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Red Carpet Rundown: Met Gala 2015



The Met Gala was last night – the place where fashionistas and stars gather to decide who among this group of staggeringly rich adults is capable of dressing to theme.

Of course, it's one thing to dress to theme when that theme is, say, punk, or Charles James. But this year's exhibit is titled "China: Through the Looking Glass," and is – depending on who's talking – a history of Chinese fashion and its influence on design in the West, or an exploration of the effects of the Western gaze on perceptions of China and Chinese fashion.

It's a crucial difference, one that I look forward to determining when I see the exhibit for myself – as much as a white person can determine what is and isn't sufficient self-awareness when it comes to potential appropriation. Spoiler: Not much. (Something to keep in mind throughout this rundown, actually; I'm providing outsider commentary on an issue that involves outsiders helping themselves, so that's as much a part of this mess as anything else. What fun the Met brings us!)

In the meantime, everybody had to get through the red carpet. The Met Gala is notorious for its themed carpets: specifically, it's notorious for showbiz people's inability to interpret the theme wholeheartedly or accurately, and for Anna Wintour's tendency to show up on every red carpet in last year's theme and grin at the chaos it causes. And that's fine when "vaguely British" is the carpet theme, but even some of the mainstream media who normally don't care that the Met Gala is happening realized the subject was China and winced.

Fashion, as an industry, isn't culturally sensitive. It's a machine with a thousand arms, and it will chew up and spit out whatever that it can talk people into wearing. Nature of the beast. As the recognition of cultural appropriation becomes a mainstream topic, so too has the intersection of fashion and culture. (A lot of America is currently somewhere along this learning process – whatever that point is where musicians still wear war bonnets for promo stills but enough people know it's a problem that maybe soon it will actually be viewed as not worth the downsides anymore.)

But the idea of a "Chinese" red carpet is trickier still. One can, eventually, hope to shame someone out of wearing something that's of specific religious or cultural significance. Harder to pinpoint and claim the origins of the high collar gown, of the slim silhouette, of thick embroidery. (The contingent of this red carpet that tried to evoke Chinese Imperial grandeur and showed up looking like Byzantine idols suggests the history of fashion is long, confusing, and weird.) Centuries of international trade mean that silhouettes can be both both recognizable by national origin and long since under adoption elsewhere; it's all a bit of a quagmire, and this red carpet will almost by necessity be graded on a sliding scale. Treated respectfully, borrowing elements of design can be seen as homage and celebration. Treated cheaply, it's straight-up racist.

And while the exhibit itself might be endlessly respectful and thoughtful, there was no such consideration about the red carpet. See also the "dim sum pajama party" held for attendees on Sunday night, which looked about like you'd expect:



Plus, there was this report from Fashionista:



HOW FUN AND AVOIDABLE. You just knew we were in for a ride!

The most hilarious part of this red carpet was how relieved every single dude looked for the tux-and-done system that kept them way out of that entire quagmire. The most "hilarious" part is how many women, confident they could skip the chance of cultural appropriation, just dressed with poppies! To celebrate an exhibit about China. (Yes.) Those sensitive geniuses include Anna Wintour, who broke her streak of showing up in last year's theme to make sure everybody knew just how witty she is about that whole China thing.



"But Genevieve, maybe that was an accident!" Oh, sure, maybe! Not for Poppy Delevingne, though.

The actual good news about all this is that some amazing Chinese ladies were on the red carpet this year, and they were not taking any bullshit about any of this whatsoever. Read more...Collapse )

LA Times Festival of Books This Weekend!

I'm headed to LA this weekend for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books! Here's where you can see me, all on Saturday:

2pm: I'll be doing a signing at the Mysterious Galaxy booth (#368)!

4:30pm: I'll be joining Ken Liu, Matthew Reilly, and moderator Todd Zuniga for the panel, "Bringing the Impossible to Life," in the Annenberg Auditorium.

5:30pm: Another signing! This is, I believe, near the panel itself, which is handy for anyone who likes the shade; the beautiful, beautiful shade.

You can get more details at the Festival website (it's going to be an amazing event). See you there!

Tags:

Wow, I have been away from this show for a while! (So long was I gone that the show had an episode about a wine tasting called "Tasting Revenge," which means this show feels way too safe without me. That's a Xena title, show.)

As it turns out, three at a time is the perfect dose in which to watch the show; the plot machine eddies once or twice and ends up actually moving a step ahead almost by accident! And, while I was gone, turns out the show was trying to woo me back by giving me the two things I have asked for the most! It's very exciting!

Sadly, not everyone is having a good time. In fact, it's fairly obvious the sort of time everyone's having


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Red Carpet Rundown: MTA Movie Awards 2015



(Only two people in this picture really matter. Can you spot them?)

I've talked before about the pageant qualities of the red carpet: how every look is the product of so many people the person in the dress is just the end user of some very complicated code, and what that code means. (Actual pageants helped inspire PERSONA; its sequel features a red carpet, for reasons.) But there's something inescapably young-adult dystopian about the MTV red carpets, where most of the attendees are too young to rent a car but are handling a personal brand and quite often some network or label expectations. And they are all so very young; actors playing high school characters trying to look older than they are, the older actors trying as much as possible to look like high school. It's an entire runway of forced-casual cognitive dissonance.

At the same time, while the MTV Movie Awards remain laughable, at least they're transparently so. A system based largely on Best Fight, Best Kiss, Best WTF Moment, Best Musical Moment, feels like a more honest rubric than some other arbitrary awards; their actor categories include Best Villain and Best Scared-as-Shit, which is as good an actorly accounting practice as any. (And let's just note, for the record, that Selma's David Oyelowo got onto the MTV Movie Awards Ballot for Breakout Performance after being snubbed at the Oscars. Given that it was MTV, Dylan O'Brien picked up the award – he picked up every award he was nominated for and several others he wasn't – but still.)

This isn't the usual red carpet rundown – there are no winners and losers here, merely people whose publicity team told them to attend – and that's for the best. Let's start on a high note:



Look of the night, through sheer accumulation of arbitrary points: Mark Ruffalo and his daughter, Bella. Mark gets points for being over 30 without looking self-conscious about it, putting effort into his outfit, and managing to seem like he's not overtly promoting The Avengers even though he filed dutifully onstage just like everybody else to present Robert Downey Jr with his Old Man Award.


As for the rest? Well, let's begin with Black Girls Rock.
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Time for a nonfiction roundup!

Recently I wrote my first piece for The Dissolve! Originally titled "Dracula's Daughters" and then a long post-colon title, because it's me, the essay examines how the woman vampire became cinematic shorthand for feminism over the last eighty years. This was a camp delight to research, and I really enjoyed writing it.

I also enjoyed writing Daughter of the Dragon: Anna May Wong and The Hollywood Problem, but in that way you enjoy tearing a huge gross mess out of your attic. The recent Deadline article about how "ethnic casting" was somehow "too much of a good thing" was so deliberately aggravating that I immediately thought of Anna May Wong, one of the first movie stars to catch the brunt of that same sentiment, which has somehow survived intact for nearly a century.

Over at AV Club, I wrote Birds Do It, Bees Do It, which talks about how, despite being advertised as a sexy show, Mad Men has actually been fairly consistent about sex as a roadblock to real intimacy, and the way that through-line has shaped some of the show's most important relationships.

And then, in terms of relationships that seem almost aggressively unimportant, I reviewed the last two Flowers in the Attic movies, in which the incestuous secret that powered the first two movies begins to feel like any other suburban awkwardness, except for the possessed Bible part, and then suddenly gives way to a revolving door of next-gen smooching that ended up being accidentally fun just because any two people were primed to make out at any time: built-in drinking game.

Catwoman #40: "The Issue and End"

Last week, Catwoman ended an arc and started a new one – in both the literal and figurative senses.

Selina as a mob boss was always going to be a big step, but it seemed like such rich ground for her, and am really glad Gotham gets to spend a little more time unpacking this long con – particularly since this arc gives us more crunchy stuff in the Gotham underworld when it's going to look a little different (thanks to some of the events in Batman), and Selina will have a whole new roster of problems once she starts Catwomaning again. (Spoilers that she comes back to the suit, I guess, but I mean, it's also the cover.)

Garry Brown's run ends with this issue. I could not have asked for a better artist to make this arc come to life – besides little things, like his knack for architecture that meant Gotham really was a character in the book, he's been accommodating about every last lapel when it matters, and I am really glad that we get to see his Selina Kyle Catwoman in this issue. In the next issue (due out in June after Convergence), I'll be joined by David Messina, whose work so far has been lovely (you can see a sketch from the upcoming eight-page standalone sneak peek of the series here). I'm excited to have him as a partner as we go into this new arc, where Selina will be balancing Catwoman with her underworld duties as things from Family Business come to a head.

The response to last month's issue was amazing and occasionally overwhelming; it was incredible to see what Catwoman means to so many people. I wanted to thank everyone who's said kind things and picked up the book; it means so much.

Soon, I'll do another Closet post and talk about the clothes (how can I not talk about the clothes? Eiko's funnelneck collars are big enough to charge rent for!). I hope to be able to talk more soon about the sneak peek, which helps set up the status quo for those who are, say, waiting for a trade edition. (It's titled Keeper of the Castle, because of course it is. And that Jae Lee cover never stops being amazing.)

In June, with issue 41, the reign of Catwoman begins in earnest! Hope to see you there.



That is a seriously motley crew of an update, but I'm behind enough on news, so as I dig my way out from under a pile of deadlines, a news roundup it is! (My long fiction update, left over from last week, is that PERSONA is officially out in the world!)

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In life/event news, I'll be at this year's LA Times Festival of Books! My panel, on Saturday at 4:30, is titled "Bringing the Impossible to Life," which I honestly hope means Ken Liu, Matthew Reilly, and I will be asked at least one Frankenstein question, because why would you pass up this opportunity?

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In short fiction news, have a story in Operation Arcana, by John Joseph Adams, because when someone asks if you want to write a story about the Night Witches, you start researching missions. (You can actually read "Blood, Ash, Braids" online at Baen, in a format that benefits from a window that can be shrunk a little.)

I also have a story in Ellen Datlow's The Doll Collection! "Visit Lovely Cornwall on the Western Railway Line" is about a train, and a girl, and a doll, and the kind of seat any self-respecting horror character should know better than to take.

And in reprint news, "A Dweller in Amenty,", which first appeared in Nightmare Magazine, has been selected for Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Volume 7! It should appear sometime in the summer.

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Nonfictionally speaking, my essay on shipping, titled (naturally) "Won't They?", came out last month at AV Club! Firstly, wow, I am behind on news. Secondly, only word count constraints kept this from being a five thousand word essay; as it turns out, I have a lot of thoughts about the ways in which television and audiences influence one another. (Thirdly, I was happy just to officially write this down: "There’s not a television show in the world casting actors in the hopes nobody will have any chemistry" is an official version of something I've been pointed out to disgruntleds for many years.)

At Philadelphia Weekly, I talk about the new Cinderella, including waistlines, the panto play within the play, and the constraints of the Disney nostalgia machine. Am I done talking about this movie? Oh no. Nooope.

I also subbed in for Elementary last week! "T-Bone and the Iceman" has the extremely dubious honor of worst-ever series episode title, but it also has a great example of what's become the series' fallback serial case: Joan. ("Some of the moments of the show I’ve loved the most are those in which Joan’s internal life is revealed; increasingly, though, the essence of their interpersonal procedural is that Joan presents a mystery, and Sherlock solves it.")

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And I reviewed two books for NPR: a accidental pair of fairy-tale collections, both of which I enjoyed immensely. Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange and The Turnip Princess are very different in style, but equally engrossing and illuminating; reading both of them with an eye for notes resulted in an entire stack of tiny Post-Its going missing, half of them just passages I knew I couldn't quote but still wanted to reread and savor after the review was turned in. They're invaluable additions to the folklore canon, and it was a delight to get to talk about each of them.

PERSONA

On Tuesday, PERSONA came out! My only excuse for taking this long to announce is that I was finishing the sequel this week, which will probably answer a couple of questions right up front.

The cover copy, which we managed to make mostly spoiler-free:

Suyana Sapaki is a failure in the International Assembly. She’s not charming on camera, which is crucial for a Face: public image is 90 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 trust 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 her 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 dies; 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.


(If all this sounds like the Miss Universe pageant got to me, that is accurate! My piece on the inspiration behind the book is up at The Big Idea.)

I also did a Q&A at Tor.com, in which, among other things, I made a dream cast. (Note that the promo card for Suyana, seen at left, is itself some pretty uncanny casting.) Yes, making this cast was my favorite part of the quiz. Yes, it took forever to decide on some of these. Yes, there are about fifteen unused but equally good casts for Magnus, because the British Dude Acting Process just produces an endless stream of polished, slightly secretive guys.

Early reviews have been very kind! The Barnes and Noble blog calls it "a frighteningly plausible near-future thriller", and there's an in-depth review over at Tor.com.


You can check it out at IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, other online outlets, and a bookstore near you!


And for those who prefer to listen to books, an audiobook edition is already available! You can listen to an excerpt here (warning for autoplay).

This has at times been an odd book for me, partially because it's such a departure from some of my other work (I'd like to thank my relative the ER nurse for being very patient and only slightly disturbed when I asked all my questions about the relationship between blood loss and adrenaline), and partially because I was living in its future in the lead-up to its release, which was both very exciting and slightly surreal. But it's alive (it's aliiiiive!), and I'm so excited to have it out in the world.

Catwoman #39: "Better Than He Does Himself"



Or: the one in which Selina Kyle confirms a rumor.

This is an important issue plotwise: It's the one in which Selina has to decide if she's going to war against an ever-more-powerful enemy; it's the one in which she has to sit down in the all-neon diner that Drive forgot and decide if she can even believe she has a brother, much less anything he says. But this is also the issue in which Eiko finally tips her hand about one of the reasons she's been so drawn to Selina, and sets another plot in motion. I talk a little about the thinking behind the quotes and the plot forces at work over at Comicosity.

When I was first plotting out what I expected to be a six-issue arc, there were a few emotional beats I considered indispensable. One was Nick, around whom Selina's moral axis pivoted and whose death would set up Antonia to be both guilt-trip and threat to Selina – a contestant for the throne, even if neither of them wanted to think of it that way. Another was finding time for a few key moments with Batman, particularly in the first issue to set up their connection even when at odds.

And one was establishing Selina as canon bisexual.

She's flirted around it – often quite literally – for years now; for me, this wasn't a revelation so much as a confirmation. And as Mark Doyle and I were first hashing out the relationships in this arc, Eiko seemed like the right person: intelligent, driven, in that uncanny valley of Almost Catwoman, and knows enough about Selina that their honesty has become something of a shelter in a situation that's getting increasingly dishonest for everybody involved. The more we talked about it, the more it was something I wanted to make happen.

Was it a surprise for them? In terms of their sexualities, not particularly; certainly it's no surprise to Selina that she has an attraction to a woman. Is this particular kiss a surprise? It's definitely surprising; this is the very last thing you're supposed to be getting into on the brink of war, and they both know it. But this isn't the first intense moment between them:


(In the script of this scene I noted for Garry that the degree of close-talking should be "Xena.")

In fact, because Tumblr's amazing, someone was assembling shippy pings before the issue even came out, which pleased me to no end.

While I don't want to spoil what can't yet be spoiled, please be assured that Selina's longstanding connection to Batman has not been forgotten; that is not how bisexuality (or humanity) works. Selina doesn't care easily, but when she does care it strikes deep, and there will be plenty of that coming up.

But at the moment, her relationship with Batman has fundamental cracks they both know about, and there's a lot of work ahead of them if they ever plan to fix those. (Am I looking forward to exploring this dynamic? Need you ask?) Eiko has offered a moral challenge – and we know Selina loves a challenge – but has also unexpectedly given Selina trust and support at a time when those are in desperately short supply. Selina is a complicated person; she's drawn to complicated people. In some ways, it's that simple...though of course, it's never simple.

Obviously with two people who are in such narrow situations with lies and obligations pushing ever closer in, Selina trying to explore anything from a place of trust is going to be a tough gig. Eiko's position might be even more difficult - we don't know as much about her, but we know that she has been interested in Selina for longer than Selina has even known her, and Eiko's both younger and more idealistic than Selina, which is tricky to navigate even when you're not mob leaders on opposing sides. But this also isn't a throwaway; as soon as my renewal as the ongoing Catwoman writer was confirmed (early enough in the scripting process to give the major relationships some breathing room across arcs), I was able to start work on a thread for them that would be woven into the next arc.



Will they dramatically implode? I mean, it's comics, it could happen. But it will be a relationship. I'm excited to be here for it. Thanks so much to everyone who's reading.

Sleepy Hollow: "Tempus Fugit"

And so, the second season of Sleepy Hollow comes to a much brighter end than expected, given the rest of the second season; the reverse-pilot played with the beats that worked so well in the pilot, with just enough character work to make it play out believably differently, and so much action it avoided a lot of the historical cringefest it could have become. Not bad at all, considering. The ending, however, feels as if they wanted to make sure things came to a solid close if the apologia of the last few episodes doesn't earn them a third season. And really, looking at most of the second season...



Abbie's ambivalence is all of our ambivalence.

The recap is up at io9, in which I break down the good (the core cast has great chemistry no matter what's going on) and the bad (the system of magic at work at Sleepy Hollow is one of the most slapdash convenience-machines on TV right now). The worst, if we're being honest, is that Katrina FINALLY turned into a bad guy one episode ago and is already dead, because this show literally cannot make her into a character no matter what. Did I want her hanging around, even as a villain? At this point, no. But was she more interesting as a bad guy than she's been for two seasons? Of course (it's almost like Katia Winter had something to do!). That show has blown it with her at every turn, and this long, awkward farewell is over at last.

It's still unclear if the show has been renewed; after the plummet in ratings, they're apparently hovering on the edge of a season order. If they do, I hope they have better plans for season three than they did for season two. When Ichabod managed to open her phone with admirable plot expediency, I was happy to see it filled with characters who are important to her, and not just pictures of Ichabod: I mean, Joe Corbin made it! (Yes, it's a blindingly obvious collection of promo stills. I will take what I can get sometimes.)

Some things are still a little awkward, especially with poor "I'm dead! Wait, no, I'm evil and desperate for a decent subplot – wait, no, I barfed it up, we're good" Frank Irving just now having his soul back, and Abbie taking one beat too long to believe him:



Eesh.

But overall, it was a finer conclusion to the second season than the season necessarily deserved, and for that much we can all be grateful. Good luck to Sleepy Hollow; may a fresh new day something something get the dudebros out of your writers' room something!

Red Carpet Rundown: Oscars 2015

Ah, the Oscars! The most complicated Hollywood event of the year, employing phalanxes of stylists and makeup artists and managers and PR agents and event handlers and press, where a rainstorm means scrambling to keep water off the guests, stylists flying into their kits for waterproof mascara just in case, a cadre of umbrella-holders, and forty-five PR assistants with 150 BPM heart rates and staticky radios all praying they aren't stationed by the tent seam that's going to dump water on Julianne Moore.



The job of the actress on the Oscars red carpet is to wear her outfit as hard as she possibly can, no matter who's holding the camera, and Rosamund Pike is a trouper. Note how many people are behind her on that carpet,and none of them are even her people. (You know someone's people because of the intense eye contact broken only as they scan the crowd for anyone they hate.)

The awards themselves were predictable; the evening often awkward. (I wrote about some of the inevitable self-mythologizing in Philadelphia Weekly.) But today? We're here to look at dresses.




LOOK OF THE NIGHT



Lupita Nyong'o, in a dress of six thousand pearls sewn by hand onto a gown designed and created just for her, and if you don't think that's a big deal even in the age of the custom designer lend-out, Vogue apparently fought for behind-the-scenes coverage of it being made, so it's a deal! And rightly so; the Josephine Baker echoes of the pearls at her neck down the bodice and landing on a skirt of mermaid-pearls that move just enough to keep the dress from looking stiff. It's a stunning garment. (Alas, by being here she misses out on the Jupiter Ascending division, but I guess the article in Vogue makes up for it.)


But she wasn't the only person who looked amazing! There were several ladies who nailed their looks last night. Please note that the Stylists' Guild has apparently had deeply successful diplomatic talk with the Necklace Makers, because after several red carpets of nothing, they are back in a big way. Rejoice, necklace-lovers – we ride to victory this night!

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Sleepy Hollow: "Awakening"

"Awakening" aired on Monday; it's the penultimate episode of the season for Sleepy Hollow, and I am only just now done laughing about John Noble's face from the scene in which Katrina reveals she's gone evil and she's sort of done being married to Ichabod and just wants to raise an army of zombie witches instead, by using the Liberty Bell.



He has about five minutes to live, and oh, he's going to make use of them ALL.

I ended up using that face a lot for my recap of this episode, because this feels incredibly slapdash even for Sleepy Hollow. A bell no one had ever thought to ring before? What's the point of zombie witches if their powers are so unpredictable? Why didn't Abbie and Jenny get affected by a bell that rings witchblood if you have spent so long reminding us Grace Dixon was a powerful witch? Did you really bring back the Gorgon head before you brought back the Headless Horseman, who must just be sitting at home whittling a chess set or something and waiting for someone to come get him at this point? And was this really the decoy Ichabod used when he was assigned to blow up the first Liberty Bell?



Because that's the worst goddamn decoy I have ever seen in my life, and I watched every season of Young Riders, so I have seen some terrible things.

In the race to backtrack over a season of bad decisions, the episode tried to give us a lot – some Ichabod and Abbie anachronism chatting, some Jenny/Frank bonding, some ill-considered lampshading of previous problems – and then gave us a huge twist (great idea!) that was to send Abbie back in time to 1780 (ACK, YOU'RE NOT READY, SHOW, DON'T DO THIS).



When asked her business, somehow the first words out of her mouth were not "Grace Dixon," and of all the questions I have in my recap, that is perhaps the biggest one. It's one of those things where, if you just wanted to get her in parallel imagery with Ichabod in the pilot (and it did) and get her behind bars, then fine – asking for Grace Dixon didn't have to WORK. But when she's already wandering around in the middle of what she knows is a hostile environment and not even for Grace Dixon-seeking purposes, I am already fairly sure you are abandoning character just to get a plot parallel.

Am I interested in next week? Genuinely yes. Do I fear a lot of it will be out of character given how this all went? I am. Am I prepared to make this face for an hour?



Yes. Yes, I am.

[My full recap, as always, is up at io9!]
So, we haven't had a Reign Report here for two episodes! Technically the first one is because I was heading to California for the DC Talent Summit, but let's be honest, if the episode had been amazing I would have made the time. Instead, it was just a pile of awkwardness with a plot point on top. Unfortunately, "The End of Mourning" wasn't much better. We're currently in a vortex of Mary's feelings for Conde, so if you're not interested in that (and I am not) then you will probably also not be interested in Conde's older brother's scheming for the French throne. I tried to explain the sheer parade of turning-around-and-cackling that was "The End of Mourning" over at the AV Club, but in the end, only Catherine is really holding my interest much these days.

I should be interested in all this other stuff – cycles of power and court espionage, what's not to love? – but I'm not! First of all, the prince of Navarre is essentially in a moustache-twirling cotest with Narcisse, and nobody wins a moustache-twirling contest against Craig Parker, ever, so that's a done deal. Plus, even if it was just Conde to deal with, Mary's recovery through loving Conde instead of Francis is awkward, and there's not as much to Conde as the poor replaced Bash, whose entire subplot is now showing up for infodumps and to look mildly surprised he's still married to Kenna. For this the producers trumpeted how they had dispensed with the love triangle? Ugh. It's all just awkward.

How awkward?



Oh, you know. Syphilis bath awkward. (This was after Catherine had her feet pecked by birds, which was impossible to screencap but delightful, and after she had begged Francis not to let people think she lived her last days riddled with a sex disease. She orders him to tell everyone she died helping sick orphans, and I am sure this is intentional, but it was a glimpse of what Anne Shirley would have become without a lot of love from really honest poor people.)Read more...Collapse )

Catwoman and Other News

I have some fun bits of news! We'll start with the big one.

DC announced its June titles today; among them is the note that I will be continuing as the writer of CATWOMAN.

It wasn't a sure thing – I was taken on initially for a single arc, and the future was conditional. It was a big change for her, in terms of both situation and tone, and we all knew it was going to be a leap of faith for readers. As such, I have even more reason to be completely thrilled at the fan response to this take on Selina, which has been above and beyond anybody's expectations, and I can't wait to continue her adventures. Thanks so much to everyone who's been reading it for making this possible.

And speaking of thrilling: Locus has released their 2014 Recommended Reading List, and I am on it! I actually couldn't believe how generous a showing I made this year, and since it will likely never happen again, we'll just go through it all. It names The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (novel), Dream Houses (novella), "The Insects of Love" (novelette), and "Aberration" in short story. That last is from Fearsome Magics (ed. Jonathan Strahan), which is listed for original anthology, alongside Upgraded (Neil Clarke), in which I also appear, and to amazing reprint anthologies: the Mammoth Book of SF by Women (ed. A. Dally MacFarlane), and The Time Traveler's Almanac (ed. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer), in which I actually finagled an original piece. I'm excited and grateful to be involved in so many great projects!


In regular-type news, there was a new episode of Sleepy Hollow in which this show is trying so hard to correct its mistakes that you can hear joints cracking. The most interesting character this week was the curator who opted not to open the book of dark magic, making her the sort of winking genre reference we used to get a lot of, and a character way too smart to die instantly, which is in fact what happened. I call shenanigans.



We'll miss you, Curator Lady. The full recap at speaks of her killer, a warlock who got a WWE belt photoshopped onto him purely for cape-handling reasons.

My recap of the very good Babylon continues with "Hackney Wick". Only one episode left, and then it'll be back to me mainlining anything else's of Nicola Walker's I can get my hands on. (Newcomers should start with Touching Evil, which was the first thing I saw her in, and then just go for whatever, she's amazing.)

Reign Report: "Banished"

Reign is one of the plot-churniest shows I have ever regularly watched, but every so often even this show hits an episode that leaves you feeling like you're watching 42 minutes of Previously On, or possibly four episodes of a regular show. "Banished" was busy by Reign standards – the dog even makes another appearance! – and it was Catherine-heavy, which means I have pictures, because I missed her so much every second she was gone.

The thing I want to start with, though, is costumes, because I have noticed that of late, Mary is wearing a lot more costumes courtesy of the Reign costume department rather than designers, which is occasionally fine, but definitely tends to look odd when set beside ladies in designer stuff. Take the Ice Festival outfits:



Kenna and Lola look fabulous and true to costume-character – Kenna in floaty layers, Lola in a strong silhouette with some glitz. Greer looks like she's going to prom, but her look swings so wildly between fabulous and terrible that we'll just put this in the "new money can't dress sometimes" category. Mary? What can you say about this dress that the dress doesn't tell you. The top looks a bit awkward but could be passable, even if with her whole McQueen and Marchesa closet it seems odd this is the one they'd go with; by the time you hit the skirt, it's all over.

Here's the rest of the party:



A moment to congratulate the background choreographer for the loose circle in the center and then the corner clumps to draw the eye. By now, we're all comfortable with the Bill & Ted history report feeling of the eras in question (15th century Italy top right, late 17th century England top left, Sarah Plain and Tall bottom left), but the boldest fashion move is the lady bottom center who decided to out-Queen the Queen by wearing her Arwen cape. Best watch it, Madam.

But I am actually getting excited by the increasingly-speculative things this show keeps sneaking in without ever admitting there's just ghosts doing shit everywhere. Last week at the orgy, a lady was ALL OUT, and I thought that was a weird but interesting touch, perhaps to indicate how different the courts were. But this week: Read more...Collapse )

Catwoman 38: "The Serpent"

In which things get noir as hell.



In the wake of Events in the last issue, Selina truly has descended, and this issue is her setting up a Hail Mary pass to do the right thing, about anything, and hoping she can remember the reasons she took on the job to begin with. Plus, we begin to realize she's up against more than just Black Mask.

Here are the covers! Dig the sinister almost-alive cape on Batman in Jae Lee's, and the adorable retro cover by Ty Templeton, in which Flash is preventing Catwoman from raining hurt on Robin (which seems rude, but maybe Robin was being horrible! It happened!).




This issue also saw some action, since in the last issue the only action was a single gunshot and the only wrestling was with feelings, and we were kind of overdue for a huge fight! Batman comes to stop the deal, only to run into Selina, who's trying to stop the deal, and Catwoman, who's...well.

The composition and colors in this panel could not make me any happier; when this issue goes noir it really commits, and when it goes Full Comics I just love it more.

There's a lot of setup going on in the background of these issues, and I'm so excited to be heading toward the end of this arc, where some of the hints will pay off and Selina will face new enemies, and some more historical quotes.

This month's quote is back to Elizabeth, taken from a letter she wrote to James about the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots after her treason was discovered. One of the things I didn't expect to be doing when I signed on for Catwoman is spending so much time looking into powerful women of the past and understanding all over again just how much of their contributions have been ignored or destroyed; how many times the stories of men have simply erased them. The final issue references Cleopatra, and I chose Plutarch for my quotations, which means that the closing moments of this arc are veritably awash in irony, because good lord, if you want to start a fire, throw Cleopatra's name into the room.

As always, it's a pleasure to be writing Selina Kyle; I hope to continue, for however a little while, just to see where she goes.

(The issue just came out, so reviews are still coming in, but if you're curious or just want to read slightly spoilery but thoughtful reviews, you can head to Emma Houxbois at Rainbow Hub.)

Writing Catchup (and Sleepy Karaoke)

Okay, time for another news roundup!

First, some fiction updates: my short story "A Dweller in Amenty" has been longlisted/preliminary balloted for the Stoker!

And thanks to the Book smugglers writing over at Kirkus, there's a lovely review of my novella, Dream Houses.


Over at Strange Horizons, I'm also in good company, as I've been listed as Favorite Columnist, for which I'm grateful – thanks so much to everyone who voted! I appreciate anyone who's willing to sit through a year's worth of those titles. This year, I'm going to get three punctuation breaks in one of them, that's the dream.


In book reviews, I wrote a series review of Richard K Morgan's A Land Fit For Heroes for NPR.


And in TV, I missed the Sleepy Hollow blog-report window somehow, but it happened, and man, Sleepy Hollow really, really, REALLY wants you to come back and watch again. Sleepy Hollow is so sorry. You don't like Hawley? It'll write him off! Katrina's boring? What if she's maybe evil? You miss Ichabod and Abbie? How about some shippy karaoke:



AND some hilarious crime-solving shenanigans where Abbie cannot WAIT to dive for the booze as soon as they hit the party because she knows she has to have a big discussion later about how Things Have Been Going.



Sure, you can have it! You can have it all! Please, the show sobs, just come back! (My io9 recap goes into detail about how, exactly, they try so hard to woo you back that it's essentially a writers' pitch meeting that someone transcribed.)

Red Carpet Rundown: 2015 SAG Awards

Red carpet season is in full swing! Last night we had the SAG Awards, otherwise known as the Costume B-Roll, where the only goal is to look half-decent, burn off whatever lingering obligations you have to a designer your client has promised to wear, and quietly begin marketing yourself for a very different role a year from now. As such, almost no one looked bad, because no one was taking any risks – this was a look nice & show up affair for neatly everyone. In that case, we'll only have a few divisions, but sometimes people's dress choices are interesting almost despite them! ("People" = a team of trained professionals who have long meetings including inspiration boards and projected income charts. "Them" = the actors they are dressing.)


Look of the Night:



Absolutely literally, the look of the night belongs to Frances McDormand. But I also enjoy her outfit. (Not as much as her face, but how could you?) I hope she dressed herself. I hope she dressed everyone behind her. I hope she gets award-worthy material every year. Imagine seeing this every year!

Now, just because most people didn't take a risk doesn't mean the carpet was entirely risk-free. A few people took a chance! And mostly it paid off! Or it was hilarious, which is just as good. (I'll be calling back to the Golden Globes a lot in this post; you can find that Red Carpet Rundown here for reference.)




TOOK A CHANCE DIVISION



Last year, Lupita Nyong'o ran a great game of solids in amazing shapes, fumbling only with the Met Gala dress, and since that's a place that demands risk, it still made sense. This year, however, she's out to establish herself as a style force to be reckoned with. The flower bustier at the Golden Globes nearly, but not quite, won everybody over. Here, another pattern in a much more modern silhouette, and it's a stunnah.

Read more...Collapse )

Reign Report: "Getaway"

Reign is back from winter break, after introducing a very serious rape subplot to its usual camp stew with very uneven effects. It chose to make its winter debut with an episode about Catherine poisoning her daughter while sexing the ghost of her husband, gay priests who orchestrated the branding of Proestants but agree to stop, Kenna solving a mystery, an orgy party, and a moment where Mary learns to touch men again courtesy of Lord Conde, just to solidify the love triangle.



I think Greer pretty much covers it.

If not, the face of literally anyone in this shot from the orgy would pretty much cover it.



Actually, though, despite some top face work from everyone, the MVP of this episode might have been Kenna (I KNOW), who somehow realizes Catherine is slowly poisoning Claude and gets involved to solve this caper and save Claude's life. At first, this is priceless because Claude would literally rather die than talk to Kenna at all, ever: Read more...Collapse )

PERSONA: Meet Suyana Sapaki

Miss Universe is this weekend. The contestants have already gathered to play extremely awkward rounds of golf, smile blandly into the cameras during spa treatments, and perform in the comedy gold that is the National Costume Contest.

There's also a swimsuit competition, because of course there is. If you'll notice, no matter what contestant you click on, you'll get three seconds with them. Then it moves on every three seconds to somebody new, standing in front of a pool or leaning seductively against a tree trunk or posed in front of the greenery with one hip cocked. There's a determinedly pageant-face quality to a lot of them, a set of features deemed appropriately pleasing that seems to replicate itself more and more accurately with every iteration of this contest. (Of course there are outliers, but you see the pattern.) And you only get three seconds with each of them, because that's long enough to see what you need to see, and one contestant's the same as the next, all told, aren't they.

Creepy? Yes. Fascinating? Yes. And it's weirdly amazing how, three seconds at a time, you can tell who knows how to engage the camera. It's not a matter of looks or location, it's just that weird ability some people have to look into a camera and have it look back at you. It's power, and they know it.

As I mentioned in the costume post, there's definitely some aspects of this international pageantry in my next novel, Persona. Don't worry, there are no swimsuit contests; the young ambassadors are slightly more red-carpet than pageant-stage. They are, to some degree, a hybrid between diplomats and actors in the Old Hollywood studio system, whose relationships are equally strategic and photogenic. But Suyana Sapaki is barely that, either. She's the Face for a country only recently formed, and still slogging through the awkward political and cultural aftermath of that particular marriage – not something that endears you to potential allies. It's also made clear to her early and often that she's something of a diversity hire (she's of Quechua descent), and her selection is clearly meant to tick a box while they wait for somebody better.

(Or that's the general impression; she begins to wonder, after a while, if she was picked for other, deeper reasons.)

Not that it exempts her from having to go through all the awkwardnesses in the meantime. Early on, she gets her first official photo taken in front of a rainforest she's never seen before, in a top meant to suggest that while she's not important, and not as pretty as they were hoping she'd be when they picked her out and started training her, she'll try hard to please. It's meant to be halfway between a headshot and a carte de visite; it's meant to sell her, and to endear.

When we were looking for a version of this calling card for book promo, there were some other options (she graduates to studio portraits later, when no one wants her to go home again), but it seemed most important to capture this pivotal moment, where she's been made up by strangers and put in a landscape she doesn't recognize, and is smart enough to know the game but too angry to give a shit.



The reverse of the card reads, in a perfect wedding font: "You're cordially invited to meet Suyana Sapaki. If she lives that long." Spoilers? (Spoilers.)

Honestly, the card exceeded all my expectations: I love the challenge in her direct gaze, her utter refusal to play the game. The book is out soon (too soon!), and I'm nervous, but sometimes you get a Suyana calling card, and then all's well.

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