Way back in my senior year of high school, my friends and I took full advantage of our senior year freedom to go see The Forbidden Kingdom in theaters several times. As far as we were concerned, The Forbidden Kingdom was the long-awaited team-up of Asian action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li—it didn’t matter to us that the plot included some white guy as the main protagonist. In fact, we were pretty happy about it—we thought the white protagonist would make the movie much more attractive to Americans and thus make more money at the box office, thereby proving that Asians could sell movies. And to be fair, The Forbidden Kingdom did rank #1 at the box office in its opening weekend. But nearly a full decade later, it’s pretty apparent that The Forbidden Kingdom‘s flaws in 2008 are the same flaws that Hollywood still has today.
I’ve had a beaten-up copy of The Shattered Court lying around my apartment for some time now, and I finally decided it was time to give it a read. The book is the opener to a series, and introduces a Britain-based country with its own unique magical system. However, my interest in the book quickly turned to frustration and disappointment as I learned more about how the magic worked. While the series attempted to say some challenging things about gender and magic, it fell down harder and harder every time it tried.
Happy Friday the 13th, all! I hope everyone is avoiding bad luck so far today. If you have, you’re luckier than me, because the most unfortunate thing happened when I sat down to read the graphic novel trilogy The Good Neighbors: I discovered a Holly Black series that I simply did not like.
I’ve been on quite the webcomics binge lately (reccing another webcomic for this column, you say? Shocking), but I can’t help it that the internet is so good at recommending well-written, diverse webcomics to me through Tumblr! Today’s web crush is White Noise, a complex fantastical webcomic about families and found families, the aftermath of tragedy, and prejudice.
When I reviewed Dreadnought earlier last week, I wasn’t aware that it had a sequel — the book came out early this year, and sequels usually take a least a year to put together. But against all odds, Dreadnought‘s sequel Sovereign was published a mere six months after Dreadnought, and so I went on down to the library to pick it up. What I found was that while Dreadnought had a fairly clear-cut narrative as a coming-of-age story for its trans protagonist, Sovereign tried to tackle many different issues at once and had the very typical sequel problem of not getting deep enough into any of them. Still, amongst the issues with gender, race, the media, a TERF villain, and a quickly developing romantic relationship, Sovereign did succeed in raising some thought-provoking questions about superheroism as meritocracy.
Spoilers for Sovereign below the jump.
It’s now officially Fall! …Or that’s what the calendar tells me, but the unwelcome persistence of 80 degree weather (that’s 27~ degrees Celsius to you Celsius-using folk) is weaving a different tale. In an effort to prove that temperature doesn’t rule my life–even when I’m dying and making offerings for those crisp fall days to come the fuck on already–I’ve started to dive into that good seasonal content. Of course, that means witches and magic!
Back in March of last year I talked about how excited I was for the upcoming anime adaptation of the manga The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and just recently the three part OVA, Those Awaiting A Star, finished airing in Japan. Despite being unaware that an OVA was even happening, I eagerly dove into the three 25 minute episodes. It was advertised as a prequel story, so I was a bit hesitant that the OVA would be focusing mostly on the situation that brought heroine Chise to her living arrangements with her fiance, the titular ancient magus; doing so would almost certainly mean focusing on the neglect and abuse Chise suffered, and three episodes of that sounds kind of like the worst thing ever. It’s impossible to avoid that completely, as the episodes focus on Chise’s childhood, but if you share my concerns, I’m here to tell you that the OVAs didn’t turn into the Chise torture hour. More importantly, Those Awaiting A Star subtly shows off the environment Chise comes to thrive in as well as her relationship to Elias (the magus) in a way that quells the worries I, as someone who hasn’t read the manga, had about that too!
Spoilers below. Continue reading
It’s been ages since the last time I read the Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix, but I’d been meaning to read it again, so this weekend I sat down and blasted through all six volumes. (At around 200 middle-gradey pages each, they’re not a heavy read.) I did remember enjoying the series when I read it the first time—probably way back around when it was published between 2000–2002—but very little else. All I remembered was that I liked them enough, so they’d survived several cullings of my ridiculously large book collection until such time as I could reread them and rejudge.
Having finally done just that, I am happy to report that the series is definitely an enjoyable read, although I probably won’t be holding onto them for another round a decade into the future. I was impressed to see that The Seventh Tower uses magic and worldbuilding in a fascinating way that allows for a deconstruction of privilege that feels organic to the story, while providing us with a strong female touchpoint character as well. Although, given that it was Garth Nix writing, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Continue reading
The last thing I need right now is another game. I know this, but I also know full well that I’ll always, always make time for dating sims. I was pulled into this one by a couple of people from one of my D&D groups and was pleasantly surprised to discover that while I’m certainly easily swayed into trying dating sims by people simply saying that they’re good, this game is good. Very good. Follow me below the cut for a tale of murder, magic, intrigue, and most importantly, the Arcana.
This weekend was the Emmys, and usually, nothing much interesting happens at the Emmys aside from the opening monologue. However, I was ecstatic to hear that one of my very favorite TV shows from this year, Master of None, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The episode nominated, “Thanksgiving,” was about the story of protagonist Dev’s queer Black friend, Denise, coming out to her family through the years and was co-written by Lena Waithe, herself a queer Black woman. In Waithe’s acceptance speech, she said:
I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different – those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.
Waithe’s words are both true and a rarity in today’s world, which generally pays lip service to LGBTQ+ solidarity but hardly ever celebrates the stories of actual (non-white and non-male) queer people. The idea of LGBTQ+ people being superheroes in their own right, not in spite of but because of the parts of themselves that mainstream society often doesn’t accept, is something that many queer youth need to hear and which many superhero stories need to understand.
Many superhero stories will rely on faulty allegories for the LGBTQ+ experience, like the X-Men hiding their abilities from their parents, despite the fact that queer people are not inherently dangerous. These stories often have little to no actual representation, and they almost never show the LGBTQ+ experience in an authentic, realistic light. Fortunately, the world of publishing is slowly pushing itself towards diversity, and one of the fruits of this labor is the 2017 novel Dreadnought by April Daniels. As a superhero story about a transgender protagonist written by a transgender author, it’s every bit as real as Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” and is a beautifully written novel that shows how a superhero story can be more than just another coming-of-age tale.
Minor spoilers for Dreadnought and trigger warning for transphobia/internalized transphobia after the jump.
Have you ever wondered exactly what’s going on inside your friends’ heads? Of course you have. Have you ever wanted to take a surreal and frightening journey inside the physical manifestation of your friends’ thoughts, feelings, and worries? Maybe? No? Well, in these two series, you can!
Fiction provides us with a unique opportunity to see into the minds of others, in that we get to live out other people’s stories and lives and see the world through their point of view for a time. Fantasy and sci-fi elements that allow us to literally see into and interact with the minds of characters, such as the dream-diving in Paprika and Inception, take this a step further. Through literally venturing into a physical manifestation of another character’s mind, you can learn a lot about them that they may not show you on the surface, such as hidden insecurities and secret memories. And sure, as a writer you could get the same information across in a dream sequence that lets the audience see inside that character’s mind for a scene, but the act of physically entering someone else’s mental landscape is what I want to talk about today. It lets the other characters, rather than solely the audience, learn what’s going on in the subject character’s head, and does so in a way that also moves the plot forward and provides a physical adventure at the same time.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers are two series that, via magic, give their characters the opportunity to explore their co-cast members’ inner worlds, sending them all down a proverbial rabbit hole into surreal, symbolism-heavy, and often frightening landscapes that teach them (and the audience) something about their peers that they couldn’t have known before. The two series use a lot of the same tools, artistically speaking, but the consequences and emotional outcome of their heroes’ journeys into each other’s mindscapes is very different in each case. Heavy spoilers for both shows beyond the jump!