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the real kwon
16 October 2016 @ 09:15 pm
As you may remember, Crosstalk was announced, my general impression was that it was basically going to be a Bellwether rewrite except instead of spending the book shouting at clouds about fads, Connie Willis was going to spend the book shouting at clouds about modern technology.

As it happens, I was both very right and very wrong. While both Bellwether and Crosstalk feature a romance between the only two people who are somehow immune to The Shallowness of Modern Existence set against a cast of thousands of sheeple obsessed with the latest gossip/fad, it turns out Bellwether remains a much better book than Crosstalk!

Crosstalk stars Briddey Flanagan, who works at a cell phone company. What does Briddey do at the cell phone company? I have NO IDEA, because we never see her doing any part of her actual job, or in fact doing anything at the office except flee from gossipy coworkers who want to talk about her office romance with [obviously evil] dreamy executive Trent, because everyone in Briddey's office -- and, indeed, perhaps everyone in this book -- walked out of a 1960's Doris Day film.

Briddey has no friends, but she does have several family members, each of whom has two character traits:

Briddey's Aunt Oona is very, very Irish
Briddey's sister Mary Clare is a helicopter parent to her nine-year-old niece, Maeve
Briddey's other sister Kathleen has bad taste in boyfriends

You may have noticed this is only a single character trait per person. The other character trait, which they all share, is that they have no boundaries and all seem very invested in and concerned about Briddey, who literally never has a conversation with any of these people in which she is not attempting to hide from them, flee from them, or get them to stop talking to her, usually by lying to them profusely.

You might think the moral of the story would be that Briddey and her family need to learn to set some boundaries, communicate honestly, and break the cycle of increasingly complex lies! About this, you would be very, very wrong.

The plot kicks off -- after several chapters illustrating how Briddey's cell phone is a terrible trial to her because her family keeps trying to CALL her on it or TEXT her on it, GOD, why will nobody leave her ALONE, clearly the problem is the technology and not, you know, the fact that Briddey doesn't know how to set boundaries and instead is engaged in a constant web of deceit and lies with everyone she knows and theoretically loves! -- when Briddey and her boyfriend [obviously evil] Dreamy Executive Trent decide to get the latest in relationship goals, a procedure that allows them to sense each other's emotions.

RANDOM FICTIONAL OFFICEWORKER: Brad and Angelina just had one of those procedures!
(CONNIE WILLIS: Look at my cool modern references! Just let anybody say that my books are out of date now --
BRAD AND ANGELINA: We're breaking up literally two weeks before this book is published.
CONNIE WILLIS: God fucking damn it!)

Alas, the nonsense science of the procedure somehow goes nonsense science wrong, and instead of sensing her boyfriend's emotions, she gains an instant telepathic connection with C.B., the genius curmudgeon with messy hair and poor hygiene who has a mad scientist workshop in the company basement and thinks communication is awful.

BRIDDEY: Oh man, the procedure's gone wrong and a dude I don't much like can now read my mind, I should tell someone --
C.B.: YOU CANNOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS, EVER. Instead, how about you concoct a series of increasingly-elaborate lies to tell everyone you know and love!
BRIDDEY: Um OK but I would very much like to tell a DOCTOR and figure out a way to reverse this because I feel KIND OF LIKE MY PRIVACY IS BEING INVADED HERE, please leave me alone and don't talk to me --
C.B.: You definitely cannot tell a medical professional about this! Everyone outside of the two of us needs to think that everything is fine!
BRIDDEY: OK, I won't tell anyone, but let me repeat once more: please leave me alone and don't talk to me or listen to my thoughts!
C.B.: I've been listening to your thoughts and I can tell you're in trouble, I'm here to pick you up from the hospital and drive you home! Want to tell me your address? LOL though I mean I already know it, you can have no secrets from me!

Yeah, this is kind of nightmare territory. For the next several chapters, Briddey freaks out while C.B. consistently refuses to stop invading her mental privacy, warns her that she can under no circumstances tell anybody else the truth about anything in her life or the fact that she is in distress, literally feeds her lies to tell to her family and boyfriend, shows up frequently to rescue her despite being explicitly asked not to do so, and, to add insult to injury, constantly mansplains random facts to her about telepathy.

C.B., of course, is the romantic hero and the book goes on to justify everything he does in every respect. The more the book went on, the more I missed Bennett from Bellwether. He had no particular personality that I can recall except being mysteriously immune to fads, but at least he seemed like a pleasant human being and I expect he understood the general meaning of the word 'no.'

Spoilers under the cutCollapse )

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the real kwon
15 October 2016 @ 09:25 am
As previously mentioned, I have been rereading Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January books. I have not yet quite reached the point where I run out of 'reread' and just hit 'read' -- there were nine published books when I first read the series in 2010, and now there are fourteen -- but I am halfway through, so it's probably a decent time to stop and take stock.

For the unfamiliar, the titular Benjamin January is a free black pianist/music teacher/surgeon who also finds himself frequently fighting crime in 1830s New Orleans. In the long-form hypothetical HBO television series of my heart, he is played by a slightly-older Okierete Onaodawan, who has proven through his pitch-perfect rendition of both Hercules Mulligan and James Madison that he can do all the instantaneous code-switching that Benjamin January requires to survive and walk the lines between the world of the wealthy free colored inhabited by his mother and sister, and the slave quarters where he is frequently required to go undercover for crime-fighting purposes.

...and it looks like I outlined the other major characters on here back in 2010, so I'm just going to link to that instead of doing it all again.

Books I have read to date under the cutCollapse )

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the real kwon
13 October 2016 @ 09:12 pm
I have read some great sequels this sequel season, but I think my actual favorite sequel so far is the sequel to Erin Bow's The Scorpion Rules, The Swan Riders. In fact it is probably one of my favorite books this year.

The titular Swan Riders are an army of UN-aid-bringers/hostage-executioners/convenient-bodies-for-possession at the service of Talis, the five-hundred-year-old manic artificial intelligence who keeps peace on earth through the use of hostage children and the occasional missile strike. In this book, our heroine Princess Greta of the Pan-Polar Alliance ends up on a wacky road trip with Talis and several Swan Riders. It's a fun time!

The Scorpion Rules is a YA dystopia -- it hits all the beats, and then it goes on to subvert most of them in a way I really enjoy, but, I mean, it's still got the shape of it. It's poured into that structural mold.

The Swan Riders launches off of The Scorpion Rules, but it is definitely not Book Two of a YA dystopia trilogy. In no way is it poured into that mold at all. Like, there is a resistance and our heroine has been adopted as a figurehead, but that's not really what Erin Bow cares about, Erin Bow is BUSY focusing on complex negotiations of humanity and artificial intelligence and sacrifice and loss of self and she just does not have TIME to conform to the standard story beats of a YA dystopia while she's at it.

(As I said on Twitter: people becoming AI! AI becoming human! IT'S A ROBOT BAR MITZVAH.

...it's not actually a robot bar mitzvah, but there is at one point a thematically significant party with cake, plus a number of angry robots in tiny boxes, SO.)

I would put The Swan Riders next to the Ancillary Justice series on my bookshelf if I was sorting my books thematically (which I don't in reality, but enjoy as a thought exercise). It's not that they're all that similar, as far as actual reading experience goes, but I would bet money that both Erin Bow and Ann Leckie read the Ship Who... series in their youth before going on to write something much, much better.

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the real kwon
09 October 2016 @ 07:25 pm
Laurie Marks' Water Logic is not really part of sequel season, seeing as it came out nine years ago, but a.) it was a sequel new to me and b.) now that I have read it, I get to join the rest of the world in waiting for the hypothetical last Elemental Logic book! (Which in theory will be Air Logic, after Fire Logic and Earth Logic.

The structure of this book is in some ways very similar to that of Earth Logic. In the A-plot, Zanja takes a journey that leads to her being considered ambiguously dead by Karis, which will somehow lead to something beneficial because of deus ex elemental logic. In the B-plot, Clement of the Sainnites beats her head against a wall attempting to figure out peaceful solutions to ongoing problems that might not, in fact, have peaceful solutions.

More thoughts, some spoileryCollapse )

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the real kwon
07 October 2016 @ 11:40 pm
Dear Yuletide author,

Thank you so much for signing up to write a gift for me -- I'm so excited to see what you come up with! I have been doing Yuletide for some large number of years now and I have been delighted with my gifts for every single one; if you write something that makes you happy, I guarantee I will be delighted with it also.

As you can probably guess from my letter, stuff that I like includes (but is not limited to) women having character development, women interacting with each other, ensemble stories, sibling dynamics, found families and friendships, and the kind of romance where two flawed and peculiar people figure out how their flaws and peculiarities fit together. I tend to love characters for their weaknesses as much as their strengths, and I love watching weird, complicated, human people grow into better and stronger and healthier people while still being recognizably the same weird, complicated, human people they always were. I am pretty much always down for crossovers! AUs are more hit-or-miss for me, though I can definitely be sold on them as long as the characters are still recognizably themselves.

I would prefer not to see any characters bashed, especially female characters. I don't mind canon-consistent dark themes if it makes sense for the story, but I tend not to be into graphic and gratuitous violence, and a sense of hope is specifically pretty important to me for a lot of the canons I'm requesting this year. I'm cool with sexual content, but I'd rather that wasn't the whole point of the fic.

And now for the requests!Collapse )

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the real kwon
04 October 2016 @ 08:31 pm
I have a vague mission to clean out some of the drawers in my room at my parents' house. I didn't get much time to poke through things this time around, but during a cursory drawer investigation I discovered in my 9th-grade Latin notebook a horrifying treasure trove.

Doodles, circa 2000Collapse )

As a sidenote, I found this gallery of wonders in a drawer that also contained a.) a very argumentative draft of a co-written melodrama about WWII, circa 2002, and b.) four handwritten pages of a fantasy story about four quarreling siblings who gain magical rings, at a guess written approximately circa 1998, which ends abruptly and is followed by an also handwritten poster reading 'END THE DEATH PENALTY' above a drawing of a bloody axe. I forgot to take a photo of that particular masterpiece.

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the real kwon
01 October 2016 @ 10:06 am
I am traveling A LOT this next month and a half, so most of what I am reading is a.) Kindle-enabled and b.) of the generally comforting variety that makes you feel better about life while you're stuck on an airplane and your brain is only half-working.

Barking Up the Right Tree is therefore exactly the kind of thing I want to be reading right now, being a cute contemporary romance novella that centers around:

a.) lots of lovely descriptions of all the beautiful autumn stuff that I'm missing out on this year by being constantly on a plane
b.) lots of lovely descriptions of really delicious-sounding baked goods

Lilly Grant is a good friend, which is an excellent thing for me because I find contemporary romance very hit-or-miss generally and otherwise would probably not have discovered this novella and known that it is exactly what I want to be reading right now! So, I mean, I am deeply biased, but also: it's 100% great. I'm not even a dog person and I'm super charmed by everything that happens; if you ARE a dog person, I'm fairly sure this will be your jam. Also if you are a tech person frustrated by obligatory long hours and the overwhelming presence of tech bros. Or a person who loves delicious baked goods. Or, generally, a person who loves cute tropey rom-coms.

(NB: The novella is not the sexy kind of romance novella, it's very rom-com PG-13 levels, which I mention because I know it will be a bug for some of you and a feature for others!)

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the real kwon
25 September 2016 @ 07:24 pm
More from Sequel Season: The Poisoned Blade is book two of Kate Elliott's Court of Fives, the first book of which has been described by the author as Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior, set in a fantasy society that borrows heavily from Hellenistic Egypt.

In the first book, the mixed-race family of Our Heroine Jes is torn completely apart by a political opportunist who wants her star general father married to his niece, and her inconvenient mother and sisters dead.

On the bright side, all this turmoil ends up giving Jes the opportunity to follow her dream and compete full-time in Hellenistic Egyptian American Ninja Warrior!

Book two features more Hellenistic Egyptian American Ninja Warrior, more sibling issues, and MUCH more complex political conspiracies. (Plus, alas to me, more love triangle.) The plot continues to be rollicking and the political conspiracies are genuinely interesting. Once again, the first half of the book took me a little while to get into before the much more action-packed second half, mostly because of the repeated instances of:

JES: I'm gonna do a thing.
INTELLIGENT ADULT: Here is a concise, reasonable explanation as to why doing the thing will blow up in your face in a way that is actively harmful to you and your family, and therefore you are forbidden to do the thing.
JES: whatever, I am totally smart and clever enough to pull off doing the thing.
INTELLIGENT ADULT: well who could ever have predicted that >:|

This is a very consistent character trait for Jes, but it is also maybe a reason why Jes herself is probably my least favorite of her siblings. (Admittedly, the competition for favorite is between 'the sensible history nerd who wants to be an archivist' and 'the gossipy, socially brilliant secret lesbian.' Sorry, Jes, you never stood a chance.) Also, if Jes had enough sense not to do things that are obviously bad ideas, much of the plot would not occur, and I do like the plot! But I still wish that YA did not insist so very much on first person present tense; I think this is a story that could really benefit from the option to have multiple POVs.

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the real kwon
24 September 2016 @ 01:23 pm
Sequel Season continues with The Obelisk Gate, the follow-up to N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, in which the world ended and everything was terrible but in extremely interesting and engaging ways!

In The Obelisk Gate, the world continues to end, and things continue to be terrible, but there is a glimmer of hope! Essun, Our Heroine, has found a community where people don't want to (immediately) kill her, and within that community is an old friend (who is admittedly dying), and within that old friend is (possibly) the knowledge that might (maybe) save the world from several thousand years of geological winter and the inevitable destruction of humanity, if he can ever manage to impart it in a straight sentence before he turns completely into stone and is consumed by his new stone eater bestie.

In the meantime, Essun's lost eleven-year-old daughter Nassun is off on her own adventures! ... with a dad who killed her little brother and still might do the same to her if he's not convinced that she's 'curable'; a shiny new father figure who has done many terrible things and will most likely do more terrible things and loves Nassun very, very much; and a plot arc that seems likely to place her in direct and potentially world-destroying collision with her mother (who still wants more than anything to find her daughter, despite the fact that Nassun has no interest in having anything further to do with her) in Book Three.

The Fifth Season was a grim book. This book is as dark, or darker. It's engaging very hard with cycles of abuse and the way that oppression facilitates those cycles, both on the overarching and the extremely personal scales. Also, Essun and Nassun between them wipe out at least three ENTIRE CITIES in this book alone. Maybe four? I might be losing count. (And yet still neither of them is actually winning the body count Olympics! Thanks, Alabaster.)

But, you know, as of this book I do not, in fact, actually feel like the entire series is likely to end with rocks falling and everyone dying, which is something! (A rock certainly seems destined to fall and a lot of people will most likely die -- at this point, Essun is going at a steady rate of two cities destroyed per book and I expect that to be maintained at BARE MINIMUM -- but probably not everybody!)

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the real kwon
18 September 2016 @ 06:02 pm
It's sequel season! I am drowning in books I've been looking forward to reading and am now desperately trying to keep up with as they come in for me at the library. Let's start with Four Roads Cross, the Max Gladstone Craft book which I have been waiting for ever since I first read Three Parts Dead, aka THE ONE WITH MORE TARA IN IT.

Three Parts Dead is the first book in the Craft sequence, set in a world in which the economy runs on soul-magic, which results in a great deal of magical lawyering and divine financial negotiation. In that book, neophyte magical lawyer Tara Reynolds assists a city whose God has just died with fulfilling their divine financial obligations and ends up setting a whole number of other balls in motion as a result.

Without too many spoilers, Four Roads Cross picks up several of the spinning balls left at the end of Three Parts Dead and pitches them onwards in a way that was about 90% satisfying to me. I especially liked the thread about the community of people that run the local farmer's market, how all the high-level divine changes in the city look from the ground, and how those people impact the book's eventual conclusion. But also, Tara! And her complicated relationship with theology, and her joy in her own cleverness, and her student loans! This gets more spoileryCollapse )

Anyway, then I reread Three Parts Dead to remind myself of all the things I missed in Four Roads Cross, and it is still probably my favorite of them all, with Last First Snow coming a very close second. But Four Roads Cross is a worthy third and I remain extremely excited for whatever further Craft Sequence adventures there may be!

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the real kwon
14 September 2016 @ 08:26 pm
It is almost this month's book club, which reminds me that I never wrote up last month's book club book, Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven.

The Lathe of Heaven is one of those deceptively short, simple LeGuins that takes a premise and just steadily and relentlessly works its way through it.

In this case, the premise is that when hapless little George Orr goes into REM sleep, his dreams accidentally change the world.

Nobody knows about or remembers any of the previous iterations of reality but George, and George is EXTREMELY STRESSED about all of this. So stressed that the mild dystopia in which he lives eventually mandates that he go to therapy -- where his therapist Dr. Haber becomes the second person to learn about George's abilities, and has the bright idea of combining hypnosis with sleep manipulation to create a perfect (for Dr. Haber) society!

Dr. Haber has probably not read The Monkey's Paw or any of the other various helpful fables about being careful what you wish for, but even if he had read them, he probably wouldn't think they applied to him anwyway.

What follows is an increasingly weird series of dystopias, as George fumbles through an effort to take some sort of responsibility for his unwanted powers by attempting to convince Dr. Haber that he should not be taking responsibility for the whole world, while, around them, any kind of definitive sense of 'reality' starts to fold inward on itself like the end of an Ikuhara series.

The book has three characters -- George, Dr. Haber, and Heather Lalache, George's lawyer and love interest, who in the first half of the book seems like she is going to be a force on the order of the first two and in the second half of the book functions almost entirely as a metaphorical symbol for Why A World In Which Race Does Not Exist Is A Dystopia. (Heather is mixed-race.) This is probably my biggest frustration with the book and the reason I do not wholeheartedly love it, but is also something that I do not think would have happened were this not one of LeGuin's first novels, and written in 1971.

There have been a couple of TV movies made of this book and I haven't seen any of them, but the more I think about it, the more I would love to see a really surreally animated version.

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the real kwon
10 September 2016 @ 12:03 pm
IT ATEN'T DEAD, or, in other words: I have a new chapter of my Jupiter Ascending fic up! A whole ten days before the one-year-since-last-updated mark!

I'M VERY PROUD and I'm sure there are about three of you who are very excited also.

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the real kwon
08 September 2016 @ 06:51 pm
This past weekend, [personal profile] genarti and [personal profile] saramily and I got to talking about the King Arthur police precedural that Fox is allegedly developing. I only mention this because over the course of this conversation we realized that the ONLY modern-King-Arthur television show that Fox should really be developing is a hilarious reincarnation-based office sitcom, and now I can't stop thinking about it, so I am going to tell you all about this imaginary sitcom in EXCRUCIATING DETAIL.

My imaginary workplace sitcom is about a struggling nonprofit organization and is probably written by the people who wrote Parks and Rec and Brooklyn 99. Accordingly, it stars Retta and Melissa Fumero:

as Alice and Pam, OFFICE NEMESIS battling nonprofit burnout! and each other!

....UNTIL, in the first episode, they start having flashbacks and eventually realize: they are the reincarnations of, respectively, King Arthur and Lancelot, they are destined to fight evil while being devoted to each other in an epic and legendary way, and weekly budget meetings just got really weird!

Every episode alternates between flashbacks to Round Table efforts to fight evil, provide justice, build a better and more stable society, etc., and current-day office hijinks as the nonprofit attempts to do the same, but with much more paperwork.

As a sidenote, all the flashbacks initially have placeholder white guy actors doing ye olde British accents and speaking forsoothly, except for the person having the flashback, who plays themselves. Once Alice and Pam recognize each other at the end of the first episode, however, every flashback features Retta and Melissa Fumero talking exactly like they would in the office while wearing shining armor.

The rest of the placeholder actors gradually get replaced by actual cast members as further reincarnation reveals occur, including a lengthy cast listCollapse )

ok so who wants to fund my sitcom now

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the real kwon
06 September 2016 @ 10:20 pm
I have read my first Jennifer Crusie! It's Maybe This Time, which I understood to be a rom-com novel loosely based on Turn of the Screw but which IN FACT, hilariously, turned out instead to be straight-up Turn of the Screw fanfic.

So Our Heroine, Andie, gets tapped by her stressed-out lawyer ex-husband North to go take care of his wards who refuse to leave their creepy and potentially-haunted house.

Andie has a semi-hemi-demi-fiance and ... hypothetically an actual job that she's just quit at a moment's notice? I guess? I'm not sure if it's even mentioned? .... but suspension of disbelief is not relevant here, what's relevant is THESE TERRIBLE CHILDREN NEED AN ADULT WHO LOVES THEM and also maybe ghosts, and two of the maybe ghosts are, spoiler alert, named Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, because this house was literally ported over stone-by-stone from England by an eccentric millionaire SOLELY IN ORDER to allow for hilarious Turn of the Screw fanfic.

Andie bonds rapidly with the terrible children, and is actually pretty OK with handling the maybe ghosts! She is less OK with dealing with the sudden screwball comedy home invasion in the second half of the book, featuring:

- the semi-hemi-demi fiance
- the ex-husband
- Andie's terrifying force-of-nature mother
- the ex-husband's terrifying force-of-nature mother
- the ex-husband's irresponsible baby brother
- the ex-husband's irresponsible baby brother's new unscrupulous reporter girlfriend
- the ex-husband's irresponsible baby brother's new unscrupulous reporter girlfriend's cameraman
- the long-suffering professional ghost debunker hired by the ex-husband's irresponsible baby brother's new unscrupulous reporter girlfriend
- the even more long-suffering medium hired by the ex-husband's irresponsible baby brother's new unscrupulous reporter girlfriend

PLUS the two terrible children! PLUS all the maybe ghosts!

For the most part it is all generally rollicking good times except for one EXTREMELY JARRING thing which is spoiler alert and trigger warningCollapse )

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the real kwon
04 September 2016 @ 08:40 am
I reread Heyer's The Masqueraders recently -- this is the one in which a brother and sister, wanted for participation in the Jacobite rebellion, are instructed by their wacky mastermind father that the only way for them to be safe from the long arm of the law is to cunningly disguise themselves as ... A SISTER AND BROTHER!

No, see, it makes sense because Our Heroine is quite tall, and her brother is quite short, and the police will be looking for a notably short man and a notably tall woman, not a man and woman who are both of approximately ... ordinary....

.... OK it really doesn't make any sense, no sense at all, but it is a lot of fun to read as cross-dressing hijinks go. It is also notable to me because Patience, unlike most cross-dressing heroines, is not a teenaged ingenue with Something to Prove; she's twenty-eight, responsible, sensible, cool-headed, and admired by everyone for the fact that she has clearly inherited every bit of chill that the family possesses. Her love interest is the lofty Sir Anthony Fanshawe, who is huge and slow and sleepy and tremendously respectable until midway through the book when he suddenly gets caught up in all the wacky hijinks around him and starts really enthusiastically busting heads, and Patience is like 'well, on the one hand, I feel deeply embarrassed for getting such an admirable and respectable person caught up in all of this nonsense, but on the other hand, THIS IS HILARIOUS.'

(Her brother Robin, meanwhile -- who gets a dashing MYSTERY ROMANCE full of DRAMA in which he hangs out with his love interest as her beautiful BFF all day, then by night disguises himself as a HIGHWAYMAN and secretly flirts with her at MASKED BALLS -- has none of the chill at all.)

Anyway, as I was rereading, I started fan-casting in my head for the movie that I would love to see somebody make.

Obviously, Patience -- serene, gigantic, blonde -- should be played by Gwendolyn Christie.

Equally obviously, the only person who could really do justice to Sir Anthony Fanshawe -- the most dignified and respectable and HUGE AND WELL-MUSCLED Georgian gentleman around -- is Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. We've all been waiting to see the Rock in a period piece! HERE IS THE ROLE. MAKE IT HAPPEN.

I get stuck brainstorming on Robin, though, especially since I am fairly sure in a modern Masqueraders film I would not want to cast Robin as the straight cis dude that Georgette Heyer thinks he is. I can think of at least four ways to adapt the character, I just can't decide which I like best!

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the real kwon
03 September 2016 @ 12:04 am
Guys, if you are in New York and you have time to go see the Public Works' Twelfth Night this weekend, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. I've seen a lot of good Twelfth Nights this past year, including the one where Toby gave the audience free pizza and the one in which Malvolio was a squid, and this show somehow managed to be the most charming of all.

This is the same kind of one-weekend event as the musical Tempest and Winter's Tale that I have seen in previous years, featuring a couple of professional actors plus A Significant Percentage Of New York. This year's Significant Percentage Of New York includes, among others:

- an extremely sparkly Greek chorus hilariously stolen straight from Disney's Hercules ("Olivia and Cesario: Illyria's newest power couple!" "Cesarolivia?")
- a brass band of sorrow that follows Olivia around for most of the first half of the play
- a set of very enthusiastic professional can-can dancers as backup for Malvolio
- ASL dancers from New York Deaf Theater to perform the song accompanying Viola's "Patience on a monument" speech
- the proud students of the Ziranmen Kung Fu Wushu Training Center as inspirational fight instructors for Viola and Sir Andrew Aguecheek
- an Official Mailman and Representative of the National Association of Letter Carriers to deliver Maria's letter to Malvolio (he very professionally made sure Malvolio signed for it, and probably got the most applause of anyone)

So all this was great, as it is always great, and all the extremely enthusiastic community Illyrians were ALSO great, but in addition to this it was just a really adorable adaptation of Twelfth Night! The music's fantastic. There's a fairly significant amount of time spent on Viola working through what stepping into her brother's role means to her -- they don't get all the way to genderqueer, but nobody asks to see her in her women's weeds at the end of the show, either. The song that Feste sings for Sir Toby's party scene is replaced by a musical roast titled "You're The Worst," with Feste on accordion. After Toby and Sir Andrew's verses, Toby tries to turn it back around on Maria and gets stumped: "Your name's ....Maria .... I ....really can't think of anything bad to say about you, you're basically the greatest." It's adorable. Everyone's adorable. MALVOLIO'S adorable! Feste shuts him in the boot of her car for the equivalent of the Sir Topas scene, and instead he pops defiantly out to sing a power ballad about how some people are born great, LIKE HIM, HE WAS BORN GREAT, AND HE'S JUST GOING TO GO ON BEING GREAT, THANKS. He gets his angry speech at the end, but they still pull him back up on stage to dance with everyone for the closing credits, because this is, at heart, an extremely good-natured production and even Malvolio is delighted to be there.

As a sidenote, Shaina Taub, who pretty much steals the show as a fourth-wall-breaking Feste ("Viola and Sebastian both think the other is dead ... I could just tell them, but then the play would be over and we spent all summer rehearsing!") also wrote all the music and lyrics for the show, because some people are unfair. She's apparently writing a musical right now about Alice Paul and the women's suffrage movement. SIGN ME UP.

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the real kwon
30 August 2016 @ 06:25 pm
A couple weeks ago [personal profile] innerbrat and I finished watching through Hong Gil Dong, frequently sold as 'Korean Robin Hood.'

Hong Gil Dong is one of those kdramas that kicks off at 100% candy-colored slapstick and ends -- fair warning -- at about 100% tragedy, with several unexpected zooms up and down along the scale in the middle.

Hong Gil Dong is the illegitimate son of a nobleman and a slave, who bops around being an asshole to everyone until he a.) gets mixed up in a conspiracy and thus b.) in trying to clear his name accidentally becomes a folk hero and prince of thieves and as a result c.) decides his only choice is to revolutionize the world.

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My biggest problem with the show is probably its pacing. The primary narrative arc -- after the first few episodes of 'How Hong Gil Dong Accidentally Becomes A Hero!' -- involves the slow build of Hong Gil Dong's partnership with the prince for the purpose of installing a less oppressive regime, followed by the very heavily foreshadowed and VERY RAPID dissolution of that partnership due to fundamentally incompatible goals and worldviews.

I actually really appreciate how the show sets up the incompatible goals and worldviews, and how it complicates the mythic narrative of the 'rightful' prince, and the fact that it does deal with the political aftermath of dynastic struggle and revolution, instead of ending when the crown goes on the correct head, but I wish it did it ... better ... or, you know, with ten episodes devoted to it rather than two.

...my other biggest problem with the show's pacing is that Hong Gil Dong has FOUR Most Important Merry Men and only TWO of them get backstory episodes, which is a.) offensive to my sense of narrative symmetry and b.) offensive to me personally because neither of those two is Mal Nyeo the Obvious Lesbian.

But that said, we enjoyed this weird and wild ride, and now that I have made this entry I can go read the English translation of the 19th-century Korean novel that the show is based on, which I am very excited to do! Both because it looks cool in its own right and because I'm SO CURIOUS about which choices in the show came out of the book, and which were invented by the creators; there's a fair bit of metanarrative in the show about the legend of Hong Gil Dong and who's telling it and how people react to it, which obviously I was into, because I am me.

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the real kwon
24 August 2016 @ 10:26 pm
I'm not sure the people who made Gilda actally knew they were writing the most dramatic equilateral bisexual love triangle in forties noir, but that's .... definitely what they did?

so many spoilers!Collapse )

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the real kwon
17 August 2016 @ 08:14 pm
Thanks to [personal profile] sovay, I've been zooming through a reread of the Benjamin January books, but I got held up on waiting for one at the library, so instead I've spent the last three days zooming through Underground, which is now on Hulu.

Underground is a show about an escape from slavery that is about 95% amazing.

The 1% that is not good at all involves one fairly nonsense scene where Native Americans act as stage dressing for a white guy, and the 4% that is only moderately good involves Riley from Buffy and his wife as nice white people who decide to help the Underground Railroad and learn that it is difficult, which is mostly fine, except when they're doing distraction can-cans on top of a piano or Riley from Buffy is wandering around in boxer shorts, why, costumer, what were you thinking. I mean, the distraction can-can was effective! I was distracted! But maybe not ... in the way the show meant me to be distracted ...

However I was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT invested in:

- Noah, mastermind behind the escape plan, aka Aldis Hodge finally getting to run his own con like we all wanted him to do on Leverage except now with the HIGHEST STAKES IMAGINABLE
- Rosalee, the heroine, a house slave who spends the whole season going through an incredibly satisfying arc of discovering her own strength, determination, and cleverness
- Sam and James, Rosalee's brothers -- one older, who still hopes he can buy his way to freedom; one younger, who hasn't yet been taught the ways in which he's different from the kid up in the big house, who happens to be his half-brother
- extremely morally ambiguous Cato, who's in line to be plantation overseer, but instead blackmails his way into the escape plan
- Moses, a slave preacher that Noah is convinced is going to be their ticket out because he can read, and Pearly Mae, his wife, who actually can
- ERNESTINE. Ernestine is the mother of Rosalee, Sam and James; she makes extremely calculated, occasionally terrible, but also occasionally very satisfying choices to safeguard her family; she is probably the most competent person in a show full of highly competent people (so much competence all around though! it's honestly one of the show's main selling points, it's very much a heist show in this way) and I am glued to Amirah Vann's face every single moment it is on screen.

Here, have some beautiful facesCollapse )

The show is, unsurprisingly, quite dark at times, and the body count is ... not low, so, you know, fair warning for all the things one would generally think to warn for, but it's not hopeless. It's also beautifully shot (occasional inexplicable costuming choices aside) and the use of music is STELLAR. I'm waiting for an OST. [personal profile] frayadjacent has a very good recruiter vid over here which I would recommend watching to get the feel of the show. But, I mean, generally I would also just recommend the show.

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the real kwon
15 August 2016 @ 09:36 pm
A couple people had recced Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett's Point of Hopes to me before I finally picked it up -- it's a mystery novel set in a Netherlands-inspired approximately Renaissance fantasy world built around a heavily astrological culture and featuring many, many queer people, including:

Protagonist #1: Nicholas Rathe, the World's Most Honest Renaissance Policeman, who is slooooooowly investigating the disappearance of an increasing number of apprentice children in town
Protagonist #2: Philip Eslingen, an extremely dashing out-of-luck mercenary who loses his job in a missing-children-related riot and is then semi-recruited to semi-help with Rathe's investigation

This is one of those mystery fantasy novels where the worldbuilding is fantastic and interesting and thorough, and the mystery is kind of .... there as an excuse to hang the worldbuilding on, mostly; there's some Obviously Sinister culprits, and our hero spends three-quarters of the book sort of vaguely side-eying them before being like "aha, yes! these potentially sinister individuals definitely ARE sinister!" several chapters before the end. It is not a particularly satisfying mystery.

I think the relationship between Nicholas and Philip is supposed to carry the emotional weight of the series, but there's not a lot of it in this book; by the time it ends, they're .... friendly acquaintances? I'm not sure at this point whether I'm going to read the sequels -- like I said, I thought the worldbuilding was great and super interesting, but I'm not yet feeling a plot/emotional heft. People who've read the rest, thoughts?

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