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Posted by John Scalzi

Not just a parking lot, a parking structure. An auspicious way to finish up this tour’s series of Views from a Hotel Window.

I’m in Southfield, Michigan, at the Penguicon convention. Tomorrow I sign books, do my final reading of the tour, and participate on panels. If you’re in the area and have a hankering for a nifty science fiction convention, come on down (Bonus: Cory Doctorow, with whom I just did several really excellent tour stops, is the Guest of Honor).

And after Penguicon? Why, I go home! Finally! Yay!

(no subject)

Apr. 28th, 2017 12:23 pm
[personal profile] martianmooncrab
Plans, once formulated, are then subject to reality.

Before I even took my meds and got dressed, I got a text from the Niece in Law. Her car had a flat tire, and they needed to replace said tire, but its another one of the speshul snowflake tires that have to come from California in the near future, and could I pretty please loan them the Focus for her to get around in until then? I said yes, because they are family that I like.. grin... and then I called the sister to see about getting a ride back to my place after dropping off the car. Turns out her mother had to have assistance today (its really TMI to explain) and she was going to be on her way there soon, and my plan to drop the car off in the evening went to ... NOW.

Of course I had to empty all the crap from the Focus into the Van, and then took the car over to the kids house. While waiting for the sister to show up, I got my coupons for the hanging baskets I had bought from the school fundraiser. They were now live, and with the forecast for a great weekend, I needed to get there then to get any selection of color of the flowers. I didnt want to be left with pink and yellow.

So, I didnt have a chance to empty the Van out, but I did get two purple flower baskets, and some *friends* as it were of other planty things, made a quick stop at Gardeners Choice and got my 10 minutes before they closed there. I found a couple of things I had lusted over at Portland Nursery at half the price, and came home exhausted but happy.

I called and talked to Ru last night for a couple of hours, she is feeling the constraints of her life at the moment, but, I am hoping to get down to see her in the next week.

Today, work outside, I have to get things planted and cleaned up, I have to get the Van cleared out and the stuff for saturdays ecycle and recycle.

Or at least try.

Offered without comment

Apr. 28th, 2017 12:21 pm
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (la!)
[personal profile] larryhammer
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall.
I've tried, but I can't scrape her off at all.
—Richard Armour
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Posted by A.J. Hartley

One of the final panels of the Bayeux tapestry depicts a man scaling the roof of a large church clutching a weathervane. The church may be the first incarnation of Westminster Abbey in London, and the man shown is someone once called a “steeple climber.” Such people worked to build, clean, and maintain tall structures; as their name suggests, the original work in medieval Britain focused largely on the spires and towers of high civic and ecclesiastical buildings. These were the guys who used systems of ladders and ropes to scale those otherwise inaccessible structures to fix up what the regular masons wouldn’t go near. While they may have been employed for long-term work during the construction of a major abbey like Westminster, their work was largely itinerant, and they travelled from town to town repairing church towers and the like, often combining the labor with a sideshow display of aerial acrobatics and feats of daring. It was a dangerous profession, as can easily be imagined when you consider working on a steeple like Saint Walburge, located in my hometown of Preston, which is a dizzying 309 feet high.

Records surviving from the 1760s depict the tools of the steeple-climber in terms that remain unchanged for the next two centuries: the bosun’s chair (a short plank or swath of heavy fabric on which someone might sit suspended), iron “dogs” (hooked spikes that were driven into masonry to anchor ropes or ladders), and staging scaffold. But church spires and clock towers alone wouldn’t provide much employment for steeplejacks. In the nineteenth century their work shifted to the more mundane, less elegant, and far more numerous structures which were sprouting all over England’s northwest: chimneys. The Industrial Revolution brought mills and factories and increasing mechanization, all steam-driven and fuelled by coal and coke, and their chimneys needed constant maintenance. The steeple climber was suddenly in regular demand, and some time around the 1860s they became known by a more-familiar title: steeplejack.

the lost art of the steeplejack A.J. Hartley

A view of the factories of Manchester, circa 1870 (unattributed illustration)

I grew up in Lancashire, the work horse of Britain’s industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, and it was impossible not to know what a steeplejack was, though they had already become rare curiosities. The most famous twentieth century steeplejack, Fred Dibnah, said that from a particular vantage point in his hometown of Bolton—just down the road from my own Preston—he could, as a kid, count 200 towering chimneys over that cluttered industrial landscape. Lancashire was the heart of the British textile industry, and a good deal of those chimneys were attached to spinning and weaving sheds, though that industry had been steadily dying since before World War I. By the time I was born in 1964, many of those chimneys had gone, and those that remained tended to be disused, maintained only to stop them posing a risk to people and property below, and—eventually—subjected to the steeplejack’s special brand of controlled demolition. As the chimneys vanished, so did the steeplejacks, and when the local news featured Dibnah in 1978 during his work on Bolton’s town hall clock tower, he caught the attention of the BBC, who based an award-winning documentary on him the following year. Part of Dibnah’s charm—in addition to his broad Lancashire accent and cheery fearlessness when hundreds of feet aloft—were his old-fashioned methods. He was a throwback, a remnant of a former age and for all its delight in him and his work, the documentary was ultimately elegiac.

the lost art of steeplejacking A.J. Hartley Steeplejack

Cortauld’s textile factory at Red Scar (copyright Longride Archive, used with permission)

I attended a high school in the shadow of Courtauld’s textile factory at Red Scar, a factory boasting a pair of massive cooling towers and two great cannon-like chimneys which stood an astonishing 385 feet tall. They were a landmark for miles around, the first sign on family road trips that you were nearly home, and though they were in many ways an eyesore, I find myself looking for them whenever I returned from my travels. They were demolished in 1983, and not in the old fashioned way Fred Dibnah would have done it. Dibnah would have carved a hole in the bricks at the base of the chimney, supporting the whole with timber struts, then setting a fire which would eventually bring the chimney crashing down—if he had done his job properly and accurately calculated the timing and wind speed—along a precise line, causing minimal damage to surrounding structures. But the Courtauld’s chimney demolition was the end of an era, one which wiped that area of Preston clean of its industrial past, so it was perhaps fitting that even the method used—explosive implosion—should turn its back on traditional methods.

Indeed, the very profession of steeplejacking has almost entirely vanished now. Health and safety regulations allow no place for the Fred Dibnahs of the old world, sitting cheerfully on a plank suspended over a couple of hundred feet of nothing, even if the great factory smokestacks were still there to demand the work. I’m under no illusions about the allure of the Victorian past, built as it was on filthy and brutal working conditions, on empire, and on the exploitation of slavery: It was years before I realized that what we knew as the Great Cotton Famine in Lancashire was known in the United States as the American Civil War! Still, I can’t help but feel a pang of loss for the extraordinary structures which once defined the region I grew up in, and whose loss signaled decades of hardship and high unemployment.

the lost art of steeplejacking A.J. Hartley Steeplejack

Horrocks Mill, Preston (copyright Stephen Melling, used with permission)

I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, now. Though the city has had its share of industrial manufacturing, it was always primarily a trade and finance center, so there’s precious little of the kind of grand Victorian architecture that you still see dotted around northwest England. But if you take the I-277 ring road round the east side of the city heading north and you look directly right as you pass the cement works on the freight line, you can see two brick chimneys, one of which is lit up at night. They are square-sided, more like one of Preston’s last remaining Victorian chimneys attached to the Horrocks textile mill, and nothing like so tall as the Courtaulds stacks which so overshadowed my childhood. But they are good, solid, purposeful chimneys, and the one furthest from the road is distinctive because there is a bush growing out of the very top, an untended weed, left to flourish in the absence of an attentive steeplejack who would have kept the mortar clear and the brickwork pointed. Spotting that defiant shrub on my drive to work is an evocative reminder of the people whose hands once built it and whose labor to maintain it took nerve and skill—work in which, I suspect, they took great pride.

This article was originally published in June 2016.

A.J. Hartley is the bestselling author of a dozen novels including Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows (co-authored with Tom DeLonge) and the YA fantasy adventure Steeplejack and its sequel Firebrand, publishing June 2017 with Tor Teen. As Andrew James Hartley, he is also UNC Charlotte’s Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare, specializing in performance theory and practice, and is the author of various scholarly books and articles from the world’s best academic publishers including Palgrave and Cambridge University Press. He is an honorary fellow of the University of Central Lancashire, UK.

how we choose what we read

Apr. 28th, 2017 03:04 pm
bluegreen17: (Snoopy Reads)
[personal profile] bluegreen17 posting in [community profile] bitesizedreading
 this is a snippet of a comment i just wrote and i thought it might be a good question/topic for this comm.

 a lot of the time i choose my reading...especially fiction...by how much i like the writing regardless of topic,pretty much. i don't know what that says about me or if other folks do that.

for instance,years ago i read a bunch of books about planes and aviation because i liked richard bach's writing. recently,i read 'reamde' by neal stephenson,which i would say is an action/thriller,even though that's not usually my favorite type of book,because i love how neal stephenson writes.
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Posted by Charline Jao

If you needed more reasons to love John Boyega, he went on The Graham Norton Show to talk about Star Wars, Woyzeck, and the interesting purchases he’s made with that Star Wars money.

We begin in the bedroom, where Boyega has lion sculptures at the foot of his bed. He loves lions (but let’s not use the term “spirit animal” here) and they guard him when he sleeps. That’s a pretty nice and not-too-out-there decoration, but it starts to get weirder as Norton puts up a photo of the actor’s saxophone lamp. “That was glorified nonsense, I can’t lie to you,” he says, on discovering it in Australia, “something in my brain said, buy.” Even though Boyega points out it’s “environmentally friendly,” Norton’s right that it’s not a particularly pretty light bulb. Turns out Boyega has the same amount of self-restraint as your aunt at the flea market.

“I’m just a fan of weird things,” he tells the host, “I told you I’m 73 deep down.” Then we get to the Spartan helmet in his living room put on top of a column display (purchased separately) and to complete this anachronistic interior design, a knight in the bathroom ready to hand you toilet paper for your bathroom needs. His home is almost like a theme park! Boyega’s love and enthusiasm for everything nerdy and silly is one of his most endearing qualities. It’s cool to see that reflected in his living space/museum of oddities.

The Youtube account shared another clip from his Graham Norton appearance that I find difficult to watch because apparently John Boyega was looking for love in New York? Here he is talking about dating and awkwardly stumbling on a huge billboard with his name on it.

(Image: screencap)

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Smug Is The New Black

Apr. 28th, 2017 07:00 pm
[syndicated profile] notalwaysright_feed

Posted by Not Always Right

Office Supply Store | CO, USA

(I am a cashier at my store. I come in for my shift to relieve my coworker who is helping a customer trying to find the right ink cartridge and exchange it with the one on the counter. I am there for most of their conversation.)

Customer: “I need another black. This one doesn’t fit.”

Coworker: “I see. It’s a 564 and that kind of ink can belong to printers with five cartridges or four. If this black doesn’t fit you probably need the photo—”

Customer: “No, no! I need black! Not that one.”

Coworker: “This is a black. It’s the fifth cartridge in the printer. Photo black; it’s different than the one you brought in.”

Customer: “I’m not going to sit here and argue with you when you’re wrong.”

(With that she storms out of the store only for her husband to return about twenty minutes later after my coworker has left for the day.)

Customer’s Husband: *placing the same cartridge the woman had brought on the counter* “My wife said someone told her this was the right cartridge, and it’s not. We need this one.”

(He placed an empty photo black cartridge on the counter, the same kind of cartridge my coworker had been trying to help the woman find earlier.)

Me: *biting my tongue from telling him the truth* “All right, let’s get that exchanged out for you.”

Customer’s Husband: “You should really know your products better.”

Me: “We do our best. It is a very big store, sir.”

Customer’s Husband: “Clearly not hard enough.”

(And with that he left. I sure hope he felt like he’d won, because his wife certainly didn’t get to feel that way.)

The post Smug Is The New Black appeared first on Funny & Stupid Customer Stories - Not Always Right.

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Posted by Laura M. Hughes

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been some massive buzz about this bloke called Brian Staveley since the release of his debut, The Emperor’s Blades, in 2014. If you’re already a die-hard fan, it goes without saying that you’ll devour Skullsworn in mere days. If you’re anything like me—i.e. liked but didn’t love Staveley’s debut—then I can wholeheartedly recommend Skullsworn as the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with his work.

Set in the same secondary world as The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne yet featuring an entirely new cast, Skullsworn is a win/win for fans, doubters, holdouts, and newbies alike; as a standalone, it’s an ideal entry point to Staveley’s work. Furthermore, the focused first-person POV makes for a much more intimate and sympathetic reader/protagonist relationship than the multiple characters of the Unhewn Throne allowed. I’d even venture so far as to say that readers who found themselves frustrated with aspects of Staveley’s earlier series will be pleased to learn that Pyrre, the protagonist, is everything that Adare was not.

Skullsworn introduces Pyrre with a framing narrative, which takes the form of a letter. In this letter, the reader is immediately brought up to speed on the titular Skullsworn by way of introducing, then dispelling, some of the outrageous myths that surround them:

I don’t swear on skulls, not on them, not to them, not around them. I haven’t seen a skull for years, in fact. A bit of blood-smeared bone through a torn-open scalp, perhaps, but an actual skull, wide-eyed and jawless? What in the god’s name would I be doing with a skull?

Not only is this a clever means for the author to avoid infodumps and clunky exposition, it also gives us an idea of exactly who our narrator is.

I have never fucked a dead person. I’m not sure who’s going around sizing up the erections of the hanged, but I can promise you, it’s not me. Most men are confused enough in bed already without the added disadvantage of death to slow them down.

Staveley really nails these opening pages. Pyrre’s voice is frank, humorous, and absolutely unafraid; though readers should be aware that past-Pyrre (i.e. the narrator of the main part of the story) is slightly more serious than the almost irreverent Pyrre who directly addresses her audience at beginning and end. Naturally this means that the tone is slightly different, but it is no less engaging—particularly since the main narrative has a small supporting cast who play off each other wonderfully.

I leaned over the table. “Insurrection.”

Ela blinked. “Is that a sexual position?”

“It is the cliff on the edge of which Dombâng has been teetering for decades.”

“Teetering. How tedious.”

“It will be a lot less tedious after we give it a shove.”

“We?” Ela cocked her head to the side. “I came for the dresses and the dancing, remember?”

“You can wear a nice dress to the revolution.”

“Any excuse for a party.”

 After just a few pages, I was damn sure that Ela’s persona—which initially put me in mind of Isabela, the pirate from Dragon Age II—would soon drive me up the wall. However, her interactions with Pyrre (and just about everyone else) are never less than charming; they are, in fact, some of the most entertaining parts of the story.

Ela cocked her head to the side. “I’m a little unclear on the details. Were we supposed to massacre everyone last night? Because if that was the plan, I would have done less dancing and had less sex.”

It quickly becomes clear that Ela exaggerates her deceptively shallow, Daisy Buchanan-esque exterior in order to mask deadly skills and resourcefulness that would put Black Widow and Lara Croft both to shame. In short, Ela is a perfect counterpoint to Pyrre’s seriousness, and provides levity amidst Pyrre’s single-minded focus on her trial.

Pyrre’s other companions are an equally effective study in contrasts, with Kossal’s age and taciturnity making him a perfect partner for a double-act with Ela. Though the reader at times shares Pyrre’s frustration with this seemingly unhelpful pair of Witnesses, we’re also able to appreciate the variety in characterization and temperament created by Ela’s light-heartedness and Kossal’s brusqueness. Similarly, we can see what Pyrre can’t: that Pyrre is fooling herself by projecting false emotions onto Commander Ruc Lan Lac in a desperate attempt to fulfil the conditions of her trial. This makes the reader feel like part of the group but also outside it—which gives us a separate (and somewhat smug) perspective on events as they unfold.

Skullsworn’s protagonists are excellent. Everyone knows, though, that all heroes need a villain: without Voldemort, there’d be no Harry Potter; without Sauron, we would never have had Frodo. There can be no Light without Dark; heroes need an Enemy, an opposite number, an antithesis, one that poses unique challenges and— most importantly—forces them to confront their inner demons along the way to the final showdown. There must also be a journey, physical as well as personal: Frodo to Mordor, Harry to and through Hogwarts, Pyrre to Dombâng. What makes Skullsworn special is that Pyrre’s antagonist is the city of Dombâng.

As entropic as it is dangerous, Dombâng is Pyrre’s childhood home. Lethal fauna and shady cults aside, her memories of the place are, by far, the thing she fears the most. The claustrophobic sense that the setting itself is a near-sentient threat lends a thrilling undercurrent of menace to events, especially given that the reader experiences them through Pyrre’s limited perspective. Our protagonist’s childhood home is wild—brutal, even; the city proper as much as the swampy delta itself.

As far as I’m concerned, Skullsworn’s setting is the real show-stealer here. The vivid sensory imagery used to describe Pyrre’s ordeals in the delta makes me long for an entire trilogy set in gorgeous, deadly Dombâng. Sure, it’s filled with the stuff of nightmares, but who doesn’t find that sort of thing morbidly fascinating? I’m reminded of an article I read last year (Creatures of the Deep: Why I’m Addicted to My Biggest Fear,” by Nate Crowley, here on Tor.com) in that this weird allure is the same reason I’m drawn to watching documentaries about spider bites or vampire bats; the same reason, moreover, that my favourite parts of Marc Turner’s and Scott Lynch’s novels are the bits that feature sea monsters and underwater boneyards, bottomless trenches and people getting eaten by sharks. This type of fascination is the reason why the Dombâng delta kept me reading Skullsworn each night, long after I should have been asleep.

Setting, tone, atmosphere, voice—there are so many aspects of Skullsworn that leap out, so many breathtaking descriptions and new ideas that allowed this book to surprise and excite me in a way The Emperor’s Blades never quite could. Staveley’s narrative voice feels more confident, more assured; he ventures into new depths of storytelling, pulling forth moments of wit and observation that Mark Lawrence would be proud to have written (in fact, Pyrre would fit right in at Red Sister’s Convent of Sweet Mercy!)

Truth is like a snake. If you’re vigilant, you can keep it caged. If you’re brave, you can set it free. Only an idiot, however, lets half of it out hoping to keep the rest penned in.

Finally,I should note that Staveley manages to pull off an unpredictable ending (astonishing, considering that the entire book seems to be building to a very limited set of potential conclusions), one which caught me off guard with its unexpected poignancy.

All that’s left to say—apart from “Ananshael guide your steps to the nearest bookstore to BUY THIS BOOK”—is “never them.”

While this may not mean much if you haven’t read the book yet, I promise that it will not fail to resonate with you once you’ve become immersed in the tale:

Never them.

Skullsworn is available from Tor Books.
Read en excerpt from the novel here on Tor.com.

Laura M. Hughes is Fantasy-Faction’s assistant editor. She lives with her husband and three cats beneath the grey, pigeon-filled skies of Rochdale, northern England. When she isn’t absorbed in playing Dragon Age or working on her first novel, you’re most likely to find her trying to convince unsuspecting bystanders to read The Malazan Book of the Fallen. She encourages like-minded folk to seek her out on Twitter @halfstrungharp, and to maybe have a gander at her horror-fantasy novelette, Danse Macabre, on Amazon.

(no subject)

Apr. 28th, 2017 07:40 pm
beccaelizabeth: my Watcher tattoo in blue, plus Be in red Buffy style font (Default)
[personal profile] beccaelizabeth
I still don't see what having more seats in the uk will do for the brexit negotiations

I mean, they're negotiations with the neighbours, who don't really care if we're having an argument in here.

It's like if the neighbour asks for their lawnmower back and you say all your kids like it being here. It doesn't seem especially relevant.

but I kind of think we're screwed with brexit, because I reckon now all the deciding power goes with the people we're telling go away.

we're irrelevant. why should they care if we leave? they'll just say bye bye and go chat among themselves.

politics is weird. everyone has a different reality overlay. and you find out which one was truest a generation later when the historians get through with the data, but you live with the fallout minute to minute.

... fallout is back to being an immediate sort of scary
... i like hiding under my blanket, but it seems insufficient to current difficulty

[libations, MA] We have a meadery?!

Apr. 28th, 2017 02:39 pm
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
[Content Advisory: Contains booze]

I just discovered, compliments of Groupon, the existence of the 1634 Meadery, up in Ipswich. How did I not know about this? Did you know about this? How long has this been there? Is this somebody I know? Has anybody tried any of their stock? Is it any good? Is it any good by Scadian standards?

This is less exciting to me now than it would have been 20 years ago, but, still, I'm amused and hopes it turns out to be a viable source. It would be nice to acquire a bottle when I felt like it, and without all the washing of glassware and standing over a hot stove and multi-month wait, so say nothing of the crying expense of honey these days. I wish them success.

In any event, Groupon has a deal on tours which includes a tasting.

ETA: And they have six varieties on the shelves of my preferred liquor store! I shall launch an expedition forthwith.
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Posted by Vivian Kane

Wonder Woman

We’ve got just over a month before Wonder Woman hits theaters. By this time in a mega-blockbuster superhero movie’s gestation cycle, potential audiences have long been drowning in promotional campaigns. Do you remember how much advertising you’d seen for Suicide Squad the six months or more leading up to its release? How many stories about Jared Leto’s *crazy* onset behavior you’d heard? (And don’t be fooled, that sort of attention, those stories ending up in online outlets, magazines, and TV interviews, is advertising, orchestrated by Warner Bros.) How many magazine covers, cute Omaze contest videos, and late-night interviews you’d seen Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck do leading up to Batman v. Superman? Marketing is s huge part of the movie process. So where is the marketing for Wonder Woman?

I have to admit, I hadn’t even noticed the lack of advertising until Shana O’Neil over at Syfy Wire pointed it out earlier this week. At which point I, along with a whole bunch of other internet dwellers, immediately realized the giant gaping void where all the fast food commercials and TV spots should be. If you’ve been feeling like you’re just not seeing that much Gal Gadot, it’s not in your head. Take a look at Warner Bros’ YouTube channel. The Batman v Superman page has 30 videos, about half of which had come out before the end of the month prior to its release. Nearly two months before Suicide Squad’s release, it already had four different official TV spots.

A month out from its release, Wonder Woman has five videos on its YouTube channel. Two of those are trailers from last year, and two are Google VR videos for the artwork. Gal Gadot is on the cover of Empire Magazine this month in full Wonder Woman garb, and W magazine in regular fashion form. I feel like I’ve seen more Wonder Woman lately in promos for Justice League than for her own movie, despite coming out more than six months later. Set visits are a huge push for coverage from major outlets, where writers are invited to visit the film set and meet the cast and crew, then report to their readers how cool everything was. So why did Justice League have their set visit more than six months before WW’s, giving it that much more time to foster the hype these movies need to exist on the scale they create for themselves?

Because while many of us who live on the internet probably get tired of the deluge of advertising, it is necessary to foster the excitement that builds for this kind of movie long before it’s release. The studios spend many millions of dollars making sure anticipation is high because it works. Advertising brings in audiences. (I mean, it sure as hell wasn’t word of mouth that allowed Batman v. Superman to turn a profit.)

So why isn’t Warner Bros. investing in their own movie? Do they think putting Wonder Woman front and center in Justice League promos will kill two birds with one stone? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the movies come out so far apart. So what could it be?

More likely: The studio just doesn’t know how to market this movie. This movie, which stars a female protagonist, but isn’t a typical female-oriented property, as they’ve become used to viewing them. Of course, as we all know, this very much is a movie women are clamoring to see, but studios tend to get stuck in the mindset of equating men with superheroes and women with romance. For an industry so fearful to exist outside of binaries, a female hero with the potential to appeal to a bunch of different demographics equally is bound to confuse them.

This lapse in promotion for the film itself seems deeply tied to the very public issues studios, manufacturers, and companies like Target and Toys R Us have been having with the way they’ve marketed merchandise for these types of movies. From #WheresRey, to the lack of Black Widow toys, to Princess Leia being swapped out of her own screengrabs for t-shirt sales, there’s an all-encompassing belief that 1) women and girls aren’t a strong enough demographic to be marketed to when it comes to action/sci-fi/general geek properties, and 2) men and boys won’t spend their money on toys/shirts/movie tickets on properties featuring female characters.

You would think the wild success of The Force Awakens would have disproved this idea. (Remember when, among so many other examples, we learned Hasbro hadn’t included a Rey piece in their TFA Monopoly game because they didn’t think it would sell, and we all responded with an overwhelming WTF, Hasbro, leading them to change their narrow minds on that?) But these companies have a lifetime of precedent in trusting the bankability of male-led films and merch. If we’re being generous, I suppose we can understand that the recent trend of successful woman-led franchises needs time to soothe their skittish marketing minds.

Or, on the other hand, we’re under no obligation to be generous or understanding. We can continue to call out the insulting, damaging marginalization of the female demographic, and demand immediate change. Because you know what? I want to be drowned in Wonder Woman marketing, and I want a Black Widow movie, and I want Rey’s face on every t-shirt I own.

Hasbro, Target, and the Disney Store have all either dabbled in or committed to doing away with categories based on gender, and that’s working out supremely well for them financially. Can we please just all agree to accept that women make money, spend money, and deserve representation in the entertainment they watch?

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Posted by Charline Jao


I completely understand if you shut it out of your brain and erased the memory, but Netflix released a trailer not too long ago of their Death Note adaptation. The trailer was troubling for a numbers of reason, and not just because the manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata came out over a decade ago and most original fans have kind of grown out of that phase.

What was most puzzling about the adaptation, which again feels completely unnecessary considering there have been several movies, a television series, and a Korean musicalwas the fact that this adaptation took place in Seattle and cast Nat Wolff as Light Yagami–or rather, Light Turner. The rest of the cast includes Mia Sutton, Lakeith Stanfield, Paul Nakauchi, Shea Whigham, Willem Dafoe, and Masi Oka. With the Ghost in the Shell whitewashing still fresh and in the news, the Death Note adaptation dealt with similar accusations of white-washing and erasing Asians from their own stories.

Producer Roy Lee was surprised to see the backlash against Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note, which I can understand to some extent. He’s spent a great deal of his career on U.S. remakes of Asian films, many of which had little to no backlash. In fact, The Ring, The Grudge, and The Departed were all pretty well-received and left huge pop-culture footprints. “I’ve been involved in many adaptations of content from all over the world, and this is the first time that I’ve been seeing negative press,” he says. “I can understand the criticism … if our version of Death Note was set in Japan and [featured] characters that were Japanese-named or of Japanese ancestry.” Yeah, Death Note didn’t put any of their character in yellow-face, but they did that by writing the Asian out of these character. With Asian-American having so few roles in the first place, this is a pretty unsatisfactory answer.

Lee goes on to call the film “an interpretation of that story in a different culture” made to “make it more appealing to the US or to the English-language market.” While I don’t think it’s an inherently terrible thing to put a story in a different context, the thing is Death Note was already plenty popular among the English-language market. Books sold incredibly well, to the point that schools started getting worried and trying to ban it. It didn’t need to be made “more appealing.” However, an incredibly troubling matter he doesn’t address in his defense, is the idea of transporting the story into United States culture.

Death Note is about a young, model student who gets his hands on a Death God’s notebook, allowing him to kill anyone so long as he knows their name and face. Light, who feels like he’s doing good for the world by murdering criminals, becomes tangled in keeping his identity secret and eventually becomes a power-hungry villain with a god complex. Embedded into this story is the harshness of public attitude towards crime in Japan, along with how their low crime rate and high conviction rate is often attributed to both a strong law-abiding culture and a critique of law enforcement’s tendency to refuse cases unless there are strong chances of conviction. It’s clumsy at times and reaches ridiculous levels of exploring moral judgement, but it’s a distinctly Japanese story in many ways.

Think a bit about how the story of a white man with a god complex who takes it upon himself to kill criminals in the United States sounds. Think about how the language of “cleansing the world” of evil sounds coming from someone that looks like Nat Wolff. Think about how this is nothing revolutionary, or subversive. On the specific point of whitewashing, Lee isn’t happy about the label, asserting “one of them is Asian, one’s African-American, and three are Caucasian. Saying ‘whitewashing’ is also somewhat offensive,” he added, “one of our three leads is African-American.” He’s referring to Keith Stanfield, who plays the detective L, a brilliant eccentric character who tries to find the cause of the mysterious deaths. Spoilers for this decade old series–Wolff’s Light is going to kill a black man with his Death Note with almost no immediate consequences because he gets in the way of his killing. This isn’t just completely tone-deaf as an adaptation, it’s dangerous.

“People can criticize it, but I’d say that they should see the movie first,” Lee says. “Then they could accuse us of not having a diverse enough cast … just judge the movie after it comes out.” Diversity is only one of many issues with Netflix’s Death Note, but again, as we saw with Iron Fist, if you fail to promote or sell or product properly, it’s not on us to give our business anyway. Go watch one of the many other adaptations instead. Better yet, go read Bakuman it’s way better.

(via Buzzfeed, Image: Netflix)

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Posted by Jessica Mason


It’s happened. The writers behind your favorite shows and movies have voted to authorize a strike. As you may recall from our coverage last week, this vote comes after negotiation for a new ten year contract between the Writers Guild of America and The Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers broke down. The parties left the table last week and returned yesterday, only now the WGA has a huge piece of leverage in their pocket. If a new contract isn’t settled on by midnight on May 1st, a strike will begin the next day.

Writers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike, with 96.3% saying yes to authorization. This is an even stronger majority than voted in favor of the 2007-8 strike (which was authorized by 90.3%), and the participation, with 67.5% of eligible writers voting, was higher as well. Considering the importance of the issues writers are fighting on, the yes vote—and its strength—did not come as a surprise. Writers and supporters have been vocal on Twitter and other social media in support of the authorization, mainly because the seriousness of the economic issues many writers are facing.

Before you go thinking that this is a case of Hollywood elites asking for money to afford two Teslas instead of one, it’s important to remember that the key numbers for the WGA are in how average writer incomes have decreased substantially in recent years, while studio profits have skyrocketed. Writers are looking for parity between network jobs and cable/streaming pay, as well as increased fees for screenwriters, health plan contributions and changes to contracts that prevent writers from working when seasons end, among other issues.

As negotiations restart, the prospects of reaching a deal are daunting. At last check, the WGA was asking for concessions in the ballpark of $535 million, while the studios were closer to $180 million. That seems huge, but the numbers should be viewed in proportion to the $51 billion or so that the studios took in last year. Still, both the AMPTA and the WGA are adamant that no one wants a strike to happen. Given that a strike will effectively place all of Hollywood on hold, they’re not wrong to want to avoid it. The last writer’s strike ended up costing the economy over a billion dollars and the lost earnings were felt not just by writers, but everyone down the line.

The timing of this strike is different than in 2007-8. That strike hit in November and went on for 100 days. That meant it cut right into the middle of many shows seasons and stopped work on shows that already had scripts and episodes backlogged, so audiences did not see the effects immediately. In terms of feature films, the delays were easier to absorb, but still had some effect. The immediate hit was in late night comedy and other week-to-week or day-to-day shows that shut down.

This time, things are different. We’re at the very beginning of the 2017-18 season, with most network writers’ rooms poised to start work on their fall seasons in the next few weeks. If a strike happens, networks may have to delay production and thus delay the start of the whole fall season. If things get fixed quickly, shows may rush their post-production timelines, resulting in some very long hours for the often-forgotten editors, VFX artists and crews whose work is essential but rarely noticed. And who knows what that will do to the product we see on screen.

However, those same people, as well as actors, crews and, well, everyone, will also be on hold if the strike goes through. A big issue for writers is pay on cable and streaming, which don’t follow the same schedule as the network shows. Those productions will deal with things differently. Also, if a strike happens, it’s nearly assured that those shows that are “on the bubble” for renewal will see that bubble pop, along with any potential new seasons that could have been ordered if not for the strike.

These are the considerations that the WGA took into account during their vote, and they still came back with a yes. They wanted to empower their negotiators to get the best deal possible so that writers can afford to keep working and telling the stories that keep us engaged. For now, negotiations resume and Hollywood—along with audiences—await with bated breath.

(image: Shutterstock)

Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon passionate about corgis, fandom, and awesome girls.  Follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.

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