Favs of 2015

This feels like the sort of thing that once you’re out of the New Years celebrations and retrospectives bombs seems kind of pointless but with the Hugo Nomination deadline coming up (March 31st, don’t forget to nom if you’re eligible!) I figured it was finally time to compile my list of favourites from 2015.

Novel:

Novella:

Short Story

Graphic Story

Other Considerations:

  • Jenna Kass for Best Fan Artist
  • Advantageous for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form (available on Netflix)
  • Uncanny Magazine for Best Semi-Pro Zine
  • Something something Steven Universe and The Expanse eps for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form (haven’t fully thought this through yet for specifics)
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Continuing Conversations on Diversity

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There are several responses one can have when lack of diversity is called out.

  • Apologize. Acknowledge issue.
  • Apologize. Ackowledge issue. Promise to be more inclusive.
  • Shrug. Move on.
  • Deny problem. Move on.
  • Deny problem. Attack.

Let’s take a guess at how a certain Star Wars podcast reacted when fandom correctly stated that they replaced their gender diverse cast with two white dudes.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>It's back. And oh god, it even includes a shot at &quot;tumblr attitude&quot; <a href=”https://t.co/ZLD9HtA7UB”>https://t.co/ZLD9HtA7UB</a&gt; <a href=”https://t.co/3kiu44txTr”>pic.twitter.com/3kiu44txTr</a></p>&mdash; Brian (@LaneWinree) <a href=”https://twitter.com/LaneWinree/status/708682381281075200″>March 12, 2016</a></blockquote>
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The response is very damning and somewhere in there is a promise for more diversity but surrounded by all that derailing and vitriol its seems like a very “well actually” move rather than a desire to have different voices.

The thing about callouts is they seem very personal to the subject when in reality they are about systemic problems and the subject is just the most recent example. Leslie Jones was understandably upset when The Internet looked at the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie and questioned her role as sassy black woman because to her this is a breakout role that she’s thrilled about whereas viewers are seeing another in a long line of smart white group with single streetwise black person.

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We’re hoping the movie turns this convention on it’s head (here’s hoping there’s something to the original promo materials saying municipal historian even though everything says MTA employee now. Both is certainly a possibility!) but that doesn’t mean this conversation wouldn’t take place. Without a push for change nothing will ever change. None of this has anything to do with Leslie Jones as a person or as an actor but as a visible figure representing the current problem she is part of the narrative.

As are the new hosts for said podcast. I haven’t listened to their first ep and I’m very much isolated from the Star Wars fandom at large preferring to stay in my little twitter bubble so I can’t comment on the quality or them personally but it’s still a fact that a fandom with a large white male population has another platform for white male fans to speak their minds. If that’s what you want to listen to, if their show is fabulous and exactly what you want, great, I’m glad you have that and I hope you keep listening and they keep delivering but that doesn’t mean the conversation is over.

The fact is is this podcast doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  It is always going to be easier for a white man to have a voice if no one is challenging the lack of other voices. I’ve seen a lot of posts that are essentially “why are we fighting, sit down and chill and enjoy Star Wars” and those almost make me angrier than the ones retaliating negatively to the criticism of “hey more white guys yay?” because it’s an attempt to make those holding the conversation seem unreasonable for wanting to work towards a community with more diverse voices. The above response is more proof that these are conversations that need to be had.

In conclusion, dear white people, please never talk about the colour of your skin being brought up as a problem. I know it’s rough when society values your skin colour above all and that’s all they can see so they decide to treat you better but just don’t.

Triple Nine Disappoints + Oscars Thoughts

The day after The Academy Awards always seems like a good time to go see a movie and after a quick look at movie times, casts and premises I decided to go see Triple Nine over Race or Eddie the Eagle since I was more in the mood for assholes with guns than athletes overcoming obstacles. It wasn’t a mistake per se but it was definitely a disappointment. 

The premise is mostly The Departed meets The Town with an excellent and diverse (racewise at least. It’s also a sausagefest) cast; Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Clifton Collins Jr. And yet the movie is overlong and meandering and can barely connect the scenes into a cohesive movie. Even then I still mostly enjoyed the first 90 minutes or so. Crews and secrets and plans, I’m into all of this (although I think the movie would’ve been more interesting if Anthony Mackie and Casey Affleck had switched roles.) but Triple Nine tries to do too much and can’t quite bring all the threads together and it makes the classic mistake of hitting a point that feels like the end and going on for another 30 minutes instead of wrapping it up. 

What’s it worth? Probably not a trip to the movie theater. If you’re at home and feeling like redboxing a movie about assholes with guns you haven’t seen before it wouldn’t be a dollar completely wasted since the acting is good but be prepared to be frustrated and roll your eyes a bit and cheer for absolutely no one (which considering the current state of tv most people should be used to by now). 

As for The Oscars, a quick rundown. 

  • Yay for Spotlight! I was very happy when it won best ensemble at the SAGs as it really is the definition of a film without a “star,” the ensemble is the star and it’s a powerful film that’s really well done. 
  • Meh on acting. Brie Larsen was great in Room but she was up against a weak field so no surprise there. Mark Rylance was the best thing about Bridge of Spies and since we didn’t have Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation it’s fine I guess. Vikander and DiCaprio…no. Danish Girl was so paint-by-numbers soulless  oscarbait. People are happy about Vikander’s win because she was great in Ex Machina but in Danish Girl?  Nothing remarkable. And Leo…I’m still so baffled about how the narrative that Leo deserves an Oscar came about. Yes he’s a good actor, I’ve always found him watchable and for the most part enjoyable, but in the years he lost he lost to spectacular performances so it’s not like he was consistently getting robbed. So somehow that means he gets awards for grunting and rolling around in the snow? Fine. Whatever. Of the five I think Bryan Cranston had the strongest performance and Michael B. Jordan should definitely have been on the shortlist over Eddie Redmayne. 
  • There’s still nothing redeeming about Revenant but this tweet about Iñárritu winning gave me life. 
  • Hateful Eight is another overly long movie (187 minutes why even no) with a good idea at its core so I was initially annoyed the score won over Star Wars but then I listened to it and wow, that score is about 100x better than the movie deserves. 
  • Can we just get rid of the best song category? 
  • Mad. Max. I…ok I didn’t like Mad Max. I appreciate that it’s a film that manages to depict rape and the trauma of it without actually showing the assault and making all the women completely broken but I didn’t think it was a very good movie. I do appreciate that by winning Mad Max prevented clear oscarbait movies from winning showing that popular blockbusters are just as worthy of consideration but…I can’t quite cheer at its wins either. This is why I normally don’t say anything about this film. It’s so hard to articulate my thoughts without caveat after caveat. 

So You Think You’ve Found Rey

#wheresrey has come under fire because unlike #wheresgamora and #wheresblackwidow figures of Rey actually exist so it must be ok and everyone must be overreacting right? Nevermind that you can’t just walk into a store and get a Rey toy like you can Kylo or Finn or all the troopers you can shake a fist at.

JJ Abrams at least thinks this is preposterous and wrong instead of going the oh you just have to look harder route that’s been going around the internet. It’s very frustrating reading posts, especially from women, claiming Rey is everywhere when sure, if you’re an adult willing to check stores constantly or pay resellers their inflated prices you can find Rey toys easily enough but why does anyone think that’s ok?

I do wonder if a little of it is the “well I had to look hard/pay more so other people should have to too” mentality. Like having Rey figures be more available some how diminishes their enjoyment of their find. Or perhaps it’s just geek blindness. People used to digging around to find what they want don’t realize that for casual fans, for kids without parents willing to look, not being on the shelves is pretty much the same as not existing.

Another thing that has been pointed to as proof that “Rey is everywhere” is the clothing that exists with her on it. Sparkly and soft coloured clothes. Sure it’s great that they exist, and that actually is more than Black Widow and Gamora got, but clothes are. not. toys. Little girls have always been told to go play dress up while the boys go play with toys. By waving the clothes around as some sort of victory it’s reinforcing the idea that girls shouldn’t be toys (not even dolls apparently, which sorry, calling it a 12″ action figure doesn’t make it less of a Barbie, well, Ken doll).

Go to Target and you’ll maybe find the Rey Funko Pop. Go to the Disney Store and you’ll probably find the Deluxe Figure Playset (which also has a General Organa!) and Reys Speeder. But finding any of those other toys that technically exist but were made in much lower quantities than her male counterparts? Good luck.

This isn’t even accounting for her missing from the Target Exclusive set and the Millenium Falcon toy set which are an even bigger problem. The existence of her individual figures is a grudging admittance that maybe there’s a small market for Rey toys but her exclusion from sets screams “but boys still don’t want icky girls in their toys” no matter what the reality of the situation is.

Which is why settling for what we’re being given right now, accepting the scraps Hasbro and Disney are throwing our way, is a mistake. Saying Rey is everywhere just tells them oh it’s ok, you don’t have to make her as prevalent as Kylo Ren, people will accept the least.

Rey deserves more than the least.

 

Movie Shots: Phoenix, Black Mass, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials

Being currently jobless I have a lot of free time that can’t always be filled with job searching or chatting on the internets so I’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately. These are the three latest, all of which I was a terrible patron of the theater and livetweeted at least a little during. To be fair, matinees are not super crowded ever.

Phoenix sounds so incredibly dramatic when you read the summary; concentration camp survivor shot in the face has facial reconstruction surgery and her husband doesn’t recognize her after so she pretends she’s someone else to see if he’s the one who betrayed her to the Nazis.

In reality it’s a beautifully quiet story of a woman trying to reconnect to life after surviving the only way she knows how, through her husbands eyes. I’m still not sure how I feel about how the movie ended up the journey to the end was gorgeous and heartbreaking.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>It's like 90 degrees in this movie theater bc it's full of old people. Damnit matinees. Also wow Johnny Depp looks nothing like Johnny Depp.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/644951047719534592″>September 18, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Omg Benedict cumberbatch's voice is so 50s auctioneer in this movie!</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/644955156371652609″>September 18, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Black Mass is the type of movie where if you like gang/mob type movies you’ll probably like this one as it’s a better example of the genre but if you don’t it’s unlikely to convince you. Johnny Depp is fantastic as Whitey Bulger but it’s very interesting watching and seeing who of White Hollywood fits seamlessly into the setting of 80s Boston and who sticks out terribly. Benedict Cumberbatch looks perfect as Depp’s brother, from the suit to the nose, and then he opens his mouth and the clipped speedy sports announcer voice is just so out of place. Jesse Plemons you can’t help but think oh Landry how far you’ve fallen, first white supremacist methhead and now hitman. Kevin Bacon smoothly slides into the era. Adam Scott looks like he’s at a fancy dress party the whole time. Corey Stoll is perfect.

Black Mass has the typical choppy feeling of a biopic spanning too many years for the length of the movie but overall is a successful and enjoyable mob movie.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Watching Maze Runner since I'm supposed to see the second one tomorrow. Maybe this is the attempt I actually stay awake during. Maybe.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646176673331736577″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>(honestly I'd rather be listening to Hamilton again)</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646176819838742528″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Update: I am still awake. I have no idea what's going on bc the internet. There are metally spider things.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646186155805962240″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Well the last 30 min the movie got abruptly interesting so I'm much more optimistic about seeing scorch trials tomorrow.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646210998362329088″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>What the fuck is this a zombie movie? I didn't sign up for that!</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646406840515993600″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>No really is this movie actually called Left 4 Dead: Teens Got This?</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646416786871730176″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Guys I could be listening to Hamilton again.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646417516256997376″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The thing about Alan Tudyk is every character he plays is AU Wash and it's amazing.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646420144588242949″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Mechanical spiders &gt;&gt;&gt;&gt; zombies tbh. Dylan O'B can act for sure but it's so wasted all the time.</p>&mdash; Maia Mrkconsonants (@semirose) <a href=”https://twitter.com/semirose/status/646428788172177409″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
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I like YA novels and I’m all for the let’s translate them to movies (have you seen Maisie Williams will be starring in Forest of Hands and Teeth?) thing but I was so incredibly bored by Maze Runner until the last bit and then Scorch Trials decided to switch up everything and go all Left 4 Dead on us and nah.

Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Sangster, and Ki Long Hee are all great actors and do the most they can with the material but there’s just not a lot to work with. Just nothing to get excited about, nothing from a new angle. It’s better than The Mortal Instruments and probably on par with Divergent and at least you don’t have to suffer through bad acting AND boring plot but it’s also really hard to recommend as well.

The Question of Privilege

This weekend I was at 4th Street, which was an amazing and wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back next year, and one of the discussions I ended up having was about why it’s so hard for some people to acknowledge that their privilege even exists and it stuck with me so I decided to write a post about it and then today #AskELJames happened providing me with a serendipitous concrete example outside my personal anecdote.

But first, privilege. In the conversation I decided that privilege to me was never being asked “why are you here?” because your right to be there is a given. (Alternatively, I also like privilege as never having to ask yourself “where am I?” when looking around or reading or watching because you are already represented.)

An easy example being in cinema white is the default. If a character is something other than white there must be a narrative reason for it otherwise of course they’d be white. The idea that a character can be black just because there’s no reason they HAVE to be white is shocking to some people.

And it’s a question that makes people uncomfortable when they’ve never been confronted with it before.

Most of the people you see balking at the idea of privilege are straight white men because they’ve never had to question where they are and rarely do people question the validity of their presence. It’s assumed that they have the right to be in any conversation and that those conversations should include them. So when “all of a sudden” people turn and go, wait, why are you here, there’s a how dare you question me response. So instead of stepping back for a second and thinking “ok why am I here, what am I contributing, am I helping this conversation?” they lash out.

And I get it, I do. There’s this need to jump into a conversation and say your piece without thinking about how it’s going to come off or if this is your conversation. I never ever ever jump into conversations online about student loan debt even though there are times when I am sitting on my hands to stop from writing some comment that would probably come off as tone deaf and arrogant because I don’t have any student loans and never have and people with them will look at me and go ok, so why do you feel the need to be here?

Today EL James or her publishers decided it would be a brilliant idea to have an open Q&A session with the author through #AskELJames and when it became the predictable hilarious mess it made people who aren’t familiar with her particular brand of hate uncomfortable. From an outside perspective it looks like a bunch of people started shaming and belittling the author because they couldn’t separate their feelings about her books from her. Chuck Wendig wrote a piece on this and the backstory of how EL James is quite abusive to people who dare to question her books was explained to him.

The piece he wrote about how Online is IRL is actually quite great in terms of online culture in general but when applied specifically to #AskELJames it breaks down because he has never been a target of hers and doesn’t know that people who HAVE tried to have reasonable discussions about the issues in her books with her have been shutdown over and over and over again. The hilarity of #AskELJames is that she doesn’t WANT the questions her books generate and will not answer them which is why it turned into the ridiculousness that it did.

I think Chuck is being a little harsh on himself in his apology and acknowledgement of his privilege but I seriously appreciate the post because it demonstrates so clearly how when you’ve never had your presence questioned you don’t even stop to think about whether you should be saying these words or about how they’re coming off to people inside the community. I’d say it’s not about no one outside the community should talk about it but more about recognizing that you don’t have all the facts because just that acknowledgement causes you to slow down your thinking a little and navigate the field without trampling the children.

Diversity is More Than a Token Panel

I’ve been on exactly one panel at a con and it was a diversity panel. This isn’t surprising as I’m not a creator or a particularly vocal or involved fan. I happened to know the person proposing it and since I’m a bisexual female minority I hit pretty much every diversity button there so it was a good fit and a fun time.

But it was one panel. Imagine time and time again you are asked to only talk about how you are different. Being told over and over that what you are is more important than what you do.

Talking about diversity, bringing awareness to it, is a good thing but it’s a step, not a result. ACTUAL diversity isn’t a panel that says look how aware we are of the issues, it’s having diverse panels. People with different voices and experiences talking about what they’re passionate and knowledgeable about instead of how they’re different from each other.

Wesley Chu is an amazing writer. So is Kameron Hurley. So are so many other women and minorities. When I was at C2E2 this year I cornered Chu and flailed at him about how good Rebirths of Tao was (it had just come out) and how excited I was for Time Salvager. I can’t think of a single time I’ve gone up to a creator and prioritized their ethnicity or gender over their work.

And yet conventions do it all the time.

Talking about diversity, about different experiences is important but unless it leads to actual diversity in panels it’s basically pointless.