Thoughts on “Sherlock’s” “The Final Problem

…Meh.

My big analysis: It leaned in on all of the problems with the series, but executed them really well.

As a result it’s exceptionally well done for what it is but never as good as “Sherlock” at its best. Better than “The Blind Banker”, “The Empty Hearse”, and “The Six Thatchers”. Worse than everything else. People compared it to “The Reichenbach Fall”. No way. “The Reichenbach Fall” was superior in every way, as it is to most things.

It was okay, but after the great return to form with “The Lying Detective” I was a bit disappointed.

I’d be unhappy with this as a finale. Here’s hoping season five is actually about Sherlock and John solving cases.

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Why Trump Won

Brutal.

Samantha Bee, message received: You hate middle class white Americans.

So obviously as a middle class white American you’re totally the person I should be listening to about politics.

The contempt is so palpable.

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“Tales of the Once and Future King” and Strong Female Characters

It amuses me to realize that in creating my main character, Maddie, who was specifically created as a rejection of the “Strong wyman who don’t need no man” stereotype, might actually be the sort of protagonist a feminist would approve of.

Maddie is an active protagonist throughout the novel. She is instrumental in executing the Princess’s rescue plan. In fact, interestingly enough, it is the character of Bennett who gets the passive role (coming up with the plan) and Maddie who actually gets the more active role in the plot (although the most active role of all is reserved for the character of Lance).

Maddie is, briefly, a damsel in distress but she is also an active participant in her own escape attempt. She is the character who gets the romantic subplot as well. In many ways, she is the ideal feminist protagonist.

It’s important to realize, though, that every aspect of the character dynamics in “Tales of the Once and Future King” was very, very carefully thought out. The four travelers, Maddie, Lance, Bennett, and Gavin, need to strike a difficult balance in their relationship. They work together, they trust each other, but they don’t particularly like each other. There is also no real leader; Bennett and Lance tend to jockey for the position. The idea here is that without Michael Maddocks – the new King Arthur – leading them they are a formidable but incomplete force, not up to their full potential as a team. So every conversation, every relationship, needs to be precisely balanced in such a way that it’s clear that every member of the travelers has absolute trust in one another despite the fact that they’re never particularly chummy, and bicker fairly often.

Maddie, as the only girl, occupies a unique position. A typical “Girl power” sort of hero is simply out of the question. Maddie is nobody’s fool. She is well aware that she is, simply by virtue of her physical stature in a dangerous frontier environment crawling with invaders and outlaws, the weak link of the team. She can’t act arrogant, she can’t act offended, she can’t be obnoxious, because she knows that she is essentially just being tolerated as is.

This isn’t to say that she’s always quiet. Maddie is, after all, a human being, and she has her own issues and her own strengths. She just refuses to complain, and isn’t stupid enough to put herself in the middle of fights she can’t win – and this includes within the group as well as otherwise. The one time in the story her frustration boils over and she complains that she is being ignored, she is immediately and sharply called out for her attitude.

Maddie’s role in the plan is very active and very important, but it is also distinctly feminine. Maddie doesn’t fight, doesn’t carry a weapon, and is always traveling with a man for protection. The idea of anybody passing the Bechdel test in “Tales of the Once and Future King” is laughable; the opportunity simply never arises. She utilizes her sexuality to manipulate other men and turns herself, for however briefly, into a femme fatale in order to achieve her goals.

Maddie makes mistakes, she gets afraid, she gets emotional, but she is smart, she is competent, she is brave, and she is – in her own way – tough.

To put it another way, and to get to the heart of one of her main influences – Maddie is very much a woman, but she has True Grit.

And when you read the story, it’d be good idea if you keep in mind just how carefully we thought Maddie, and everybody else through. There’s been a plan there from the very beginning.

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“Tales of the Once and Future King” and Pulp

This would go on superversive SF but it’s kind of self indulgent, so here we go.

Draft one of the frame story for the massive anthology/novel “Tales of the Once and Future King” is done.

This is no ordinary frame story, though. This is a retro-futuristic fairy tale/western about knights of King Arthur who rescue a Princess locked in a tower from an evil king. It’s got gunfights, romance, wagon chases, secret kings…the works.

The question is interesting, though: Is “Tales of the Once and Future King” pulp?

Let’s apply Misha Burnett’s five pillars of pulp revival to it and find out!

  1. Action:  The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do – This is, or should be, a definite yes. One down.
  2. Impact: These actions have consequences. While a character’s actions do inform us of that character’s personality, significant actions should never be only character studies. They have lasting real world consequences – I’d say so. Characters make mistakes, these mistakes put them in danger, but they come up with brave and clever ways to solve their problems. Impact works.
  3. Moral Peril: Consequences are more than just material. In Pulp stories there is not simply the risk that that the hero may fail to defeat the villain, there is also the greater risk that the hero may become the villain – This is where it gets sticky. I really can’t recall any point the heroes were at risk of going “to the dark side” as it were. They have a moral code, but it’s left unstated for the simple reason that an opportunity never arose for them to announce it to the world. That moral code is never really in danger of being broken. My heroes are heroes, and heroes they remain. This has to be a no.
  4. Romance: Pulp heroes are motivated by love. Not always romance in the modern sense of a relationship involving physical attraction, but a relationship that obligates the pulp hero to take risks on behalf of another – This is another one where it gets sticky. It would be more accurate to say my heroes are driven by honor. Maddie, the viewpoint character and default protagonist, is in the situation she’s in because she is on a quest to rescue her father, but the main driving force of the plot doesn’t revolve around that but on a promise. That said, the heroes will, at times, take outrageous risks in order to defend each other’s lives. And there is a traditional romance in the boy-meets-girl sense. So I’ll give this one a yes.
  5. Mystery: I am using the word here not in the genre sense of a plot concerned with discovering the identity of a criminal, but in the broader sense of the unknown. There are many potential unknowns—the setting, the true identities of other characters, the events that led up to the current crises – Once again, this is sticky. What the protagonists are trying to accomplish and why are never really a question. There is, I suppose, a brief period of time at the beginning of the story where it remains unclear whether our heroes are in the hands of friends or foes, but it becomes clear fairly quickly who the real bad guys are. I’ll give myself a half point on that one.

So, “Tales of the Once and Future King” hits 3.5 pillars of the pulp revival. Maybe I can get a participation trophy.

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New Sherlock Episode

YES they took the “No Mary” opportunity and RAN WITH IT.

That was everything I hoped it would be. Amazing.

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Thoughts on Episode 1, Season 4 of “Sherlock:

SPOILERS if you plan to watch it, but…

Okay, the episode was decent but not great, but YEEEEEEEEES they killed Mary!

My hopes for the rest of the season have gone WAY up. She was an anchor on the show. She had to go.

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SMBC Explains my problem with Following Your Dreams

I really hate the general Hollywood and millennial attitude of “following your dreams”. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s the painting of office workers or businessmen as folks living an inferior life to wild and passionate “Artists” or something. Anybody trying to work hard in order to live a good life and raise a family isn’t a loser, it’s somebody who realizes there are more important things than always doing what you want to do. Working a stable job doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything except that you don’t want to be living on the street when you start your garage band.

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By the way, this is why “The Incredibles”, which is about a man who pursues his passion but realizes that it’s not worth how much he’s hurting his family and stops, is brilliant and by far Pixar’s best movie.

 

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