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Red Carpet Rundown: The 2014 Emmys

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[Before we get to current fashion, I have an article at The Toast about Victorian rational dress and cycling, "I don't think I'll venture on dual garmenture".]

Ah, the Emmys. The Emmys can mean a lot of things. An evening to honor the year’s most awardable TV shows based on a complicated rubric in which actual quality is often way down the list; a way for designers and stylists to begin the complicated mating dance that will eventually culminate in the Oscars – or, for a lucky few, the Met Costume Institute Gala. For us at home, it's a chance to celebrate the increasingly murky TV/movie divide, and get early hints about what the Stylists' Guild has in mind for us in the coming red carpet season, just like whatever the first vegetables are that bloom in a season of however long growing stuff takes, I know shockingly little about vegetables.

It was, by and large, a lovely and tasteful year on the red carpet for the Emmys, an awards ceremony in which almost everyone has realized the cost-benefit analysis of hiring whoever needs hiring to make you look effortlessly, fashionably employable. I appreciate that. I also appreciate everyone who showed up looking slightly ridiculous, because they serve a useful purpose, just like things in a vegetable patch that provide shade and whatever even though they're probably poisonous.

Let's run down this red carpet.



My pick for look of the night: Robin Wright showed up in a long-sleeve faux-tux backless pantsuit and no jewelry, and it looked damn good. (Yes, she has that weird hem red carpet pants so often do where it looks like your legs are just tubes instead of having feet and shoes, but ugh, look at this, it's a pass.)

But honestly, it was a tough call this year. Deco looks poised to be a huge trend this red carpet season, so a lot of people looked pretty great.
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Dual Garmenture

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I have an article up at The Toast today! "'I don't think I'll venture on dual garmenture': Rational Dress and the Politics of Biking" discusses pretty much what it says on the tin, including rib-crunching, satirical poetry, seltzer sponsorship, and Aesthetic Dress as the theater kids.

Research for this was delightful.





Above are two of my favorite political cartoons and two of my favorite advertisements on the subject, at the far ends of the cultural response to Victorian biking costume: Terror that those ladies would go getting newfangled ideas in their heads...and how cool they would look if they did. (Please note that the adorable proposal has interrupted a meal, something about which the artist was clearly concerned.)

This article was a blast to write, and I'm so happy it found a home at The Toast. You can read it there!

(Sources: cartoons via, posters Wikimedia and Retrocatch).

Stuff I've Badmouthed Recently

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A few things I've badmouthed (or otherwise) recently:

Over at io9, I talk about some things Universal can keep in mind when adapting those fourteen Anne Rice vampire books they just bought. (I didn't realize I had any feelings about it, but then suddenly I was thirteen and buying a copy of Premiere magazine I still own with a huge behind-the-scenes article that fascinated me as much as the movie did.) Surely for something that ambitious they have a game plan, but if they haven't already considered the toxic-aristocrats angle of enormously rich vampires who literally feed off the lower classes AND the angle where they eat hearts and stomp around in huge immortal snits, then now's the time to consider them, is all I'm saying.

At Philly Weekly, I talked a little about Frank, a dark comedy I really enjoyed, even though I will probably never again sit through the scene in which Domhnall Gleeson "casually" mentions he can write songs and then has to trot out four or five banal non-starters under the withering stares of the rest of the band. A magnificent scene, of which one viewing was likely enough.

Over at AV Club, I reviewed Happy Valley, which is a very tense, often bleak story of crime in a small town and the officer who ends up investigating half by accident. The performances are all pitch-perfect and the depth of its lead role – a policewoman in the twilight of her forties with a complicated home life and career setbacks – is fantastic. It helps that the miniseries manages to avoid the worst cliches of either, and left some interesting ambiguities (among a few things that felt a little easy). Let me stress that while I found it totally absorbing, I was not kidding about the "grueling" part either; the first Sally Wainwright thing I ever saw was Sparkhouse, the Wuthering Heights modern retelling with bonus genderflip (and a tiny baby Holliday Grainger), so I was prepared for hours of bleakness with tiny glimpses of hope. That turned out to be for the best.

AV Club is also celebrating its 1994 week. In the midst of preparing a pitch about Hackers for 1995, because I will never not want to talk about that movie, I participated in an inventory of pop-culture notables from '94, including The Crow, the beginning of Turner Classic Movies, and four Chinese art-house flicks that made their mark. And in other things that remind me of decades past, I'll start recapping the so-X-Files-you-can't-imagine The Intruders this weekend!


In life stuff, I went to the Met with a friend, and found these two statues of women and their monsters.



On the left, Domenico Guidi's "Andromeda and the Sea Monster," moments before the rescue (one hopes). On the right, a 15th century statue of St. Margaret of Antioch, who was swallowed by a dragon but secured her release by making the sign of the cross, at which she burst forth whole from its body.

Catwoman #36 Cover and Interview

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The cover for Catwoman 36 has been released! I missed the Mary Sue exclusive reveal last week, but am glad to see people seem to be into Jae Lee's cover art. I'm so excited about this pared-down cover style, which we revealed in the initial announcement and I voted one million percent to carry over when it came up. I'm double excited about Selina's deconstructed-tux uniform while she's out of the Catsuit (I am, to no one's surprise, deeply invested in what everyone in this comic is wearing, which we'll get into once the comics come out). And though it's definitely a stark image, and I can't talk about specifics because of spoilers, I'm hypothetically invested in the symbolic Doppelganger aspect of Selina facing off against Catwoman...and possibly losing.

I tried equally hard to avoid specifics in this interview with Dynamic Forces, which was a lot of fun. It includes some thoughts about how Selina plays power games with herself, what she's willing to do for the sake of Gotham, and the phrase "sexy, sexy impasse." (Yes, it's about That Relationship.)


Catwoman #36 is due to hit shelves in November! I will have given in and started talking about the clothes long before then.

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Merlin and the Book of Beasts

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This recap has been a long time coming. I didn't even want to look up how long it's been since Ellen won this recap in Con or Bust and typed "Merlin and the Book of Beasts" in an email to me in a way you could just tell was a sinister, gleeful whisper.

Interestingly, that was still not long enough for my major potential foil, the Jeff-Bridges-and-a-dragon movie Seventh Son, to be released as proof that budget and quality are not always related; that movie's been delayed from embarrassment even longer than this recap has! It did, however, turn out to be delayed long enough for The Quest to premiere, which serves just as well. For those who missed it, it's an extremely-vaguely-LARP reality series where everyone competes to be a hero instead of actually LARPing, which is a shame, but doesn't stop anyone from asking "Can we trust him?" every time someone asks them to do anything, a skepticism I admire in reality-show contestants. (I reviewed the first episode at AV Club, and will probably end up tuning back in, but for now it's enough to know that the costume budgets of Book of Beasts and The Quest were, to all appearances, dollar-for-dollar the same, except Book of Beasts also blew a chunk of money on an upholstery cape.)




The Quest also has, via its amazing actors and their even more amazing loaded-pauses-before-turning-around, reminded me why I ended up accidentally falling for Book of Beasts. (We'll get there.) And though technically this is a film about Arthurian lore, it's very much a "film" about "Arthurian Lore," which means, for example, it contains three more Gorgons then generally appear in films about Arthurian lore. It just doesn't care. No wonder I love it. Let's dig in.
If you've wondered how much James Callis will commit to a role, that answer is: one hundred percent.Collapse )

Stuff I've Badmouthed Recently

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Well, only sort of. But I realized the last thing I posted here was the Catwoman announcement, and not any of my nonfiction work directly before or since. Obviously I'm still stoked about Catwoman, but I didn't realize how much time's gotten away from me in the last few weeks. Yikes. (I don't think I ever even mentioned how much I enjoyed Snowpiercer! Though the linked piece is more about the function of a particular image than the entire film, which I thought was a marvelously unsubtle parable that worked beautifully in its details and in the sheer variety of tones it took, so that you're unsettled not so much by the trappings of the world but by the fact that the journey through the train often juxtaposes wrenching horror with grimly gleeful comedy. For a movie as direct as this is, the variety of tones offers some interesting latitude for the viewer to determine what it's trying to say. Luckily that's rolling out on VOD in the very near future, so if you just can't wait to watch the gutted-fish symbolism rolling out along the train, you won't have to wait very long.)

A very nice thing about Philadelphia Weekly is that my column there, Genevieve Spoils Everything, gives me some flexibility in what I cover, so that along with the latitude to go off on long tangents (my favorite!), I can also talk about both movies screening that week in a double-feature format, rather than exclusively covering one. So last week, when I saw Violette, which I enjoyed, and Wish I Was Here, which I very much did not, I wrote "Please Excuse the Mess," which touches on the cinematic Messiness of Women, the Bechdel test, and Kate Hudson as American cinema's eleventy-millionth Supportive Strained Wife of the year. (There's a thing I badmouthed; I feel fine about it.) Later this week will be an essay that focuses largely on Boyhood, which is as good as people say it is in an extremely low-key way; the column also manages to spoil a major plot point in the laughable I ORIGINS, the hipster satire of our time that doesn't know that's what it is, so if you want to see it and let those laughs wash over you unexpectedly for the first time, don't read that part of the column, I guess.

For NPR, I reviewed The Book of Life, the third in Deborah Harkness's Ashmole trilogy, after reading the preceding novels to make sure I had the necessary context. (It...was not my favorite.)

At the AV Club, I reviewed the pilot of Lifetime's The Lottery, which was also not my favorite! The general clunkiness was not as problematic as the ways in which the show seems so carelessly, clangingly tone-deaf about its own thematic implications, which – considering they deal directly with fertility, government control of women's bodies, and sexual mores – are the very loaded sort that you'd want to be very careful about, unless you were The Lottery, I guess.

And at Strange Horizons, I wrote "A Million Ways to Die in the West," a column that was sparked by The Rover (an intensely grim but very committed post-apocalyptic movie that nonetheless might be most famous in five years for pressing the reset button on Robert Pattinson's career), and how a some movies, post-apocalyptic and otherwise, use a West they've decided is the best place for the world to end.

I am going to try my best not to let huge lags happen again; sure, that's probably wishful thinking, but once I manage to clear Merlin and the Book of Beasts off my ledger, I might even be something close to caught up!

Catwoman.

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As of yesterday, it's official: I'll be writing an arc of CATWOMAN for DC Comics. (That's her on the left, from the cover by Jae Lee that will be the first of this run, and that I will probably just blow up into a huge poster in my house, who are we kidding.)

To say that I'm excited would be an understatement. Selina Kyle has been close to my heart in several of her incarnations; I'm gobsmacked to be able to write for her. I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say about it at this point – I am assuming Zero, because that's always the wisest default – but when I'm allowed to talk more about it, I definitely will. Over at io9, I answered some early questions while trying to be vague but informative, which was a hilarious balance to strike. And even if you want to stay spoiler-free, you should head over there for a glimpse of the new Selina by artist Garry Brown; what really makes that sketch for me is her stance in the long shot, which suggests both wariness and somebody secretly itching for a fight. Perfect.

The first issue is due to hit stands sometime in October; I can't wait.

Penny Dreadful:"Grand Guignol"

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Well, that was a season of television, wasn't it? (It actually felt like two seasons of television deeply condensed, but that's part of the thrill.) And among all the big reveals that we all knew were coming but they managed to just portent about until the eighth episode because why wouldn't you, we got some amazing parallels that paid off all the loaded aesthetics that had come before:

Finale, "Grand Guignol":


Pilot, "Night Work":


Perfectly evocative of the changes in each of them and their relationship since the beginning of this whole mess.

And speaking of a whole mess!

Finale, "Grand Guignol":


Episode 4, "Deimonde":



One of my favorite things about Penny Dreadful forever is its wholehearted embrace of the meta-theatricality of it all. "Where could we create a stage for all this?" "A literal theater of horrorshows." "DONE." (I hope it's still here next season; the damsel/werewolf hinting and over the top couplets was a favorite bit of season one.)

But there was so much going on that we have no shortage of things to look forward to next year. The show, always aware of its own ridiculousness, used this hero shot basically as a promise of the messes still to come.



I mean, Vanessa has made out with the demon in the form of two of these guys (and never told them), sort of hit on another one while possessed herself (and he never told her), Malcolm's admitted to one of them that he named a mountain after himself rather than the son he practically killed, and one of them has the other's recently-deceased girlfriend on a slab at home and is pretending nothing is wrong. Also, one of these people is definitely just a normal human man, so everybody in this picture can just stop asking.

I am probably not done talking about Penny Dreadful yet, because we've barely scraped the surface of the actual ties between penny dreadfuls and this delightful tropesack of a show, but for now, we'll just have to sit tight and dream of how many hundreds of bullets Ethan will put in Victor next season when he sees Brona again for the first time. And Vanessa doing whatever she wants all the time and maybe achieving some moments of happiness just to surprise us, because she's got suffering pretty much covered. (On the other hand, every other dude in the show could still take their turn as the demon, that would be a nice Bingo card.)

The official recap, including the end-of-season relationship chart, can be read at io9!

Readercon and a Fiction Update

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It's Friday and I foolishly agreed to let a friend come stay with me, which means I'm screencapping Merlin: Book of Beasts in giant bursts in between desperately trying to cram all my horrible mess into a cartoon closet. Someday soon I will try cataloging some of the Musketeers' most priceless facial expressions, but today's not that day. Fiction update instead!

First up, amid everyone's Readercon schedules, this seems as good a time as any to mention I'll unfortunately be missing Readercon this year due to a family obligation. The next time I'll be at a convention is most likely Capclave, where I'm one of the Guests of Honor; I hope to have more information on that early next week.

Writing-wise, a bit of news about something that's already come out: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club got reviewed at the Washington Post, which is awesome, and calls it a "mesmerizing, surreal retelling." (Also awesome.)

In new short fiction, my story "Small Medicine" will be appearing in Upgraded, Neil Clarke's cyborg anthology, forthcoming in July. (It's set loosely in the same world as "The Nearest Thing,", though that Venn diagram is essentially two separate circles.).

My story "Aberration" will be appearing in Jonathan Strahan's Fearsome Magics, a fantasy anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan; that should be out sometime in October.

I also have a few reprints that should be appearing later this year. First up is "She Drives the Men to Crimes of Passion!" (which originally appeared in the very fun Bewere the Night). It will be in the horror-flick anthology The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen, to which I also contributed an introduction; this, as is suitable for a horror anthology, comes out in October.

And "Semiramis", a story I'm fond of, will appear in the The Mammoth Book of SF By Women in December. As you can see, it's a pretty great TOC; I'm excited to be part of it.

Penny Dreadful: "Possession"

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We're in the home stretch of Penny Dreadful, and as my longest-ever io9 recap would suggest, a lot happened! It was a lot of beautiful payoff for all the setup, the kind of thing that makes you wish the season was one episode longer and the last one was just a really long poker game where Victor can't do anything right and then whoever tries to teach him something gets their head yanked off by Caliban or something (they're not a stable group of people, there's no way everyone would get out alive).

This week gave Eva Green yet another Emmy-runaround episode to add to the collection, as Vanessa gets claimed by the demon again; it's scary not because of the demon itself but because of the ways this particular round of the struggle acknowledges two things. One, Vanessa doesn't quite remember what happens when she's possessed. Two, that demon says a lot of things that feel like things Vanessa wants to say.



It's an intense face, but it's not the manic intensity of the demon; it's Vanessa somewhere in there, calling Malcolm to task for some of his many transgressions. (He has so many transgressions; his admission to Victor and Victor's stunned expression after were two of my favorite things in the episode. "I'm absolutely the worst person." "…..I mean.")

Sembene even got a few more lines this episode! He also punched Vanessa in the face, which is a thing. In a show that's otherwise extremely interested in tweaking the tropes of its genre, this is unfortunately the place it's bought into the trope wholesale. We're on episode seven, and Sembene's entire part can be summed up here:



It's a huge fight where everybody airs grievances in a way that highlights their personality. Sembene says nothing. Oh, show. At least Danny Sapani knocks every second he gets out of the park. If he survives until Season Two, maybe he'll get more stuff to do.

And I guess after this episode we should talk about how this is the part Josh Hartnett's been waiting for, both because his odds to survive are at about 50/50 and because he was great here, which is not something I thought I'd ever say about Josh Hartnett.



Here he is, as himself, gently concerned about Vanessa. Gently curving toward her without being oppressively close, careful, listening.



Here he is, as the demon, gently concerned about Vanessa. Besides the great mirrored framing (there was a LOT of great cinematography this episode; you barely noticed it was a bottle episode until someone complained they hadn't gone outside for a week), you can tell there's something off about him even though the mannerisms are almost identical. The "but not quite" quality was so subtle you could maybe miss it at first, and then just slide slowly into the Oh Jeez portion of the evening when you realize Vanessa, like us, has been taken in.

It was great. It was great, the Lily-from-Legend seduction was great, and I want nothing more than for Vanessa to have pulled a double blind and to surprise the crap out of the devil when the moment comes and she's like NOPE. Then again, she could give in at the last second for a cliffhanger ending. Then again, she could ride off on the not-at-all wolfish back of Ethan Chandler, normal human man. Then again, Caliban could save everybody. Honestly, with this show and at this point, there's no telling. There's just too much. We're all in it for whatever.

Next week: THEY HAVE TO WRAP ALL THIS UP, HOW ARE THEY GOING TO DO THAT.

The Musketeers (and other travel)

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Catching up on stuff!

NPR’s summer reading list this year is Book Your Trip, which groups some really interesting books by mode of transit (including an entire category for hot air balloons). I contributed a handful, including women-crossing-Antarctica biography No Horizon is So Far, Wild Seed, and From the Mixed-up Files (a journey at which I marveled as a child, and more so now, given that as an adult I am only fractionally more on top of my daily life than they were when they lived at a museum).


I also got to review The Musketeers for The AV Club! Yes, the whole series has aired in the UK already, so many people are already aware of the cheesy yet well-acted fun times that await them (not to mention the parade of guest stars, which is a veritable bingo card of "I loved you on your eight other shows!"). If you haven't, and you like a bit of adventure that gently tweaks traditional gender roles and touches on social ills while still letting Milady de Winter end the first episode by strangling a priest as she spits out "I WANT REVEEEEENGE," then you have very specific tastes, but you are also in luck. The review goes into some details, including Tom Burke as the super, super, super haunted Athos, and Peter Capaldi as the very best man for the job. (Yes, it's a tiny reunion of The Hour Season 2! NO I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT, I'M STILL NOT OVER THE HOUR.)

In other AV Club news, I participated in the Tournament of Episodes, in a bracket that included Bob's Burgers "Turkey in a Can" facing off against The Good Wife's "Hitting the Fan," which was honestly a tough call. But I made that call, right over here.

PERSONA has a cover!

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Yesterday, io9 hosted the cover reveals for the first slate of titles from Simon and Schuster's new SAGA Press, including my novel, PERSONA! (I've seen the cover flats, the snake is textured in incredible detail; it's just this side of uncanny, and I really dig it.)

Having written a fantasy-ish novel with Mechanique and a historical fairy-tale-ish novel with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Persona is is a near-future political thriller with politics as celebrity culture, because why not. The official cover copy:

Suyana Sapaki's a failure in the International Assembly. She's not charming on camera, which is crucial for a Face: public image is ninety percent of diplomacy, they tell you right from the beginning. The United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation has been the site of scandal, so she's short on allies. It's a system designed to make you useless, but she's fighting. People back home are trusting her, and she has a country to save, one way or the other.

Daniel Park fled home to become a snap, because joining the last of the free press sounded noble before he was broke. On a hunch, he's picked C-lister Suyana Sapaki for his first outing; he thinks she's hiding something that's worth money to the right people, if he catches it on camera.

Like the assassination attempt.

*

On the run from someone who wants her dead, shadowed by someone she can't trust, Suyana will risk everything—everyone—to save her diplomatic ties; it's her only chance to control the future of her people, and she has promises to keep. The Assembly's declared her persona non grata.

That's what they think.


Persona is slated for release on March 10, 2015! Watch this space for more details as we get closer to publication.

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Last night, everything started falling apart on Penny Dreadful, and it was both campily hilarious, because that's what we're here for, and a little amazing. (The fact that Caliban is presumably walking the streets waiting for anyone to be nice to Victor so he can snap their neck and bellow "MAKE ME A GIRLFRIEEEEND" into the sky was this episode's greatest twist.)

But as always, this series is Vanessa's show, and she fell apart harder than anyone when her demon came back to haunt her.



More spoilers than usual.Collapse )

Penny Dreadful: "Closer Than Sisters"

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REAL-LIFE NOTE: On Friday at 7pm I'll be at BookCourt in Brooklyn to talk about The Girls at the Kingfisher Club with my editor, Daniel Loedel. (It's called "in conversation" because when they asked me if I wanted to just show up and give a talk I laughed really hard and then hid.)




When io9 asked me to write 10 Reasons You Should Be Watching Penny Dreadful, I gave the ensemble their due, because it's an amazing ensemble, and then gave Vanessa Ives a bullet point all to herself. Partly this is because Eva Green knocks it out of the park with every piercing stare:



And partly this is because the show trades heavily on the nebulous lust that weighs down every lugubrious conversation while being careful to make Vanessa the subject, not the object, of that sexuality. (In this, she's the dark mirror to Tina Belcher, which isn't a thing you think you'll ever say, but that mixture of intensity and indiscriminate landing places—Mina, Ethan, Malcolm, Dorian—has that same sense of following a character's examinations as part of a natural progression of the day rather than the endgame to her character arc. Breakfast, séance, lust, lust, visit the captive in the basement, lust, theater trip, lust, write a long obsessive letter to your vanished soulmate, bedtime.)

The latest episode recap is also up at io9! Closer than Sisters examines exactly the subtext you think it does (Carmillaaaaaaaaaaaaa), alongside a heaping helping of daddy issues that I am beginning to really be afraid might be pointing to Malcolm as her actual dad, which...is the one thing I might not want from this show. Their undefined hostility/codependency is so great, show, never pin it down! Let it fly free and make every single conversation loaded with triple meanings! I know you can do it. I believe in you.

Also, hats off to director Coky Giedroyc for this episode, which makes the asylum as visually arresting as it is textually horrific:



Beautifully terrible.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club party!

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It happened! (Two days ago, I know, but hopefully a belated a party report is still a party report.) And it was awesome. I can't thank everyone enough for slogging through the rain to the Back Room to celebrate with me! By the way, the Back Room is gorgeous:



Pictures courtesy of my sister, who is awesome, and who took this shot of the snack table that made me laugh out loud for how succinctly it encapsulated my feelings about snacks in general, and about cheese in particular:



Accurate.


(She said this was her favorite shot, so either she really likes lamps or she really likes brownies.)

Though as always I didn't get to talk with anyone as much as I would have liked, I had a blast. I also kind of had a blast with the mugshot station I set up, including sparkly monocles, pipes, moustaches, and lips, and though the height markings weren't quite big enough to register, who cares when you have glittery monocles?



Not we. (I was so pleased that people were game for goofy photos; I love every single one of them. I even love the ones from the people who came in from the street, with no idea who I was or what was happening, but could tell instantly that this was a glittery moustache situation and they had a calling, dammit. I will probably never see their pictures, but I'm glad they're out there.)

And today, I'm back at work, with my fresh garden roses (thank you so much to the lady in question!), which look even better than they did when they were draped across the piano.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

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Today is the launch day for THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB! This is the post where I talk about a lot of stuff!

I am so, so excited for this book, and immeasurably grateful to the people who have been kind enough to mention it. It's appeared in several summer reading guides (including at Buzzfeed, Bookish, and The LA Times), and people have been sharing reviews on Goodreads and on Twitter. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

I'm also thrilled at the reviews the book has collected, among them Niall Alexander at Tor.com, Leigh Wright at Library Journal, The Historical Novel Society, Kathe Robin at RT Book Reviews, Meg Stivison at Yahoo Voices, and Amal El-Mohtar at NPR.

For the interested, it's available for order now at IndieBound, Powell's, and Barnes & Noble, among others.

And because they all deserve to be thanked again, an excerpt from my acknowledgments section, which actually does contain some mild spoilers for the book, though I suspect it won't come as an enormous shock, either:

To my family, for their support (particularly Tally and my grandparents, whose encouragement means more than I can say). To Elizabeth, Veronica, Delia, Stephanie, Kelly, Lisa, Jeanine, and everyone who read it and shaped it; to my agent Joe, who wanted it to see the world. To Daniel, who championed it all the way there, and all those at Atria, who have been amazing in their support. I would like to thank every amateur historian, professional association, national institution, and all others who make documents, photos, music, and ephemera available on the Web, allowing the hours at which research can be conducted to be Whenever O'clock. And finally, though this story has been a long time coming, I'd like to thank Anna for making me realize it was time to write this particular book, when she asked if I was ever going to write something in which not everybody died.


It's the tip of an iceberg (in particular, thanks are due to Kathy and Eileen for their immeasurable patience and support, Ariele at Atria for being fantastic, and the many people who were kind enough to blurb the book, including Kelly Link, Scott Westerfeld, Christina Schwartz, and Lois Leveen), and I know there are people I have forgotten, but just...thank you, everyone. A book couldn't ask for a better beginning.

(And now back to desserts for the launch party tonight! If you have heard a lot about this, it's because I don't want leftovers – come on down and help!)

Penny Dreadful: "Demimonde"

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First, because we're about 24 hours away and I am in Planning Mode, a reminder: I'm throwing a speakeasy, and you're invited!

Tomorrow,June 3, at the Back Room Bar on Norfolk St. in Manhattan—via an easy-to-miss flight of stairs—will be the Kingfisher Club! From 7pm until mumblemumble, come and say hi! A full bar will be available, and complimentary snacks catering to what I hope is a variety of dietary needs! It will certainly fulfill the needs of anyone who enjoys cheese, that's for sure (there will be a variety of other things available, I just personally can't stop buying cheese).


Okay, now onto Victorian hilarity.

This episode may still be shorter on séances as gaspworthy monster reveals than the first two episodes, but we're hitting the second act of this season's short arc, and I'm still having an amazing time. Not as amazing a time as a couple of dudes I know, but still, it's pretty good.

My recap at io9 is tracking the action with a handy chart that tries to categorize the many loaded stares this show provides. It will never get them all, of course, but we can hope to at least track some, so we remember who's broken with their colleagues from one week to the next, which I suspect Victor is juuuuuust about ready to do.

In the meantime, I embraced the theater stuff this week wholeheartedly, almost entirely because of the emphasis on the backstage perspective. (I mean, it was beautifully ramshackle from the front, too, but the backstage stuff was great.)



This whole scene was honestly a gift.





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Penny Dreadful: "Resurrection"

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Penny Dreadful gave us something of a slow episode last week, so we'll pretend an homage to the pacing shift is the reason I am only getting this blog post up on Friday for an io9 recap that went up Monday. On the other hand, slowing down doesn't mean it was terrible. We got some Frankenstein's creature backstory, we got some more evidence that Ethan is a normal human man and definitely not a werewolf why would you even think that just because he can calm a wolf down in any situation, and we positioned ourselves for some sticky ethical dilemmas regarding treatment of prisoners, the personality-changing aspects of blood transfusions, and what it means to be a theater person.

That last subplot actually gave me one of my favorite images of the series so far:



It feels like shouting "VICTORIANS" just to look at that screencap, doesn't it? That lady in black up front is me during jump scares; the lady on the far left is me when there are bugs.

However, as extras go, they still came in second place to this lady, who was told to sit very still and look downtrodden, and during the entire tracking shot she didn't so much as blink.



That's some excellent backgrounding, madam.

Vague spoilers.Collapse )

"The Insects of Love"

stars
It's alive! "The Insects of Love," a story about sisterhood, stars, and the entomology of space-time, is available now from Tor.com. (The gorgeous cover art is the work of Tran Nguyen, who won the Spectrum for it! Clearly I'm a biased vote, but I'm so excited for her well-deserved Gold.)

Before Fairuz got the tattoo, I’d never even heard of the beetles.

I just knew that the tattoo she wanted was enormous, and that it would take all night, and even as I agreed to come with her I said, “This is a bad idea.”

“Good,” she said, and hit the gas.

I expected some shithole off the main drag, the kind of place Fairuz would go to make a point. But it was clean as a dentist’s office, and they gave us paper caps and told us to watch what we touched.

Inside was even cleaner, and the man waiting for us was in a work suit that zipped up to his neck.

“Lie down,” he said, turning on the projector.

As Fairuz pulled off her shirt and settled onto her stomach, the ink drawing snapped into place over her skin: fifteen constellations, scattered on her back from the shoulder blades down past the waist of her trousers; freckles with labels, pulled together by string.

“You want something for the pain?” the guy asked.

Fairuz shrugged. “Sure.”

He picked up a container of gold and pink marbles and poured them over her back.

Of course they weren’t marbles, but when you haven’t heard of the beetles before, you don’t think that kind of thing will ever happen, that someone gets a Tupperware of bugs and dumps them out.

(You only need one or two, if the area’s small, but Fairuz never did anything small if she could help it; the tattoo was all over and so were the beetles.)

They skittered back and forth over her skin, a shirt of rosy sequins, and across their bodies the projected constellations flickered in and out of sight.

I think this is before she died.


You can read the whole story at Tor.com!

Mad Men and Petals on the Wind

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I spent the weekend at WisCon, which was as absorbing as usual, which means I have a news post backlog! Two today:



Before Sunday's finale, I wrote a piece about how this season of Mad Men (yes, it's a season, this half-season split is BS) pulls so deeply on its characters' pasts. The finale did a beautiful job of bringing that sense of long intimacy to a moment that indicated The Future.

I could have written another whole piece about the ways in which Peggy Olson, whose career trajectory we have followed literally from day one, has faced backlash this year for being brittle in the face of career sabotage. Don't get me wrong, one of the things I've always appreciated about Peggy is that she's not just a banner for working women – she has faults and can be as unsympathetic as many of the show's other characters when thwarted. But gosh, it's interesting to look at the backlash against her from audiences and even some critics for lashing out this season, despite experiencing seven seasons of her fight to get recognized for her work and being given ample evidence, at the beginning of the season, that her prospects were grim.

The return of Don, a character whose power to change a narrative is, at this point, equivalent to a fantasy element, is changing that, but even here people were angry at her for being distant. As with everyone else, I hoped they'd reconnect (I might be over-invested in the friendship between those two), but I also remember the time he threw money at her and shouted in a meeting. It's been a grimly interesting experience to see how much judgment has come down on a character whose struggles we know intimately and at length. This whole season has been about the past worn as armor, which has been a hallmark of the season; my piece is up at AV Club.



The other thing that happened this weekend, of course, was the premiere of Petals on the Wind, which feels like much less of a Thing than the first one. In some ways that's just as well; I feel like they have deliberately cast Chris and Cathy to avoid romantic chemistry twice in a row, and while that is certainly a smart strategy when casting most siblings, it's the driving force of this particular pair of siblings, so it ends up undermining the single most important element in a story that otherwise splits into so many off-the-rails plots that it's no surprise the movie kept fading out in the middle of a big moment in one plot disaster to fade in another one. (This picture popped up while I was double-checking the whole Julian subplot, and I laughed out loud.)

The toxic-motherhood theme is beautifully done; any scene where Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham face off, Ellen armed with Good Acting and Heather armed with Unmoving Face, is exactly what it should be. I never thought I'd want more of Heather Graham in something, but there you go. If they can just correct the part where we don't care about Cathy and Chris being together (how could you not already have corrected this, this is half the reason the series exists), I'd be looking forward to the other movies! The full review is up at at AV Club here.


And, in news that is not TV-related, you'll be hearing a lot this week about next Tuesday's The Girls at the Kingfisher Club launch party. You should come!

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