Army!, a Kickstartered anthology of Kickstarters. Some of the pieces in here are very poignant; I drove by all that in a motorcycle that probably has a silver-tipped-arrow-case attached to it and went right for the paranormal mishmash trope bin in "Prima Nocta Detective Agency Needs You."

I also have a story in the most recent New Haven Review: "What Happened, the Winter You Found the Deer" is close to my heart, and I'm so happy it's found this home. (Actual deer illustration is part of the Dream Houses limited edition, but when your two deer-featuring stories come out at once, you just go with it.)

"The Lion Cage" will appear in Nightmare Carnival, edited by Ellen Datlow and currently available for order from the Dark Horse website! (Note that this story, while about a circus, has no ties to Mechanique. I will revisit that world someday; just not in this story.)

My story "Aberration" will appear in Jonathan Strahan's Fearsome Magics, also out in October!

And I have a reprint in movie-themed horror anthology The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen: "She Drives the Men to Crimes of Passion!", originally published in Ekaterina Sedia's Bewere the Night. I also wrote an introduction in The Cutting Room, speaking briefly about the reasons cinema works so well as a topic for horror literature.


Sleepy Hollow: "The Kindred"

nerd alert
Sleepy Hollow has given me a marvelous gift. I mean, sure, a second season already awash in intense interpersonal subtext that introduces a Frankenstein monster to fight the bad guys so Ichabod and Abbie can do other plot stuff without constantly shooting at a guy who can't die. That's nice. But really:

RUDY NOBLE is back! I hoped last year that he'd return to be a slightly disgruntled liaison, and he appeared this week as a slightly disgruntled liaison. IT'S ALL HAPPENING.

Other stuff, I guess, was also happening. It was an episode jam-packed with people laying down some hard truths at one another, which I love, and which sets up quite a bit of chewy arguing for the future. At my recap over at io9, someone even got an award for the most hard truths laid down in a thirty-second period. You'll never guess! (You might guess.)

Obviously, as someone who does not care about the historical Macguffins this show is positively littered with, I am all over an episode that emphasizes the interpersonal relationships. I mention it a little at io9 (especially the scene in which Jenny, Ichabod, and Abbie are all separated from each other by the grid of the frame, which is a non-spoilery way of saying how much I loved a shot in which everyone's about to fracture)

In fact, episode director Paul Edwards was all over it, since a lot of shots this week define relationships within a space:

This is a little more visually interesting than everyone at the table, so I'd take it on that alone, but I also like the idea that Abbie's a little separated from the research that's happening there; involved but slightly left out. (Especially since once you hear her confession later, you realize this distance was probably deliberate. I dig.)

Then again, sometimes a nice shot is just a nice shot.

John Noble is John Noble-ing pretty hard this season, and it's only going to get more hilarious. The amount of time this episode spent watching him carefully stick a huge shard of metal into this pen was a very, very long time, and yet I couldn't even bring myself to be curious since I was so busy watching Noble add crags of respectable bad-guy-ness to his face in between takes.

And my other favorite moment of the episode was this lie detector:

Which I absolutely plan to use for any tracking of anyone's relationships I do in future, since that's the best lie detector ever. On the bottom, a hamster heartbeat; on the top, a majestic mountain range. Doesn't get better than this. (I mean, unless you want to see who won the truth sash, in which case, head to io9!
kitty the typewriter girl

Because I could not ignore this show no matter how much we all wanted to, I have reviewed STALKER at The AV Club. I don't know if the title is intended to be in allcaps all the time, but it suits the tone of the show, so we'll leave it. It is pretty much exactly what you would expect, except with more explicit discussion of why a man's justified in staring at a woman's chest, which was certainly an unexpected B-plot for a pilot, but there we have it. (This is not the first time I have discussed the terrible depiction of persistence-as-romance on TV; I also wrote an essay for them about "The Full Boyle," Brooklyn 99's saddest first-season subplot, which I hope has since been jettisoned forever, because that trope is All Done, thanks.)


Also up at AV Club: my Boardwalk Empire recap for last night's episode, "Cuanto," which had one of my favorite scenes in the last two seasons, and one I always hoped we'd get: a settling of grievances between Nucky and Margaret where they're both able to be honest without descending into the bitterness of the weights they drag with them. And it actually happened, which is almost unspeakably rare on this show. (And no stalking at all, which could have been a serious problem with Nucky involved.) Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald are both fantastic, and together they've been wonderful even when their subplot was grinding its gears; with something this great to work with, they run the gamut of tentative reconnection beautifully. The rest of the episode was either perfunctory or too neat, but sometimes a thing happens on this show and you are just happy to see it. Margaret able to have her say, and Nucky admitting what we've all always known about his savior complex without demanding anything for his generosity, was an important reckoning (in a season that should probably be speeding up with those, actually given that the show now only has four episodes left).


Over at NPR, I reviewed Love is the Drug, the newest YA novel from Alaya Dawn Johnson, that features a pandemic, a sexy loner crush object, and the complex social hierarchies of adolescence, which range from the bluntly stated to the more insidious They Might Think.


And at Strange Horizons, I have a new essay up! "And Was Obliged to Go On Dancing": The Red Shoes and the Chastised Woman discusses the Red Shoes fairy tale in the context of the story’s markers about the humiliation of women to make them more desirable (to God or otherwise), and the ways in which that context has become a standard storytelling tactic, particularly in the modern romcom, in which women that are interested in themselves are humiliated just enough to become more interested in a man's approval. Happy endings all around, I guess. It's strange to think that the most honest adaptation of it I've seen is the utterly astounding children's theater version in which Andersen is a monster who browbeats Karen into begging for forgiveness for the sake of an emotionless doll who's been punished and punished and punished. If you can find it online, where I'm sure it's floating around, it's every bit as amazing as it sounds; of all the things I've brought with me from childhood, that one never loses its power. (Hilariously, it is probably not particularly suitable for children.)

And the idea of humiliating and torturing women for entertainment brings things right back around to STALKER, so I'll just wrap with this lead quote that didn't make it into the final review, from Kevin Williamson's TCA press event for the show. During an answer in which he mentioned he looked forward to the storyline in which one of the protagonists is a stalker: "There’s more reveals to come with that storyline, and it will be fun to sort of watch when does he cross the line. We all can be stalkers. We’ve all stalked someone at one time."

Sleepy Hollow: "This is War"

nerd alert
X-Files Lite classic nonsense plot machine Sleepy Hollow came back last night!

Group hug. (This is the version of Ichabod that Moloch generated in Purgatory to confuse her and trick her into staying forever; he liked hugging her as much as the other Ichabod likes hugging her. It's just that kind of show.)

My io9 recaps have, accordingly, also come back. I was barely able to keep up with all the shenanigans this week, because while they thought the Purgatory fake-out in the cold open was awesome, it also wasted all the time they could have spent on things like Abbie and the dollhouse of her childhood projections who might have been of some use, and instead went right to the part where Benjamin Franklin's magical key could get her out of purgatory so run for it RUN RUN COMMERCIALS ARE COMING JUST RUN. (Technically I guess that is a spoiler for the episode, but one of the best things about the show is that it's almost impossible to spoil anything because it's all such a goof palace that you could describe the episode blow-by-blow to someone and they would still have to experience the shirtless Headless Horseman pausing to give Katrina a look at the goods for themselves to really get it. This show is spoilerproof.)

I do worry slightly that, since we've apparently moved beyond the personal angst of the first season, we'll be losing the version of Abbie that's Dealing With Stuff, which is a shame, because her best moments last season often involved the slightly more dramatic material. (Her scene with Corbin in the second episode of last season where she's trying to be super-practical through her tears is still one of my favorites.) I mean, I enjoy some funtimes mugging as much as the next person, but I'm not sure I'd like a show that was all that, all the time.

That said, her utterly Over It summoning over Hell's telephone – "Ichabod Crane" delivered in the most disgusted tone you can imagine – was pretty good.

And in fairness to her, this is the guy she was summoning, so I can understand her being a little concerned about him. (The crossbow has a laser sight. He uses it to fire on the Horseman after Abbie spends both her enormous guns' worth of consecrated rounds. He does the drop-and-roll to reach the shelter of a huge stuffed armchair. Welcome back, show.)

And now that they've firmly established themselves in the bitching-about-Founding-Fathers milieu, I hope they can expand their list of tropes and do some experimenting. We're already there, if you ask me.

I mean, you can tell me this is not a Legend shout-out with imaginary Tangerine Dream soundtrack. I am not going to believe you.
roaring 20s

Opening titles, from Art of the Title

This weekend is the last before the rush of fall shows. Let's all breathe it in for a second. Monday, Sleepy Hollow returns to us, and I'll be recapping them at io9 with screencaps at the ready! For those who want to catch up, the recaps for season one are right here, complete with a truly embarrassing number of screencaps of their height difference, their priceless reaction shots, and the many dozens of creepy locations that are apparently just sitting around in Sleepy Hollow and no one ever thought twice about before all the demons showed up. (Oh show, I cannot wait for Monday, come back soon.)

October 2, Reign returns, and I'll be covering it at AV Club for some weeks at the start of the season; I promise I'll be recording the fashion as best I can over here, no matter what thematic quagmires we find ourselves wading through over at AVC. Also over here: our running tally of people Catherine tries to poison, which I will forever regret not doing for season one, because the bottle episode alone was like 12 dudes.

Not all shows are waiting for the fall, though; Boardwalk Empire began its fifth and final season two weeks ago, and is moving forward in literal leaps and bounds, as it jumped six years in the future and is trying to wrap everything up in only eight episodes this time around, which is not an easy gig with a cast this big, a time jump this significant, and a deliberate pace that tends to let its subplots unfurl like the fronds of a delicate fern that's packing like three guns.

The season premiere, "Golden Days for Boys and Girls," was solid but not as sharp as it could have been; last week's episode, "The Good Listener," managed to juggle about eight subplots very gracefully in forming a larger picture of a moment in time, which is one of the things this show, at its best, does beautifully. It was an episode of people desperately trying ti wriggle out from under the powers that hold them.

This is probably not the end of television stuff I can't stop talking about; we've barely gotten into how The Quest managed to turn some really rocky game theory and some truly amazing semi-impromptu acting into the goofiest feel-good competitive reality TV ending ever. Until then, though, it's Boardwalk and Sleepy Hollow for me!

Capclave and Dream Houses

roaring 20s
A couple of announcements! First, if I have not announced it already: I'll be a Guest of Honor at Capclave this October, alongside Holly Black and Paolo Bacigalupi!

The convention is the weekend of October 10. When not heckling Holly from the audience of whatever panels she's doing, I hope to be talking about movies, TV, writing as a day job, and whatever else they decide to ask me and/or I can't stop talking about.

I'll also have a special project on sale there: my first-ever novella, DREAM HOUSES. It will be a limited print edition, the first 250 of which will be signed. (Cover below; I dig the art, but that '70s space-movie tagline may or may not be my favorite part.)

It takes a certain type to crew a ship that drops you seven years at a time into the Deep. Kite-class cargo ships like Menkalinan get burned-out veterans, techs who’ve been warned off-planet, medics who weren’t much good on the ground. The Gliese-D run isn’t quite the end of the line, but it’s getting there. No cachet, no rewards, no future; their trading posts get Kites full of cargo that the crew never ask questions about, because if it’s headed for Gliese-D, it’s probably something nobody wanted.

A year into the Deep, Amadis Reyes wakes up. Menkalinan is sounding the alarm; something’s wrong. The rest of the crew are dead.

That’s not even what’s wrong.

It's SF about survival, space, motets, and deer, and I'm very excited to share it with you.
Online pre-orders are available at the WSFA Press site. (For those who prefer their books in pixels, I hope to have some news soon about a possible e-edition!)

And for those coming to Capclave, I'll see you there!

Live Nude Girls

roaring 20s
The list of celebrities who had their pictures stolen numbers over seventy-five. Some of them aren't even capitalized; not names, really. They're just folders where the prizes go.

Jennifer Lawrence is on the list. Perez Hilton posted those, for those who might otherwise have had trouble finding them fast enough. The question went out quick on its heels: Is her career over?


Being a woman with any degree of public life in the age of social media is to be constantly sandblasted; you know the sand was always there, but the sheer force and volume with which it hits you isn't something you can ever get used to. You have to brace yourself to turn on your computer; stepping out your door becomes a thing you have to armor against.

Many of them are such small things, but there are so, so many, and there are always more.

It's suggested, often, that women develop thicker skins; before that can happen, of course, the sandblasting would have to stop.


This week, Anita Sarkeesian put out a new video in her series on Tropes vs Women in Video Games, dealing with women as wallpaper in the context of being the victims of violence, to set a gritty scene or serve as motivation for the hero to find the bad guy. In Assassin's Creed, we follow a fleeing villain through the city; if you time it right and stay far enough away not to engage, he'll kill as many prostitutes as he has to just to get your attention.

It brought on possibly the greatest-yet volley from gamers who took offense to the idea that displaying the sexualized bodies of women victims was wrong. The argument quickly solidified into "It's just video games, they're not real, and they're only reflecting real-life violence, so it's the world that's the problem," delivered in what one has to imagine is a ceaseless pterodactyl screech of ruined fun.

Some accused her of cherry-picking her examples (from twenty-five games). Others called out factual errors. Regarding Mafia 2: Joe's Adventures, someone pointed out that Sarkeesian had been misrepresenting the scene in which the men have a firefight over the body of a dead pole dancer; the description was, he insisted, because the player must kill her and drag her body to the stage before the firefight can even begin.

I looked for that comment again. I didn't find it, but there were several search results.

One, a YouTube tip on game play: "you have to kill her then you can rob the store".

Another, a list of "10 Hot Exotic Dancers in Videogames." (The Mafia 2 ladies come midway through the rankings, beneath the women in Yakuza 3: "They’re not the prettiest and aren't great dancers but they’ll get the job done!")

Another, a link to a topic on a gaming-questions website: "Why can't I beat women in this game?"


An excerpt from Helen Garner's This House of Grief:

"Having recently watched a bunch of blokes pour a concrete slab in my own backyard, I was equipped to imagine the effect of this sight in Cindy Farquarson's stifling situation. A concrete pour is a dramatic process. It demands skill, speed, strength, and the confident handling of machinery; and it is so intensely, symbolically masculine that every woman and boy in the vicinity is drawn to it in excited respect. Spellbound on the back veranda between my two grandsons, I remembered Camille Paglia's coat-trailing remark that if women were running the world, we'd still be living in grass huts. "


From Phil Blankenship on Twitter, a Facebook screencap of someone using the name Daniel Del Pozzo.

"If you call yourself my friend, you will send me links to the pictures with Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande (even though she claims they are fake) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead...oh and I also heard Emma Stone was one. Please and thank you."

He's updated the post with those he's seen, as if to reassure everyone it isn't as if he's gross, he's not greedy about it; he's just choosing off a menu, that's all.


The last line on the screencapped list of stolen pictures reads, "plus a show of alison brie and dave franco." He's the only guy whose name appears on the list; it's a content warning, in case you don't want a guy to ruin the fantasy.


Anita Sarkeesian received what is apparently the usual number of death threats upon release of this latest video. Some, however, were so violently specific that she alerted police, made them public, and left her home. (Those threats are screencapped here, though all possible trigger warning apply.)

Some gamers accused her of making these up. They threatened to kill her for it.


Some people have replied to the celebrities directly on Twitter, a sandblast of shame. What did they expect, taking photos on their personal phones intended only for the recipients? Privacy? Then this serves them right, apparently, somehow.

A screencap by @scotchka, of tweets sent to Mary Elizabeth Winstead since deleted from somoene whose handle begins @JohnnyMP:

"You deserved this because a girl like you would never date me in real life no matter how nice and courteous I was. Karma!"

"Sorry but it's not fair that only the guys of your choosing get to see the photos while the ugly, less fortunate guys do not."


Sonia Saraiya is a TV editor at AV Club, (where, for the sake of disclosure, I write TV reviews). Recently, one commenter went through four years of her Twitter and Tumblr to pull comments critical of white men, linked the resulting graphic in the comments at AV Club, and agitated for her to lose her job.

There are a dozen comments in the image (helpfully titled "Sonia's views on race" and assembled in what seems to be a frenzy of beginner Freudian design). It's not clear, due to the design, if all of them are hers, or where they're from. Some are small, clustered together as if to downplay the effort that must have gone into finding them all. Some are displayed prominently and centrally; the prizes. (The comments are not particularly important; the important thing is to remind her she's being watched.)

The centerpiece, large and offset with framing clips in dark gray that draw attention to this as a significant offense: "let's talk about how done i am with straight white men trying to explain things to me about GoT or anything else, really"

She didn't say it; a minor detail.


If Jennifer Lawrence had done a sex scene, her nudity would have been the talk of the press junket; they would have asked how she prepared, how much she dieted (of course she would have dieted, and of course it would come up - the size of her body has been public discourse for a while). Maybe they'd ask what her parents thought, but maybe she's old enough now that it's off the list of questions worth asking. Someone would have called up Mystique, and made a makeup joke.

It would be considered one of the many career milestones of a promising actress. The Academy Award gives her the protection to do the occasional nude scene; doing a nude scene can lead to the protection of an Academy Award, but it's a longer shot. Better to have the statue first.

If Jennifer Lawrence had done a nude scene, it would have been a performance. We would all have seen her body, gotten the usual thrill that accompanies the concept, and been finished.

Of course, it would be overanalyzed and screencapped and fetishized by everything from thinspo blogs to porn sites. But it would not have been as appealing as this crime is, now, to the people to whom it appeals. These photos are in demand because they are a thing she did for herself that got stolen from her. That's the draw. That's the prize.


A headline in the Telegraph, this week: "Mother of three poised to lead the BBC".


Since the stolen pictures were announced, they've apparently been the subject of discussion on a subreddit; The Fappening has begun tracking access problems to the "latest release."

Neetzan Zimmerman tweeted a screenshot of the announcement that the photos had been made unavailable:

The central comment:

"This is the fork in the road.

Reddit is officially a censorship based website.

No more free speech for us."


Jennifer Lawrence's career is not over. Scarlett Johansson's career wasn't over when her nude pictures were stolen. The advantage of being able to afford legal teams is that you can redress wrongs committed against you.

What she can't get back, of course, is the feeling that any part of her is safe from criminal commodification. As a public figure, it's considered a serious possibility that being the victim of theft might endanger her career. As a private citizen – well, she isn't now, is she? That's gone.

That's the appeal of the photos, of course. Photoshops of Playboy models with Jennifer Lawrence's head pasted on wouldn't be nearly worth what these are worth. The act of violation is what makes the results so valuable; they're in demand because she made them for herself, and you can take that from her just by looking.

The lawyers will shut down the distribution, but that's hardly the point.

Women are being watched. Women are never safe. The goal is always to strip you, of anything, of everything; the hunt is on.

Tomorrow morning, step outside.

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