Project: The Changing Tales: Special Art Edition Comic Book

End Date: June 7, 2015 10:00pm EDT

Prizes: Digital copies! Limited edition art prints! Signed hardcovers!

Current Goal: $1250

Current Number of Backers: 22

Current Pledges: $548

Why they deserve your support: Because it looks freakin’ gorgeous, that’s why. And because twisted fairy tales are rad. And supporting indie artists is rad. And because the Kickstarter Staff agrees with me. (So there.)

Did I donate: $1, as promised!

 

I finally saw Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend. Read: spoilers ahead.

I saw it after some apprehension. I waited to see the movie because the week it came out, I wasn’t especially in the mood to see cities reduced to smoke and rubble (Hello, Baltimore. Hello, Nepal.) Because I waited, I got to see the vast social media discussions (see: arguments) about various aspects of the movie–in particular the love story between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov.

Great, I thought. Am I going to leave this movie angry?

I didn’t leave the movie angry. I didn’t even leave the movie feeling particularly disappointed. I liked Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some bits more than others. But I liked it.

But I also didn’t leave the movie feeling excited. I didn’t leave bemoaning the long wait before Avengers 3. I didn’t even really leave wanting more.

I don’t think I came into Ultron with particularly high expectations. I knew it was a superhero movie. I knew there’d be plenty of “Hulk smash!” and explosions and daring escapes. But even though I didn’t consciously have many other expectations, I left the theater wanting something different. There were parts of the movie where I could only think: “Oh, this again? Oh.”

There were times, too, when I thought Ultron might indeed go somewhere else. I particularly loved the party scene toward the beginning of the movie that showed the ways in which the Avengers had grown comfortable with each other in some respects–and not comfortable with each other in others. I loved Hawkeye’s hidden family and the stunned reactions of his teammates (Auntie Nat, of course, excluded). I loved Bruce’s inability to say no to Tony’s desperate enthusiasm and bid for normalcy. I loved Cap’s ongoing rediscovery of himself, despite his grandma tendencies and in the face of his immense loneliness. I loved the eerie, dystopic feel of the Iron Legion’s appearance at the beginning of the movie. I loved the fears Scarlet Witch triggered in all of them and the way they remained shaken by those nightmares throughout the film. I loved the twins’ storyline in general, although I thought their obsession with Tony in particular felt like a misstep, like too much of a shift back to Iron Man. Why not all of the Avengers? Or S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or both? You don’t need a Stark Industries bomb to send someone into the arms of Ultron.

But those kinds of missteps sadly characterized the movie for me. There would be a flash of something really truly interesting and then it would fizzle. We would have another action sequence instead or a ham-handed joke about Bruce and Natasha boning.

It didn’t bother me, by the way, that they had a love story. In part because it actually seemed very fleeting and tenuous. And because Natasha seemed so clearly to be the pursuer and it didn’t  affect her ability to fight or make difficult choices or be Black Widow. What did bother me, however, was the way that it halted all of her other fascinating relationships with the remaining Avengers, with the exception of Hawkeye. Suddenly dialog about Natasha became about Natasha and Bruce solely (the reverse is not true, by the way, which is another issue). It felt like the movie was constantly trying to remind me that this was a thing. Remember? It’s a thing. Natasha and Bruce are a thing. Natasha and Bruce. Bruce and Natasha. A thing. GET IT?!

In other words, something that could have felt very organic and natural and subtle just…wasn’t.

I was intrigued by the revelation about Natasha’s training and the “graduation ceremony,” which expanded on what we already knew from Agent Carter. I don’t think the scene of her explanation was handled with an overabundance of grace, writing-wise–but then, little was in regards to her character. But the content in itself remains interesting, as do her feelings about herself. This echoes the beginning of the movie when she refuses to try to lift Thor’s hammer, the immediate suggestion being she knows she’s not worthy. (Although, we’ll note that Thor had to go through extreme tests of his own to lift Mjolnir.) It’s telling, too, I think that while her fellow Avengers’ dreams reflected their horror of the future, only she and Steve were most frightened of aspects of their pasts. In fact, Natasha’s fears were extremely specific to an event and relayed as memories, not the more surreal, stylized presentation of Steve’s fears.

Basically, despite the bad writing mentioned above, Natasha Romanov emerges from Ultron just as fascinating and dynamic a character as ever, largely due to Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal.

But that returns us to my issue with the movie, which is that it forced me to wonder how much longer I want to keep seeing Marvel movies or superhero movies in general if they don’t seem to be making much progress, as much as Ultron seemed to occasionally lean in that direction. And if at times I find them boring. All this particularly when still none of them are  made with women in mind–much as we might enjoy them, we must enjoy them in spite of the fact that the studios who make them don’t see us as significant members of their audience.

It begs the question: as a fan, what percentage of a work ought you to find satisfying before you stop carefully picking out the things you like and give up? How much effort should you need to invest to imagine a version of a film or show to make it work for you? How long do you wait?

Are you lost? Welcome to Rotary park!

Yes, we’re back with some of the best the web had to offer in March and April:

From Nightmare: “Ishq” by Usman T. Malik. The open sewerage ravine near Mochi Gate slowly began to fill up with wet leaves, bird nests, shopping bags, old shoes, and Hashim sat by the dead girl, waiting, waiting. Beautifully eerie piece about grief, love, and illness.

From Pseudopod: Flash on the Borderlands XXIV: Femmes Fatales. There’s a little something for everyone in this trio of flashes. Nice change of pace, too.

From Podcastle: “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link. One of my absolutely favorite Link stories and read just perfectly.

From Apex: “Silver Buttons All Down His Back” by A.C. Wise. It’s just past dawn; the sleek lines of the rocket stand against a sky silvering from deep blue to almost-white where it touches the horizon. The moon is a slim crescent, grinning. I adored this story set in the not-too-distant future which explores the ways it which we hurt each other–especially when we’re expecting to be hurt ourselves.

From Daily Science Fiction: “Robo-rotica” by Sarina Dorie.  The title probably says it all. Laughed so hard I cried.

From Lightspeed: “The New Atlantis” by Ursula K. LeGuin. Delicately and easily, the long curving tentacle followed the curves of the carved figure, the eight petal-limbs, the round eyes. Did it recognize its image?  Does LeGuin still have it, you might be wondering? Damn right she does.

From Strange Horizons: “City of Salt” by Arkady Martine. I am the jackal gnawing on the bones of the city; I am the city, being devoured. I stayed. I earned it. Truly unusual, as well as richly imagined and vividly told.

From Lackington’s: “Ambergris, or The Sea-Sacrifice” by Rhonda Eikamp. The sound was the world, the world’s horn, commanding, the conch-shell that held them all in its whorls and would never let them go until they had drowned in life. Gorgeous and original fairy tale about a father and his powerful daughter.

From The Golden Key: “Water Lily Monster” by Anne Lacy. Often the first story in an issue is quite good, but this one just hits it out of the park. Had me at the first line: When night comes, the crocodil mamma rises to the surface and wakes her goblin babes.

From Shimmer: “You Can Do It Again” by Michael Ian Bell. Beautifully told tale with a striking, almost frenetic pace that provides a unique look at grief, regret, and the inability to let go.

From Clarkesworld: “Postcards from Monster Island” by Emily Devenport. If you love GodzillaKing KongPacific Rim, etc., you’ll dig this story.

From GlitterShip: “How to Become A Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad. A thoughtful meditation on the nature of identity, sexuality, and depression. With robots.

Happy reading everyone! Tell me your recommendations in the comments!

Hiatus

Posted: April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

2007

Hello everyone! Apologies for the lapse in content. In the interest of returning to our regularly scheduled programming, The Girl Who Loved Zombies will be on hiatus until Tuesday, May 5. Thanks for reading!

Project: GlitterShip: an LGBTQ Science Fiction & Fantasy Podcast Zine

End Date: April 8, 2015 5:21pm EDT

Prizes: Acknowledgement on their website, e-books, buttons, postcards, editorial critiques, and sparkly! fingerless gloves, scarves, and blankets.

Current Goal: $1500 (w. $12,000 stretch goal)

Current Number of Backers: 152

Current Pledges: $3151

Why they deserve your support: Because they write reward descriptions like this: “Your name will be listed on the Patrons & Supporters page for as long as the site exists — or until the sun expands into a red giant and engulfs the earth, destroying all civilization as we know it.” And because, while one time projects like Queers Destroy Science Fiction! are amazing, more publications and podcasts and conversations devoted to LGBTQ speculative fiction are awesome and necessary. Because GlitterShip wants to be inclusive of the whole queer community instead of focusing on categories. And because they want to pay writers! Don’t you want to support people who pay writers? I do.

Did I donate: $1, as usual

 

I know: with a title like that you are so excited to read this post. But this issue has come up a couple times for me in genre television lately and part of the reason I write this blog is to think critically about such questions, so I’m at least going to try to think my way through it.

Warning: Spoilers for recent episodes of Agents of SHIELDThe Walking Dead,  Captain America: Winter Soldier,  Alien, etc., and frank discussions of race. 

The last…30 minutes or so of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I was on the edge of my seat, completely anxious. Not because the hoverships were going to assassinate everyone in DC and New York or because Cap took a bullet to the gut.

I was worried–frantic–about Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon.

Now, I knew and understood intellectually that Falcon is not a one-time character in the Captain America canon. I knew he should be back. I just didn’t know if he would. In fact, part of me felt pretty sure that Sam Wilson was a dead man.

Not just because he’s a black character, mind you. We’ve gotten beyond the more simplistic days of slasher horror which dictated that the black man dies first. George Romero has allowed a bunch of black men to reach the finish line. Hell, even Parker makes it through the bulk of Alien.

No, what made me worry about Sam Wilson is that I liked him and Steve Rogers liked him. You see, it’s not a sacrifice to off a character we barely know. But a character with motivations and empathy and a moral sense who’s connected with your protagonist–that’s a character you can kill with serious dramatic effect.

(This is after they fake-killed Nick Fury earlier in the movie but that didn’t fool me for a minute. SLJ is friggin’ indestructible.)

Okay, obviously, Sam Wilson makes it through Winter Soldier. Praise Zombie Jesus.

Fast forward seven or so months to the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD. Shit is going down. Skye and Raina are with the obelisk while the walls close around them. Coulson can’t get in. The others are distracted dealing with an alien-possessed Mac (after a gotcha moment in the previous episode when they may or may not have killed him). It seems like there’s no backup coming–and then Agent Tripp squeezes through the gap and into danger.

Of course, they do a double fake-out, pretending like Tripp is fine while Raina and Skye turn to stone. Of course, they’re fine and it’s really Tripp whom the alien technology destroys.

Tripp was a nice guy. A little underdeveloped as characters go in Agents of SHIELD, but we had been getting to know him better. His grandfather was a Howling Commando. He seemed like the genuine version of Grant Ward–and he had good chemistry with the group.

Given what almost happened to Mac in the previous episode, Tripp’s death felt like a cruel, deliberate yank on our heartstrings, as if to say: you like these characters? Well, too bad!

There has been similar activity on season five of The Walking Dead, a show which seems determined to have no more than three black men in the supporting cast at any given time. The showrunners seem especially fond of killing off whoever happens to be the group’s moral center at any given time, most recently Tyreese and Bob, both–you guessed it–black men. Both solid characters with individual issues and quirks when they appeared in previous seasons; Tyreese in particular saw a lot of development as a fan-favorite from the comics.

But both got a lot more screen time and nuance leading up to their deaths, which is no coincidence. It’s meant to be upsetting. And this is true when any character dies, of course. And naturally I wouldn’t suggest that such action heavy shows should never kill anyone off or even refrain from offing characters of color. I’ll be the first to admit that “What Happened and What’s Going On” from The Walking Dead was a beautifully acted and lovingly made episode. Chad Coleman was as wonderful as ever as Tyreese (which made hurt more, of course). In isolation, I wouldn’t have minded at all. As a larger pattern on the show, it bothers me.

What bothers me  is 1)  the notion that any of these characters (Mac and Tripp or Tyreese, T-Dog, and Bob) are interchangeable 2) that we’re only allowed a relatively brief time to empathize with sympathetic black male characters before they’re killed off–thus making their deaths a kind of cheat or gimmick to get an emotional reaction from the audience and 3) that these characters’ sacrifices end up being mere motivational fodder for the series’ or film’s protagonists, who are so often white.

Simple representation in media (and particularly genre media) is still a huge problem–the numbers are an issue, let alone the quality of the roles. But I think we also need to think about the kinds of stories these characters get to live–and whether they live. Because it does send a message.