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roaring 20s
Today Catwoman #37 hits stores of all kinds!

I'm actually both super thrilled and super nervous about this one. I'm very proud of it, and it's a crucial chapter of the story we're trying to tell, but if you've been worried about lingering consequences and serious choices in the wake of this arc, well, it's time.

If I want to avoid spoilers, I think that's really all the plot stuff I can talk about. If you're curious, you can read a preview courtesy of The Mary Sue that will give you an idea of the position she's in. (I laughed when I realized my "cold open" lasts five pages this issue; I'm the Sleepy Hollow cold open of comics today!)

I've been marking each issue with a quote relating to a powerful woman of history. Ching Shih, who features in this comic, has less of a paper footprint than the others I've used so far; my friend Stephanie Lai assisted in the search; we ended up finding some rather cyclical references to a few contemporary sources, and otherwise the research was often fascinating but not exactly riddled with first-person quotes. Rather than give up on Ching Shih – especially in an issue about living with hard choices about how to handle traitors – I decided to make the epigraph a bit more oblique. And given the emotional focus of this issue went farther afield than just Selina, it was a great opportunity for a quote that was more directly related to that subplot, and more melancholy than Ching Shih might have allowed. And damn if there isn't a thing in the world sadder than Li Bai's "Song of Changgan." (He's separated from Ching Shih by a thousand years, but the juxtaposition of the despairing bride and the pirate bride, both defined by their personal geography, is as nice a parallel as I could ask for.)

There definitely is not a thing in the world sadder than "Song of Changgan" when it's translated by Stephanie Lai. The excerpt quoted in the issue itself provided the issue title, which honestly is my favorite so far of the run. Her version of the poem (deemed "the darkest timeline" version, for obvious reasons) is available at her blog, and I could not recommend it more highly. Some of the lines I didn't use, but which pained/delighted me most when she sent me the full translation:

At 15 I began to smile; I wished our ashes and dirt to be together.
Cherishing, I carried around the words you sent,
I climb the pillar to see you.
At 16, you journeyed far from home,
Through Qutang Gorge and the rapids of Yu.
By May, I wasn’t able to feel;
I heard the sounds of despair.
In front of the door are the footsteps of your delayed departure,
Little by little, the mould grew up and over them.


You know what, let's include some of Garry Brown's inks for maximum sadness:



How happy am I to be writing an arc of Catwoman where I get to write in full-page scenes focusing on the infinite sadness of the stars? Pretty damn happy. Way happier than any of this looks.

(Note: While this Catwoman arc is about family matters, and the poem is explicitly about a married couple, I find this rather more a feature than a bug, for various reasons.)

The response to this arc of Catwoman has been incredibly gratifying, and this issue contains some of my favorite moments so far. Thanks so much to everyone who's been reading along.

What I Wrote This Year

kitty the typewriter girl
This year has been a remarkably fast one. It's been a busy one, for which I'm immensely grateful, but turns out it's taken with it both my short and long-term memories; the process of assembling this roundup was, frankly, embarrassing. My Actor Bingo on period pieces remains undiminished, but that's pretty much the only thing that has survived the abstract-impressionism painting of this year. (My vow for next year, to slow down a little, has already been made; turns out that was also my vow last year, which was cute.)

Below, a snapshot of what I wrote this year. I ended up kind of proud of 2014.


NOVEL: This year was my Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB! I'm so happy to have this book out in the world, and have been thrilled with its reception; it's been on end-of-year lists at NPR.org, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and Tor.com, and many reviewers and readers have been very kind, though the award still probably goes to my friend's mom who sent me a text reminding me whose mom she was, just in case, and then telling me XOXO.


COMICS: This year, no one was more surprised than I was that I became the writer of DC's Catwoman. It's a dream gig to be able to bring this smart, savvy character into the criminal underworld for a little while. By the end of this year I'll be halfway through my first arc with them (with more to come, if all goes well), with the Catwoman Annual coming later in December. More on that soon – for now just know it's about Eiko, and I'm excited.


NOVELLA: My first! Dream Houses (published by WSFA Press and available in hard copy and ebook) is dark SF, in which a woman stranded on a cargo mission tries to survive long enough to see the far port. My nutshell pitch for it is "Space, motets, deer," and that still suits it well enough, I think.


NOVELETTE: This was a year veritably brimming with siblings, for one reason or another, as stories written over a leisurely period rolled out in quick succession. "The Insects of Love", which came out at Tor.com this summer, is about sisters, bends in reality, and insects that may or may not exist.


SHORT FICTION: This year I published about half a dozen short stories. Two are available online: My sin-eater story "A Dweller in Amenty" came out in Nightmare Magazine, and my sideways Brother and Sister retelling (see?) "What Happened, the Winter You Found the Deer" is now available online from New Haven Review. (It's a PDF, don't be alarmed!)

Otherwise, this was an anthology-heavy year! My post-apocalyptic road trip "Eighty Miles an Hour All the Way to Paradise" appeared in Robot Uprisings (ed. John Joseph Adams), who also published Help Fund My Robot Army!!!, in which I got to get some urban-fantasy tropes out of my system with "Prima Nocta Detective Agency Needs You."

I wrote "Small Medicine" for Upgraded (ed. Neil Clarke); it's related to "The Nearest Thing" in a glancing way, and is about grandparents, health, and holding on. "The Lion Cage," which appeared in Nightmare Carnival (ed. Ellen Datlow), is a circus story (not related to Mechanique even glancingly!). And "Aberration" is an odd story about being unmoored, sort of; it appeared in Fearsome Magics (ed. Jonathan Strahan) in the fall.


NONFICTION: This year I continued my position as film reviewer at Philly Weekly, and incorporated a more informal column to run alongside the review, titled Genevieve Spoils Everything both as a warning about spoilers and a warning against making things less fun, though one of those recent columns talks about how John Wick was a better vampire movie than Dracula Untold, so clearly some of it is having a good time.

At AV Club, in addition to recapping Boardwalk Empire and some of the amazing second season of Reign, I got to do some very interesting coverage this year! I dropped in on shows like The Quest and Mad Men. There were also some standalone articles of which I'm very fond, from an exploration of necessary Brit-lit period pieces to single-season essays about Kings and the amazing 50s show Decoy: Police Woman. But my biggest piece this year was probably "The Full Boyle", which took the otherwise-lovely Brooklyn 99 to task for its use of the grindingly unoriginal and frankly creepy unrequited-love storyline. It's since corrected this, which is great, but uh, don't read the comments. (You can see the rest of my work under one of the two names that AV Club has on record for me.)

At io9, I recapped Penny Dreadful (superfun Season One) and Sleepy Hollow (RIP superfun Season One), and wrote some standalone articles about Anne Rice's vampires and the like. My stuff is neatly collected here.

I also continued as a columnist at Strange Horizons, which almost always leads to work I enjoy. This year, that included The Final Frontier: The Beautiful Fatalism of Near Space", and an appreciation of Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, "A Thing That Lives on Tears".

Some of the essays I wrote this year are standalones. I got to go full-on historical nerd with"I don't think I'll venture on dual garmenture": Rational Dress and the Politics of Biking at The Toast. I talked about a favorite fairy tale at the LA Review of Books in "And I Will Seek You: East of the Sun, West of the Moon". And I got as close as I've come to a personal essay with "Vulturism" in Interfictions, in which I mostly talk about other people.

And some essays, as usual, ended up on the blog, in between the Reign Report and Red Carpet Rundowns. This year only had a few Big Serious Posts, almost all of which, it turns out, dealt with rape culture (content warnings apply): "It's Complicated", "Live Nude Girls", and "Checklist."


It's been a very good year. I'm thankful. And now, a cup of tea and a nap.

Tags:

Reign Report: "Acts of War"

costume
So, most of this week's Reign was like Catherine's face, but the last ten minutes were more like Claude's face, because in the midst of more plot-churning "historical" shenanigans, and without any kind of "graphic content" title, the show decided Mary should get raped in a pretty explicit scene.



And then the showrunners suggested it was intended to raise the stakes...for Francis.



I had heard rumors this might be coming, but I didn't realize how bad it would be. Luckily, Caroline was on the case; she's back recapping Reign at AV Club, and her entire recap, well worth reading, breaks down why the rape scene doesn't sit well, and her reservations about how it will play out mirror my own.

For me, it particularly didn't sit well because this is the THIRD TIME the show has used rape as a threat to show that the situation's serious. (In the pilot, Catherine was the one planning the rape, and though they corrected that aspect of her characterization slightly by the second time rape was a threat, it is definitely not something the show has handled with any kind of skill or good faith.) Even in this episode, in which they try to have Catherine reach out to Mary in the immediate aftermath, there is a lot of "you can only win by pretending it never happened," and while they try to equate that specifically to Mary's role as queen requiring her to deny her humanity, they do not do a good enough job, honestly, and it ends up just a mess. "They tried to diminish a king by degrading a queen," Catherine says at one point. I see. Welp, fuck you!

It's a shame, since the season had been on something of a pulpy roll, and now you're stuck in the aftermath of a rape plot with a show that thinks it's a good way to punish a dude. (Uuuugh.)

You know what, let's just look at some clothes.



Mary wears black about 70% of the time. You can't tell me this virginal white wasn't intentional, show. There is just not one aspect of this that was handled well, was there?

Read more...Collapse )

Checklist.

roaring 20s
[Content warning: rape.]

Read more...Collapse )

Sleepy Hollow: "The Akeda"

nerd alert
Well, after a rocky season, turns out Sleepy Hollow was just sailing right off a cliff.



Awkward behind the scenes photo? Outtake improv session? Nope, turns out this is a scene that tells us nothing, leads up to the death of a character this show absolutely could not afford to lose despite the terrible treatment they got this season, and leaves so much still up in the air that the cliffhanger felt less like a big twist and more like the writers' room desperately trying to press a reset button. Sadly, it was resetting a lot of the wrong stuff. (How wrong? Well, it exploded the series' entire reason for existing, so...good luck finding another frame story and starting over, I guess.)

My io9 recap - one of my biggest ever, which kind of says it all – breaks down exactly where we've lost the plot, and where there are chances for redemption. Not character redemption (at this point, pretty much nothing you can do with Katrina, Hawley, or Henry can make me care), but where the show can try and stop this tailspin. In a lot of ways, this show has totally mown over the goodwill of last season, and I'm not sure how much it can ever get back.



Abbie's face speaks for all of us.
catwoman


Catwoman #36 came out last week! And over the holiday weekend, there have been some great reviews that pick up on some of my favorite art details and get where the story's going in a really gratifying way, so I'm collecting some of them here. (Spoiler warnings everywhere, obviously.)

Comic Book Resources points out "even something as simple as a shadow from a multi-paned window is carefully followed across the page in a way that shows a lot of patience."

Nerds Unchained gives it a 9/10 and made it easy to choose a pull quote by saying, "There’s something about the way he draws a characters posture that’s just as expressive as Valentine’s script." Double compliment! Boom.

Batman News gives it 8.5/10, in particular pointing out that Garry's work on Black Mask is amazing, and I will admit that one of my favorite moments in the first issue is the way Garry drew the glint in Sionis' eye as he looks up at the Gotham he wants to devour. It's got such amazing conviction; it's so great what he's brought to Black Mask even in the little time we've had with him.

Geeked Out Nation likes how the tension is building between Keyes and Alvarez, which is great to hear; I have been a fan of cop partners in fiction since I was about twelve and watching Homicide, and these two are not done hashing it out about what it means to be a good cop in a city like Gotham.

And Retcon Punch, The Rainbow Hub, and Weird Science all had things to say about Eiko, whose importance to the new arc becomes a little clearer in this book (both reviews contain spoilers), and the implications of the Other Cat. I'm thrilled that both reviewers totally get what we're going for with the idea of a mirror Catwoman, and I hope readers agree and continue to enjoy the complicated journey Selina will have when facing her own inheritance, one on each side.

And as for the fight itself, one of the lovely things I have discovered about working with Garry is that I get to mention Other Catwoman's fighting style and write "They fight. It's ruthless," and get something like this in return:



It's pretty awesome to get fight scenes where the women punch like piledrivers and there's no cheesecake in sight.

Thanks so much to everyone who's picked up the book so far; it's wonderful to see how many people are excited about Selina's newest venture!

Sleepy Hollow: "Magnum Opus"

roaring 20s
Wow, with the holiday and the latest Catwoman coming out, this week got away from me! I didn't even realize I hadn't talked about this week's Sleepy Hollow. In fairness, some of the reason I didn't talk about it was because it was such a wildly ridiculous hour of TV that at the end of it I kind of felt like either one of these two:



They solve a major plot point with an anagram, and then fight a Gorgon. It's one of those episodes. In my io9 recap, I talk about anagrams as much as I felt I could (there are a lot of thematically applicable anagrams of "chosen words"!), and tried to recap only the necessaries of a plot that, in part, decides that the 18th-century Americas were crawling with the monsters of ancient Greece, but there's a lot of "discovering the super important enchanted sword that we never knew we always needed" that I wish had entered the plot slightly sooner; Grace Dixon has been a cool callback, but after the first season, in which most things ended up making sense or at least not making sense from the same ol' Washington's Bible.

It also spends such a long time detailing the ways Katrina has failed to do anything that I honestly wonder what the show is expecting us to feel about her; unless she's slated for death next week for the fall finale or something, this is not helping endear her to us.

This was, however, an episode in which we get pretty much nonstop Ichabod and Abbie shenanigans, which is always lovely. And somehow this struck me as Ichabod quietly practicing piano during the weirdest moments.



"It's a Gorgon." "Really? A Gorgon. I see." *plays an etude really unobtrusively*

There's also some nice old-fashioned being-hunted-by-Headless, which is a fun throwback of its own, in some ways:



And very interesting in other ways. The io9 recap has this in more detail, but there are several flashbacks that are supposed to support Abraham's feelings of abandonment and betrayal, but instead pass go and translate directly to sexual tension.



I laughed out loud at Abbie's expression here. It is exactly how I felt about this entire thing. I appreciate whatever point at which it was decided to just run with that subtext. (I imagine Tom Mison and Neil Jackson sat down, looked at their script sides, and said, "Well, there's only way this works, I expect." "I expect so.")

Next week, in the fall finale, I honestly couldn't tell you what's going to happen, but I will be side-eyeing a lot of stuff if they don't find a way to make this sword make sense. (Don't have two people and then a weapon only one of them can use! Washington's Bible would have prepared two weapons for its Witnesses, surely!) On the other hand, after so long treading water, we're finally back in the wild, tractionless careen that characterized so much of the first season, so I guess we'll all see!

Catwoman #36: Keeper of the Castle

catwoman
Catwoman #36 comes out today!

"Keeper of the Castle" digs deeper into Selina's journey as head of the Calabrese crime syndicate, as she becomes more and more tangled in a web of moral dilemmas she can handle, but some of which she might not be able to accept. There's some good old-fashioned macho posturing (most of it by Selina), Black Mask Rising, a cameo by Lucretia Borgia, and a faceoff between our leading lady and, well, Catwoman.

There will be some more details about this Catwoman costume next week as the closet chronicles continue, but for now, suffice to say that it was pretty amazing to help design a Catwoman uniform, imposter or otherwise. (Garry designed her ears forced down and a little outward to underscore her hostility, because cats!)

You can check out a preview of the current issue at DC Comics if you'd like to. for those worried about spoilers, in these pages, Catwoman shows some loyalty to an old friend we're meeting for the first time, and Selina makes crime families kiss the ring a little bit, which does nothing to calm down the situation at home.

There's been some good buzz about this issue as well, which I'm obviously very excited about! Geeked Out Nation has Catwoman as a Top Pick this week, and Comicosity's named the issue one of its Hot Five, along with another 10/10 (!) from reviewer Matt Santori-Griffith here (minimal spoilers).



The reaction to Catwoman #35 has been amazing. While I obviously want everyone to get instant gratification about this comic in their chosen format, it was quietly thrilling to get reports from people whose local stores had sold out on day 1 (!!). According to rumor, orders for #36 reflected this, and hopefully everyone who runs out to pick up last-minute groceries and a handful of post-holiday books will be able to snag an issue of Catwoman among the rest. For anybody who prefers them digital, the issue's available at at Comixology, or via DC Comics.

However you pick it up, if you pick it up, I'm thrilled. I know my run represents a big shift for the character, and the fact that people have been so open to following Selina down this new path is awesome. Thank you all so much for reading!



(Above: Lucretia Borgia, Caterina Sforza the virago, and Selina stuck in the middle, knowing sooner or later she'll have to decide.)

Reign Report: "Terror of the Faithful"

costume
Things are heating up on Reign, as Francis' utter inability to do anything right begins to backfire on him, and Protestants take to the street after making a martyr out of a man Francis refused to make a martyr of. It's beautifully dismal. And even if there were something he could do to improve his situation, perhaps by alerting Catherine to it – but oh, what a wild dream that is! Never to be, never to be – Catherine is a little busy hallucinating and will have to get back to you.

The full recap (and a breakdown of this season's remarkably cynical approach to the nature of power) is up at the AV Club, in my last of the regular gig, which means it's a veritable essay on how I feel the season's done so far.

And in case there was any remaining doubt that Lola's new political subplot is contributing to her slow rise as the Catherine of a new generation, enjoy these equally Done faces. Catherine, in a pretty lovely gold-and-black ensemble, upon being told that Claude's fiance's family will require a virginity test because the grapevine told them about all that sexing she did last week and brides need to be pure:



Lola, in a fabulous top, caring absolutely zero for Narcisse's hurt feelings that she'd side with Francis when all Narcisse ever did was threaten Mary and her friends and the baby and sow religious strife everywhere and singlehandedly try to starve all the peasants:



This new ethical-but-schemey Lola is everything I wanted for her last season before the awful pregnancy storyline. Now that the baby is represented by an empty crib with some baby sounds piped in, the way all babies should be, she's really picking up steam.

Here she is after Narcisse followed her into the woods with a tablecloth draped over his shoulder in case she wanted a picnic, and chased her horse away so he could "offer her a ride" back. He's telling her how much he'd love a relationship. She's staring politely into a Narcisse-free universe.



You can try anything you want, Narcisse. She was interested in you for the five seconds during which you were divulging state secrets, and then you ceased to exist.

And her relationship with Francis is finally beginning to make sense – a person of decent sense who knows everything and has no power, channeling her frustrations and caught between loyalty to the King who controls her access to her son and to the Queen who currently thinks Francis hates her guts only slightly less than he hates Protestants. (The fact that Mary Stuart is the pro-Protestant force in all this is still one of the richest alternate-universe aspects this show has ever handed us.)

Here's Lola, mid-lecture about how Francis should just fucking fess up to Mary already and try to scrape his marriage and his rule back together, Jesus Christ, how hard is this, being told that Narcisse wants her kid dead:



You can see tiny fighter in her eyeballs beginning to forge weapons, it's pretty fun.

Of course, she wasn't the only character in the episode. There was also Claude, the unhappy saloon madam: Read more...Collapse )

Catwoman: The Closet

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One of the first things I did after we'd sketched the bare bones of this Catwoman arc was to sit down and decide how everybody was going to dress.

Comics are cinematic in their use of clothing to indicate character; it's a great psychological and expository shortcut. The shift from Catwoman into Selina Kyle, Mob Boss would mean a lot of changes in her wardrobe, and everything she wore would necessarily reflect that change. It was also important to me just on a vaguely-fashion-aware level, because I will never forget being a kid and reading the issue of X-Men where Gambit shows up to take Rogue on a date and Rogue is wearing a full-body lace bodysuit underneath what I swear was a handkerchief skirt and tight peasant top with matching headband. That was a lot. Nobody wants any more of that.

What did I want for Selina? This.



The "hero" tux was exactly the mood we wanted for her out-of-uniform uniform; it's a graphic statement, it connotes both power and privilege, and it's sexy without being too revealing, at a time when Selina's very much in a masculine sphere. In fact, we were careful to make sure there are variations on her signature suit specifically so that when she deviates from it, it's significant. Bottom right corner is her "off duty" suit, which we see her in at times when she thinks she'll only be dealing with family concerns. Top right corner is the suit we see her in at the open of #36, when she's making the rounds to have the families kiss her ring, so to speak; it's deliberately more feminine, but it also has the broad lapels that feel ever so slightly like a mark of state.

But one of the things we knew was going to happen was that the tenor of the clothes would shift over the course of the arc. She starts out on top, and as things become increasingly murky, the more her clothing looks like armor. The ballgown she wears in 35 is an amalgamation of Charles James and Zac Posen gowns, and represents a deliberate opulence and vaguely frigate-y comfort that we don't necessarily see from her at any other time. This is her coronation, and she's dressed for it. By the time she's wearing the cocoon coat at the top center, in which she looks slightly like a beetle, it's because she feels the need to protect herself; it's a coat you can disappear inside of.

Overall, though, this is a Selina that's not messing around. Clean lines, black everywhere, tailored but rarely tight. She's too skilled an opportunist to let this chance go to waste; at a time when she doesn't have any weapons close to hand, she'll dress like she is one.

Which brings us to Eiko.



Eiko is new, and a bit harder to give context to; she's a major character in this arc and a main attraction in the Catwoman Annual in December, but for now you've only seen her once. However, when we were going through the design process, it was remarkable how lived-in she felt. This is Garry's first sketch for her, and I absolutely loved her – thoughtful but observant, determined but a little unhappy. She's grown up in the world Selina's still trying to feel comfortable in, and we wanted her clothes to reflect that unconscious ease, as well as the fact that Eiko's not nearly as invested in the power games of it all. She's still young, and her involvement in the business is still basically messenger work whenever Dad demands.

Since she doesn't need to impress, we put her in clothes that have a slightly funkier edge. She wears a lot more skirts than Selina; we wanted the idea of drape, of careless casual layers and the occasional structured piece that only looks good if you're young, thin, and rich as hell. (You might notice the dress she wears when Selina first meets her is not on this board. It's actually something of an anomaly to the rest of her wardrobe; it was a way to communicate a message to Selina in a way nothing else quite could. A dress of casual ease, a tattoo left undone, and the self-assurance to display it to a stranger as a warning.)

There are definitely some overlapping points in their wardrobes; they're both trying to exist within a very particular position, and while those positions aren't the same, sometimes the messages are, whether that means Don't Look At Me or Don't Try Me.

Eiko's wardrobe became an incredibly important way to establish things about her; over the course of the arc, it will, hopefully, establish even more as she and Selina either negotiate around one another or end up enemies.

I thought about putting Antonia here as well, but with the exception of her formal suit, which features a borrowed skirt, Garry and I agreed early on that Antonia's all business, all the time. She'd been squirreling away all the bits of suits Nick never wanted, just in case the day came when she could be taken seriously. Nick never wears a suit; Antonia's got them all. Plain and tough as stone.

I hope to keep tracking the costumes as their circumstances shift, but for now, these were the basic ideas behind the design for each of the women. Antonia a rock, Selina a blade, Eiko a ghost. Stay tuned as things fall apart for everybody! (Except their clothes; we have not come this far to have their wardrobes go to pieces.)
me at home



Over at The AV Club, I have a slightly unusual TV Club 10. (This is my second slightly offbeat contribution to a feature that usually focuses on a single show – my first was episodes of vampire TV, I live by no man's law!) This time around, I tackle nineteenth-century British literary adaptations.

The bulky list of qualifiers is necessary to keep the numbers anything resembling reasonable (a TV Club 100 would have broken everybody's scrolling wheels). Even then, the idea of picking things that were both exemplary or interesting adaptations of the initial work AND which worked in a larger context of Victorianism, either stylistically or by their nature, was a juggling act with which I will probably never be finished. Return to Cranford, with its painstaking details and bittersweet themes of the old guard passing away and making room for a new and uncertain era, is wonderfully made; whether it will ever replace Wives and Daughters as the Gaskell of my heart is unlikely. That series itself fell prey to my need to 1) have each other appear only once in top 10/next 10, and 2) avoid enshrining the late 1990s as the golden age of adaptations. (Then again, you could make a strong argument for that and I would listen for a long, long time. Then I'd make us watch several, just to make sure. Then several more.)

However, one of my favorite period pieces of all time makes this list, thanks to being a BBC movie before it was a theatrical release. The 1995 Persuasion – shot only by daylight and candlelight, scored only by period music, and unafraid of a dowdy past – is a highly accurate attempt at period recreation. It's also a wonderful adaptation of Austen's book, and a beautifully spare drama in and of itself, perfectly acted and with much left unspoken and unresolved. I was over the moon when I realized I could use it here.

For the full list, visit the AV Club!

Sleepy Hollow: "Mama"

nerd alert
Last night, Sleepy Hollow came to its senses and turned things back around to the Mills sisters, for an episode that got back a lot of the verve we've lost in recent weeks as Katrina: The Overtold Story has been happening all around us.

It's not perfect – my io9 recap goes into some of the ways the conceit of their mother being literally haunted by demons kind of muddies the waters from both the mental illness and parental-abuse sides of things from time to time – but the episode let both Abbie and Jenny react in character to their relative experiences with their mother, and that informed things like which sister was a more suggestible victim for the evil nurse (Abbie, as she hasn't yet faced many of the demons that Jenny and her mother both confronted).

Plus, at the end of it Irving has had enough of his dismal subplot and literally just runs out into the road and jumps in the back of Abbie's car and gets the hell out, and I laughed incredibly hard.


But it was also a remarkably well-shot episode, and director Wendey Stanzler used a lot of nice wide shots to give us the maximum benefit of all these creepy surroundings, whether the de facto Ichabod Crane Mansion for People Who Stayed Overnight Literally One Time, or the one of the half-dozen ancient and abandoned wings of Tarrytown.



I also weirdly liked this basement storage area shot. It's just enough of a mess to be a feasible basement storage area, and just well-designed enough to look ever so slightly like a cluttered loft apartment. Television!



The camera work translates to the actors; Nicole Beharie and Lyndie Greenwood get some beautiful shots this week, often during action scenes or in scenes where a still doesn't do it justice - there are a lot of terrified/sad/contemplative moments in passing – but it just struck me as a very nicely composed episode where nice shots of tubs filling up became dreadful, just the way a horror movie should.

There really wasn't anything this episode couldn't make visually apealling! Literally nothing.



Even "Woman with Mortar and Pestle Outstaying her Welcome," Joannes Vermeer, 1791/2014.

Reign Report: "The Prince of the Blood"

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Reign, like Sleepy Hollow, is sort of faltering a bit in its second season. Sleepy Hollow is partially due to an inability to understand what the viewers loved about the things they loved. Reign's problems are largely due to their sudden and awkward attempts to make Francis look less terrible by having him strongarmed into his intolerant decisions. Historical accuracy aside (because this show is decidedly aside from all that), the show is totally capable of having someone make a decision that has consequences: the great first arc was nothing but that!

Now it just seems weird that Francis is being knocked around, especially since he finds out the people he's lying to are also king-murderers. As I point out at the AV Club, as soon as you learn you and Catherine might have anything in common at all, you knock on her door for some advice and some poison PRONTO.

But some people are getting some great plots again, and one of them is Lola, who has decided that somebody's going to be Over It in Catherine's absence, and it might as well be her.



Above: Lola, being over Narcisse's power games.



Above: Lola, being over King Francis. She might be in a Guinan dress, but she's not here to listen sagely and give you advice, okay, Francis? Jesus Christ, get your shit together.

And when Narcisse tries this:



He gets this:



Whatever this subplot is, I love it. An annoyed Lola is a wonderful Lola, and a Lola openly wondering the reciprocal value of state secrets and possibly lying to Francis about her spycraft just to put a bunch of dudes in their place? That's a Lola I barely dared hope for. She's going to start poisoning people any day now! It's going to be great. Catherine and Lola working together to undermine Mary and Francis's wishy-washy nonsense would be the twist I've always dreamed of.

This episode also had some amazing Gothic camp going for it, for some version of a Gothic where Catherine realizes Rochester has a wife in the attic, marries him, poisons him, and uses the inheritance to set Bertha up with a detective agency.Collapse )
kitty the typewriter girl
It's a writing update post!

At Capclave, my novella Dream Houses premiered! You can read more about it on the book's page on the site. It's tough to talk about it without giving things away (and some of my favorite moments at Capclave were the people who bought the book after my reading and coming up to me to exclaim over how dark it got even past the part I read, where she wakes up and everyone else is dead and Amadis is screwed), but as a very rough sketch, it's a character study about space, motets, shadows, and deer.

The limited print edition is still available from WSFA Press (including some of the super-limited signed copies), if you'd like a copy to hold in your hand. It's also available as an ebook via iTunes, Nook, Kindle, and Kobo.


Speaking of deer, my story "What Happened, the Winter You Found the Deer" appeared in New Haven Review this summer, and the online version of the story is now available! I'm fond of this one, and am so pleased it's found a home here. You can read it here! (Note: It's a PDF.)


And I began to realize the depth of my awfulness at social media when I was at World Fantasy, where it became clear I had not mentioned any of my current work enough that people knew I had a new novel out (I do! It's The Girls at the Kingfisher Club!), or that the first issue of Catwoman was out (it is! You can read about it here or pick it up in comic stores or electronically via DC Comics or Comixology!), or that I had done any non-TV nonfiction writing lately (I did! "Vulturism" was in the latest Interfictions!). So, now everybody knows! In the future, I will have to figure out how to stay on Twitter for more than ten seconds at a time. We'll see.

Catching Up and Sleepy Hollow: "Heartless"

nerd alert
This weekend was World Fantasy. I was thinking it was a bit late to talk about it before I realized I never even did a con report for Capclave, back in October. (Short version: It was lovely! Thanks to everyone who made me feel so welcome, and it was awesome talking with everyone.) World Fantasy was also nice, though disproportionately spent escorting people on milkshake runs. Both of them were reminders that I'm remiss in announcing stuff, so expect more of that tomorrow.

For now, Sleepy Hollow, which continues the blend of monster-of-the-week plus awkward and unnecessary stuff from new characters as a succubus attacks! And after hanging around the entire episode with Katrina and Ichabod and some Hawley just to remind us that things are spiraling out of control,what do we get out of it? Everybody knows Hawley's into Abbie, we're supposed to believe it might be mutual, and Katrina goes back to the guys who got her demon pregnant and immediately gets tricked into loving a demon baby. Sometimes you just wish the succubus would eat a few more people, honestly. Abbie speaks for me.



Actually, looking at my io9 recap, I think maybe I was more annoyed than the recap says. There's always a lot of nice moments, and this one even had a nightclub scene with one of io9's own in it, plus I was inordinately charmed by the neon everywhere and the 1950s pulp moment in the diner when the shy lesbian gasps "You've got it all wrong!" and runs outside, headed for what we can only assume is an underground sock hop and/or a library with an unspeakably sensual book club just packed with lesbians, just before she's eaten. Sleepy Hollow could get a lot of mileage out of some pulpy trappings, actually; it would be a fun contrast to the archives if their nightlife was drenched in neon and shit went down in the diner all the time.

Though really I'd welcome anything fun. Sure, we get a moment or two, but even since the beginning of the season we feel a schism made not of drama, but of neglect. I get that they want something to stall the endgame shipper stuff, but honestly. Hawley? Joe Corbin – easy way to create some natural tension between Abbie and Jenny over a guy in a non-romantic sense; he was much more relaxed with Jenny, and Abbie should have had some resentments there. Jenny, even. Not that we know what Jenny thinks since she became invisible.

And all else aside, why would you have a nightclub scene with Ichabod where Abbie is not there as he looms protectively over her and they shout loudly about how scandalous the waltz was and yet he had no idea people would continue to seek out ever more sexual yet oddly disconnected forms of dancing? Then they'd have to pretend to dance to look casual when the succubus was looking! HAWLEY HAS RUINED IT FOR EVERYONE.



Never mind. The succubus speaks for me on this episode. Next week had better be great.

Reign Report: "Three Queens"

costume
This episode is technically a standalone/filler episode about Catherine and Mary getting waylaid on a road trip and having to scramble to avoid dangerous imposters. What this episode actually was was The Catherine Show, with a brief appearance from Lola, who is even more over it than usual.



Photograph of Queen Catherine, and in the background, how I feel when I think of Queen Catherine.

And while Catherine's dress may have been a settee slipcover rentable for earthy autumn weddings, Catherine's lines this week were nonstop gold, and if you watch only one episode of the show, maybe make it this one, just to enjoy the Xena-ness of it all. (I make a longer case for it over at the AV Club.) She actually gets some great dramatic moments, too, when trying to explain to Mary that all her cruel advice about how to be a queen is born of rough experience and she's actually trying to get Mary to get icy before she gets betrayed by her husband or blindsided by what she'll need to do to be queen. It appalls Mary, because the one thread of history this show clings to is that Mary is clever enough but not at all suited to ruling a country, but by episode's end she's beginning to realize the truth of it all. It's deliciously angsty. But before all that, there's the drunk queen imposter, Lola's terrible date, and every facial expression Megan Follows can possibly manage while delivering some of her most priceless lines ever.

Some highlights:


On Mary: "Ah. Mary."

On peasants: "I may not care about peasants individually, but in general, I care a great deal."

On how to deal with the lies of marriage: "And if you find the crown lies too heavily, line it with velvet."

And on goat milking: "Alas, my poor ankle."



Someone just invent the Scenery Chewing Emmy and give it to her, please.

Mary also acquitted herself well this week by being strategic and useful, though the crown is weighing heavy and even her tiny jewelry mirror is of no comfort when it comes to her lying-ass husband.



However, next to Catherine (though by necessity a distant second), Lola comes back swinging in a romantic subplot with a guy who tries to bribe her into taking a bath while he watches (sir, what). She outmaneuvers him there, of course. She also outmaneuvers him during their daytime date, where in what I can only assume is an in-joke, he attempts to teach her archery. (Anna Popplewell was literally actually not going to pretend she was not good at it, either, because it looks like this.)



This is her first draw, and he's about to step forward and tell her how to do it properly, and I laughed the entire time, because she looks like Queen Lola the Gentle right here and you can go jump in the lake, dude.



She thinks so, too, look at that incredulous expression. She's going to remember this, and next time she asks to go shooting Narcisse is totally dead. It'll be great. Lola shall strike all enemies of the Queen! To arms!

Sleepy Hollow: "Deliverance"

nerd alert
This week on Sleepy Hollow, in case you weren't sure whether they were utterly adrift with Crane's witchy wife, they actually gave Katrina her second evil pregnancy. And some skinny jeans from the hospital lost and found, because why not.



I know we're going for the Full Gothic here, but it honestly looks like a melodramatic Activia commercial. This subplot was not great in any respect. I talk about exactly why, plus Abraham Headless's slow journey into being the show's sad trombone, in my io9 recap.

I want nothing but great things for this show, but the second season has shown some increasing growing pains, and I'm beginning to wonder if we just have to buckle up for a rocky ride as it tries to figure out how to navigate a longer arc. Even then, though, there's been enough feedback about Katrina that they had to know bringing her back into the fold this way would buy into so much of what the first season tried to turn on its head. And yet, demon pregnancy it was! Basically, this is how I feel about this episode:



First, skepticism we're still using the demon pregnancy subplot unless it's to deliberately deconstruct the Rosemary's Baby trope.

Second, sadness at the entire episode, particularly here, when Abbie's sneaking into a place alone when Jenny is just sitting somewhere playing solitaire and WAITING for a phone call.



Third, the dawning realization that this season's big arc might have deeper problems than just the occasional filler episode.

And last, the wariness with which I will be greeting next week. I suspect Abbie's face speaks for everyone.

Vulturism

roaring 20s
I have an essay in the latest issue of Interfictions! "Vulturism" is about vintage photo collecting, losing your memory, being kind of an asshole, and Marion.



I had a longer intro here, but the essay itself is personal enough. Let's not make things more awkward than they need to be.

Tags:

Reign Report: "Blood for Blood"

costume
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.

BOOKS








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