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Down for a lot of words about killer robots, ladies, and feelings? Then please join me for bi-weekly recaps of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Spoilers Follow )
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[personal profile] justira
Time Salvager photo cover_timesalvager_zps2f94b49a.jpg

Wesley Chu's Time Salvager has a serious tell-don't-show problem, and the biggest disservice that results from it is to the female characters. I have to admit I was not as excited about this book as a lot of other people were, but that's solely because I read the preview chapter available online and realized that the writing was terrible. It's clunky, it's sterile, and it's just not worth reading.

But let's talk about what the real problem of the book was for me. Well, two of them, intertwined. One, and the lesser transgression, is the lack of editing — and I can barely bring myself to call this the lesser of the two evils, as I'm an editor and hold that a good edit can work wonders for a manuscript. Those are wonders Time Salvager sorely needed. But that's only one problem. The other, which a good edit may have indeed fixed, is that Time Salvager silences its women. Some vague spoilers follow.

Read more... )
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DVD cover showing a Sarah Connor cocking a gun while crouching with her legs spread apart

Here we go again, right?

Looking at this image, it’s hard to deny that "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is yet another TV program being marketed with tired, exploitatively posed pictures, designed to please straight male culture. While Lena Headey looks hot in this shot, the way she's posed caters to the priorities and gaze of dudes, and indicates to women that just because there are ladies in this program that doesn’t mean that women are welcomed into the fanbase. Get away from that DVD, woman!

In this picture, Headey is posed in a suggestive way with her legs spread to draw the eye to her crotch. That's enough posing for the straight male gaze already, but the image has still more sexual coding to give up. The combination of that crotch shot and the gun in her hands presents another example of how our culture delights in playing with and posing powerful, interesting female characters for the titillation of men. In images like this, guns are positioned as tools of attraction rather than of genuine power. In other words, Sarah may be holding a gun which makes her look powerful, but that power is undercut because of the combination of that gun and the crotch shot which clearly indicates that the important message of this shot is 'girls with guns are sexually attractive and men should get on objectifying them' rather than 'women with guns could take your balls off just because they feel like it'. In this image, Sarah presents as the strong, weapon carrying woman that she is but she is reduced by the way the camera focuses the male gaze.

In other shots on the UK DVD covers, Summer Glau is posed with guns, but in positions which realistically would make it difficult for her to shoot anyone. In this official image, her clothes are deliberately fixed to be suggestively revealing. And as someone who is currently in the middle of watching far too many programs where all the things I want are accompanied by the mass destruction of women in ‘interesting’ ways this image in particular is a bit hard to take:

Cameron's top half hangs from metal supports - she is naked, her long hair barely covering her breasts and below the waist she is dismembered with wires trailing

Dismemberment - just an inconvenient detail if a woman is naked.

Oprah shakes her head, says no and rolls her eyes

All of which means I feel obliged to start this post by suggesting that you not to write off "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" because of these images. I am really excited to talk about the first series of this program because, despite what these marketing images might suggest, this is a program with a healthy respect for women and an interest in female characters. I swear! I mean it has its complicated gender stuff, but look other people agree with me that it is also a program full of women doing interesting things. In between those DVD covers is an awesome story about a female protagonist, the people who are important to her, and killer robots from the future, one of which is here to look at her significantly.

Come on, don’t let some misleading marketing make you miss out on the bullet filled, female-focused fun! )

Reviews and Supplemental Material

The Unbearable Silence of Sabrina Perez
Let's Hear It For the Girls?
tight presents MASTERLIST (vids!)
32 Days of Awesome Women: Day 31 - Sarah Connor
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[personal profile] renay

Sleepy Hollow title card

I don't know where I heard about Sleepy Hollow, but when I watched the trailer I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, it's REVOLUTIONARY WAR FANFIC!" Except I was wrong. It's Revolutionary War fanfic with monsters. EVEN BETTER.

I've never been into the Sleepy Hollow story or remix culture. I did watch both the cartoon every Halloween (public schools; thank you) and the 1999 film featuring Christopher Walken as the Horseman and an extremely blonde Christina Ricci, which was passable. It didn't do a lot to stick with me. The draw to this iteration was the main character, Abbie Mills, and all the scenes in the trailer where she's being a smartass with a dude a foot taller than her, and showing off her gun.

The important thing about Sleepy Hollow is a) that this is full on shameless crossover fanfic and b) that it's fully aware of the batshit premise it has to work within. It decides, "You know what? Gun it." The first episode is chock full of dramatics, including but not limited to: mystery caves, demon horses, George Washington as a defender against dark forces, nefarious trees, badass witches, cultural retconning, long-kept secrets, sassy quips, and gunfights over pickled heads. I went in with my expectations low. I came out with the firm belief that for a pilot about the apocalypse the entire episode was perfection and that Abbie is my new hero.

A summary of the episode, or, the Official Trailer.

Hold on to your head. )
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[personal profile] renay
the cover of The Shining Girls

The girl who wouldn't die hunts the killer who shouldn't exist.

The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth... (source)

This is a story about the murder of women, viciously gendered violence, and the brutal nature of time.

I cannot stress enough: this book is about the serial stalking of young girls followed by their horrific deaths as adults by a sexualized male predator. It is, especially for those sensitive to malicious violence aimed at girls and women, something to be handled with care, and possibly not attempted at all. Read more... )

Other Reviews )

Supplemental Material )


May. 2nd, 2013 07:56 pm
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[personal profile] bookgazing

'In the year 2047 time travel has yet to be invented. Thirty years later, however, it has. Though immediately outlawed, time-travel technology is quickly appropriated by the mob, and used to cleanly dispose of anyone deemed a threat. The process is simple: When the mob wants someone to disappear, they simply send them back to the year 2047, where an assassin known as a "looper" quickly carries out the hit, and disposes of the body. Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) is one of the most respected loopers around. Each kill earns him a big payday, and he's got big plans to retire to France. Then, one day, as Joe patiently awaits the appearance of his next target near the edge of a remote corn field, he's shocked to come face-to-face with his future self (Bruce Willis). When the younger Joe hesitates, the older Joe makes a daring escape. Now, in order to avoid the wrath of his underworld boss (Jeff Daniels), young Joe must "close the loop" and kill his older counterpart. Meanwhile, the revelation that a powerful crime boss in the future has set the underworld ablaze pits the two Joes on a violent collision course, with the fate of a devoted mother (Emily Blunt) and her young son hanging in the balance.' (source)

Ah time travel — the SF device that leaves as many holes in the internal logic of stories as a weevil in a ship's biscuit. Very few time travel stories even vaguely attempt a consistent approach to time travel, I assume because letting the consequences of time travel run its logical course means throwing all your plotted intentions off a bridge. There's a difference between being willing to kill your darlings and being willing to pull down the story you cared about because a fictional element won't stand up to scientific scrutiny.The second one involves a lot more drinking at midnight I imagine.

So, unsurprisingly 'Looper', the newest filmic addition to time travel canon, does not escape the weevil; like most time travel stories 'Looper' presents a logically inconsistent vision of how time travel might affect the continuity of a life. What are paradoxes? We don't need to deal with no stinking paradoxes! Never mind 'Looper', I still like you.

Spoilers from the future )

Other Reviews

Asking the Wrong Questions

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[personal profile] bookgazing

My portion of this blog could so easily turn into 'Jodie takes in the media Ana and Renay tell her to and loves everything'. Ana kindly gave me 'To Say Nothing of the Dog’ when we first met offline last year. It's the second book, recommended to me by Ana to get its own post on lady business ('The Dispossessed was the first). I'm already planning to talk about a couple of others.

Renay is going to have to plot pretty hard to come up with a rec that can challenge the awesomeness of 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'* because it’s like this novel was written specifically for me to squee over. There’s an inexhaustible list of things what I like contained in this novel including:

sci-fi comedy involving miscommunication and time travel
a male/female detective partnership
harried employees
a Victorian setting
a loveable fop and...
a comic dog (bonus points)

and I could go off on a fannish trip about any one of those elements, but today I'm focusing on the deliciously morish science fiction logic that is woven into this fun, literary romp.

In 2057 Oxford university agrees to help Lady Shrapnell, a rich, rather demanding American woman, rebuild an exact replica of Coventry cathedral before it was bombed in WWII. In exchange she agrees to provide funding for Oxford’s research into time travel. Unfortunately, Lady Shrapnell is rather exacting about the minor details of the replica and the history department finds itself bullied into arranging hundreds of time drops to check the tiniest of details.

After being forced to investigate many, many 1950s jumble sales for a particularly ugly piece of Coventry ironwork called The Bishop’s bird stump, Ned Henry, time travelling employee of Oxford history department, is beginning to lose his composure. On a tip that The Stump can be found somewhere in Coventry cathedral, just after the air raid that destroyed it, Ned and his time travelling partner Carruthers undertake one time drop too many in a desperate bid to make. the jumble sales. STOP.

The problem is the stump isn't in the cathedral and both men return to 2057 exhibiting all the symptoms of excessive time travel (including 'maudlin sentimentality' and a tendency to mishear words). Ned is ordered to rest and recuperate, but Lady Shrapnell is determined to send him back in time until he finds The Bishop’s bird stump, so he can describe it to the recreation team. Ned’s desperate attempt to escape Lady Shrapnell's uncomprehending demands and the co-operation of his superiors result in funny, sometimes almost slapstick sequences of misdirection and panic:

‘ “...Finch, where is she?”

“In London. She just phoned from the Royal Free.”

I started up out of the chair.

“I told her there’d been a mistake in communications,” Finch said, “that Mr. Henry’d been taken to the Royal Masonic.”

“Good. Ring up the Royal Masonic and tell them to keep her there.” '

When Ned says ‘Lady Shrapnell didn’t believe in slippage. Or time-lag.’
it reminded me of harassed wizards trying to keep one step ahead of Terry Pratchett's Ridcully as he wilfully misunderstands the full significance of what he's asking people to do.

To keep Ned from being sent to yet another 1950s jumble sale in search of the Bishop’s bird stump, his superior Professor James Dunworthy launches him into the Victorian era for two weeks of calm and rest. As the team furiously prepare Ned so that he’ll blend into Victorian society, Professor Dunworthy asks him to do one small time travel related task. It should be simple he's assured. The problem is, Ned can’t make any sense of his instructions through the fog of time lag. I’ve consumed enough time travel narratives to know that doing anything to history is a sensitive business. Ned is poorly prepared, quite ill and trying to follow instructions he doesn’t understand. His attempt at carrying out the task set does not go well.

Here's the science part. The characters in ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ take the view that history is based on the ‘for want of a nail, the kingdom was lost’ theory. Everything is connected. Small personal events influence the lives of those directly involved, but they may also influence the wider scope of history. If a time traveller interferes with history and say, a meeting doesn’t take place, causing a woman to marry a different man, that time traveller will have changed both their lives. By preventing the meeting this time traveller could also potentially change the lives of any number of other people. People don't get born, or end up being born in a different place and important historical events lack the people they need to make them happen. In the world of 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' history can be dramatically changed by one missed meeting.

Too late, Ned and his colleague Verity realise that they may have broken the historical continuum by changing certain small events in Victorian England. An important WWII event might now disappear from history, changing the course of the war for the worse. Horrified, they set about trying to correct the historical timeline, but the study of how time travel effects history, is still in its infancy and they have little real idea of what they’ve done, or how history will react to their actions. Here Verity and Ned’s story becomes a detective narrative**. They use their little grey cells, to work out just how history might be influenced back into its correct shape and follow the often unclear clues as to just what that original shape might have been. Their attempts to fix what they’ve (maybe) done often appear to make things (hilariously) worse.

As the narrative progresses Ned and Verity learn more about how changes to history can affect the future. They also discover that the rules of time travel, which Oxford university has identified so far, may not be as fixed as they had though. New rules emerge for time travel, which lead them down new paths of confusion. I have to admit that in the beginning, when the rules for the operation of time travel changed, I thought Willis’ was pulling a Dr Who stunt. You know the kind of thing. The Dr waves his sonic screw driver, garbles some sciency sounding stuff that doesn’t hold up to logic and everything works because that’s the way the Dr says it works. I assumed I was catching Willis readjusting the sci-fi workings of her novel to facilitate plot developments that wouldn’t have been possible under the original sci-fi rules.

And then, about half way through the novel, I had a totally obvious realisation. 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' goes meta on the reader. One of the many fictional pairings that Ned and Verity keep referencing in this novel is Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, hero and heroine of Dorothy L Sayers' detective novels. All the false leads, all the corrections to the ways in which the rules of historical interference worked are Willis replicating the structure found in an old school detective narrative. The structure of Verity and Ned's investigation into how the historical timeline operates, mirrors Verity and Ned’s surface detective efforts as they try to work out the identity of a mysterious man and find The Bishop's bird stump.

'To Say Nothing of the Dog' isn't just a detective story taking place under a set of science fiction circumstances; it's a novel of sci-fi detection, where the reader is led through an investigation of the fictional logic*** of time travellers. By interrogating her initial depiction of time travelling intervention in historical events, through the realisations her characters have along the way, Willis creates an internally logical version of how the main sci-fi conceit works in ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’. Her characters test and reassess the logic of her ideas on time travel, just as someone might test the logic of a scientific theory, or a detectives analysis, so that by the end of the book all the holes in her original theory have been addressed (if not conclusively solved, as I said, time travel study is still new).

And the reader is lead through all of this logic step by well explained step. By showing readers red herrings, or incorrect lines of investigation detective novels explain the process that leads a detective to uncover the solution to a crime. This allows the reader to feel engaged and part of the story, as they follow the detective’s reasoning and test their logic. The reader also arrives at a greater understanding of the crime, which adds to the reality of a story. By setting up and knocking down initial ideas about how time travel interference might affect history Willis is leading her readers through the process of elimination and investigation that detectives go through to identify the correct solution to their mystery.

I like a bit of Dr Who (alright I lurve it) and a bit of the deliberately unguessable end of the detective fiction spectrum. I'm not about to reject every piece of science fiction that can have holes punched in its logic. Still, there's something so satisfying in a piece of fiction that hands you a selection of cleverly fitting puzzle pieces, so you can track the logic of a mystery back through a film, or book.

I often find myself saying that sometimes you need to trust your author to get you somewhere good? Readers need to trust Willis to get you to a logical final solution, otherwise they’re going to spend most of the book with rebellious thoughts, sure that Willis’ sci-fi doesn’t make any sense. Whether they’re prepared to give Willis’ that kind of unconditional trust is up to each individual reader. I say do it, I wish I’d done it sooner when I was reading.

* I'm a little afraid I'm going to start some kind of epic rec battle now, but that's all good for me so I don't care!

**Ana you're going to think me terribly stupid, but I didn't fully appreciate the connection between the characters references to Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey and this sci-fi detective element until I'd read 'Strong Poison', even though I knew they were referencing a detective novel.

*** I'm not suggesting that 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' explains how time travel might work in the real world. Willis doesn’t even include much fictional explanation of the science behind Oxford university's discovery of time travel. She creates a theoretical idea, of how time travel works and can impact history, that makes sense in the world of 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'.

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