Category Archives: News

Cool Things You Could Be Crowdfunding: September 8, 2016

I’ve been unexpectedly busy the last week and a half with the new World of Warcraft expansion (I hadn’t originally planned on playing it at all–turns out it’s really good), but I’m working now on getting back up to speed on all the things I’ve missed in that time. In the meantime, here are a bunch of the projects that look cool if you’re looking for something to spend money on this week.

Today is Star Trek‘s 50th Anniversary. What better way to celebrate than by backing David Gerrold’s newest Star Trek book, Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!?

The 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide would make a perfect holiday gift for any middle-grade readers in your life.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/815743020/2017-young-explorers-adventure-guide?ref=category_recommended

Support indigenous creators by backing MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection Volume 2.  While you’re waiting on that, Volume 1 is available on Amazon and Comixology.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1350078939/moonshot-the-indigenous-comics-collection-volume-2?ref=recs

The Chasing Arrows might be just the cli-fi story you’re looking for. Plus, the art looks lovely.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/825146185/the-chasing-arrows-0-and-1?ref=recs

I won’t be getting them all, but I kind of love these adorable Axolotl Pins:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meganbaehr/axolotl-hard-enamel-pins

Vulpine is an adventure survival game where you can play as a fox with a sword. I’d play that.

I don’t need another coloring book, but I definitely want this one, Legend Nouveau:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/185599704/legend-nouveau-coloring-book

Cat Story ticks pretty much all my fun game idea boxes by being an action-platformer with puzzles, story and cats. It also has a playable demo available.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lofty/cat-story

 

All the SDCC Trailers I Care About, Part Three: Television

Most years, SDCC adds a ton of new shows to my watchlist, but this year was mostly recaps of some shows I already watch (like iZombie), recaps and trailers for shows that I don’t watch (The Walking DeadGothamAgents of Shield, etc.), and just a handful of trailers for actual new shows that look good. As with the super hero stuff and movies, these trailers also have a woeful lack of women, with not a single new woman-led show being promoted, which likely accounts for my general apathy towards most of this year’s offerings. Still, there are a couple of shows coming up that I’m looking forward to, even if none of them are quite what I really want to see.

American Gods

American Gods looks amazing, you guys. Ricky Whittle is perfectly cast as Shadow, and the rest of the supporting cast is also excellent. I’m a little disappointed/concerned that there’s been no casting news for Sam Black Crow, who figures much larger in the narrative than Bilquis or Easter or the Djinn–all of whom have already been cast–but I’m hoping they’re just saving her as a surprise for when the show finally airs next year.

Star Trek: Discovery

It’s not much, but I’m glad we got something Trek-related. I’m super stoked about this show, and I can’t wait to see the new crew and have some idea of the plot. I’ve always love DS9 best of the shows, though, so I’m slightly skeptical of this being another ship series. Those always struggled with getting preachy and feeling very after-school-special-y or just with being too episodic without a strong overarching story. That said, it’s not 1995, and I have a lot of hope that this new show is going to reflect the best of some of the newer trends in TV storytelling.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is among the Douglas Adams books that I haven’t ever gotten around to reading, though I am vaguely familiar with the concept of it, so this show wasn’t even on my radar before SDCC, to be honest. In a largely lackluster year for new shows, this one stands out as a quirky adaptation of a work by one of the great humorists of the genre, and it looks hugely entertaining if you enjoy madcap adventures (which I do).

The Exorcist

On the one hand, I’m not sure why anyone thought The Exorcist needed to be revisited. On the other hand, Geena Davis.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I am unabashedly excited for this, just like I have been about most of the recent spate of TV productions of musicals. Laverne Cox looks amazing, and Tim Curry is the Criminologist. The inclusion of the audience participation stuff seems iffy, but I like that they’re taking some chances on incorporating some different things into the production so I’ll reserve judgement on it. I’m not expecting great things from this Rocky Horror, but I think it’s going to be fun to watch once.

Lucifer Season Two

There’s not a ton of new footage here, but it’s enough to keep me interested. Season one of Lucifer was inconsistent, to say the least, but I ended up really enjoying the show overall. Tom Ellis often carries the show with just his considerable charisma and excellent good looks, but it’s enough to keep me coming back.

Sherlock Series Four

I generally prefer Elementary to Sherlock, but I’ll watch three or four more episodes of this.

The Expanse Season Two

There are no words for how thrilled I am by The Expanse. It’s the best sci-fi show since Battlestar Galactica in my opinion, and I have every reason to expect season two is going to continue the excellence that characterized the first season of the show. Now I just need them to give us a firm air date for the series so I know how long I have left to get around to reading the second book, Caliban’s War.

(Part One HERE)

(Part Two HERE)

All the SDCC Trailers I Care About, Part Two: Movies

Well, non-super-hero movies, anyway. Well, mostly. I missed Suicide Squad in Part 1, so I’ll put it here.

Sadly, there’s not a whole lot here that’s exciting, though a couple of these look like they’re going to be very watchable trash that’s going to be perfect for late night Netflix-ing in a couple of years. The biggest problem, of course, and the primary factor that keeps me from getting excited about most of these, is the sheer lack of women-led scripts. The only trailer this year to feature a female lead that wasn’t part of an ensemble was Wonder Woman, and it’s more than a little disheartening to see the same trend year after year after year.

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad ought more properly to have been included in my super hero post, but I just forgot about it entirely, in spite of having thought a lot about it recently as its release date draws nearer. I feel like this movie would be a treasure trove of material to write about here at this blog, and I love Viola Davis. However, Jared Leto’s Joker makes my skin absolutely crawl (which isn’t helped along by his offscreen behavior, either) and I don’t think I can get past the absolutely disgustingness of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. She’s so hyper-sexualized and so infantilized and filmed in such a consistently leering fashion that it makes me furious to even see her.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I’m a little too old to have been interested much in Harry Potter when I was a kid, and I’ve only ever managed to get through the first book as an adult. I quite enjoyed the movies, however, and Fantastic Beasts looks like it’s going to be an interesting addition to the Wizarding world. Unfortunately, the recent furor over J.K. Rowling’s appropriation of Native culture and her erasure of people and history has put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for the film. We’ll see, though. Probably my decision on whether or not to see this one will depend on what kind of reviews the movie gets when it actually comes out.

Kong: Skull Island

In the year of our lord 2016. there is a trailer for a brand new King Kong movie, and it actually doesn’t look terrible. It has a far better cast than this sort of thing usually deserves, and it looks entertaining as hell. I figure if nothing else, it’s going to take itself too-seriously enough that it’s going to loop right back around and be hilarious.

Snowden

Speaking of unintentionally hilarious, we’re getting a Snowden movie, because of course we are. Thanks, Oliver Stone.

Blair Witch

Straight from the land of sequels that no one ever wanted or asked for comes Blair Witch, which looks about as good as the original. Interestingly, early reviews have me cautiously optimistic about it, though I’ll definitely wait to watch it at home since I don’t like going to the theater to be scared.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

This is hands down my favorite trailer from this year’s SDCC. I don’t get it at all, but I cannot wait to watch it because it’s so bizarre. Roose Bolton and Littlefinger are both in it, and Jude Law is an evil wizard. Charlie Hunnam’s abs make an appearance. Everyone talks like they’re in deleted scenes from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Some kind of giant elephant dragon monster is smashing everything, and there’s a witch and a flying snake thingy. And what is the deal with the costuming? I will almost certainly be there on opening night for this wild ride.

For the Love of Spock

This Kickstarted documentary about the life and influence of Leonard Nimoy isn’t actually a Comic Con trailer, but it did come out last week. Just the trailer had me in tears, and I cannot wait to watch this and have a good long cry about it.

All the SDCC Trailers I Care About, Part One: Super Heroes

As always, there are many (so many) trailers from this year’s San Diego Comic Con, and I have things to say about most of them, so I’ll be splitting this into a couple of posts to have room for commentary. First up, superhero stuff!

Marvel and Netflix released three trailers at SDCC, for upcoming shows Luke Cage and Iron Fist and a miniseries called The Defenders that will feature, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. I was hoping for a season two trailer for Jessica Jones, and I would even have settled for an announcement of another woman-led series, but neither of those things happened. Instead, we just got this trio of mostly-sausage fests.

Of the three, Luke Cage has been the one that I’m most excited about since I already liked Mike Colter in the role on Jessica Jones. However, a trailer with literally not a single woman in sight and the repetition of a pretty gross lyric from an Ol’ Dirty Bastard song doesn’t really inspire me to tune in. I’m sure it will be fine, but I’m starting to think it’s not going to be for me.

Finn Jones seems to have kept his disheveled Loras Tyrell look in this first look at Iron Fist. However, I’m more irritated that the first footage we get to see of the show starts with the heavily implied fridging of Danny Rand’s mom. I mean, alright, that’s one way to start a story, but it’s unoriginal as shit.

This teaser for The Defenders doesn’t actual show any footage and basically just serves to introduce the concept of the show and its planned 2017 release date. I’m guessing late 2017.

Marvel and FX have teamed up for a new super hero television show, Legion, which is about the eponymous mutant and his struggles with mental health.

I guess he’s Charles Xavier’s son or something, but I don’t know that much about X-Men and am not convinced this concept isn’t going to turn out to be extremely problematic. It’s also hard to tell what tone this show is going for. It seems like it’s trying to be funny, but it all looks so grim and monochromatic and seriousness that I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be humorous. Maybe a couple more trailers as we get closer to the show’s early 2017 air date will convince me to turn in, but right now I’m only mildly curious about it.

Marvel also shared a new trailer for their Doctor Strange movie, which hits theaters on November 4 of this year.

Listen. Doctor Strange looks slick, and make-up and costuming and whatever that scruff is growing on Benedict Cumberbatch’s face have him looking the part, and I love the magic effects–that folding city looks rad–but I just can’t get on board with this film. It’s blatant Orientalism (something I think we’re going to see in Iron Fist as well) is just downright unpleasant to watch, even for just a couple of minutes. I don’t think I want to subject myself to two straight hours of it, even if Chiwetel Ejiofor is in it. Also, can we talk about how awful Tilda Swinton looks? That’s practically straight up yellowface, and I’m very disappointed in her.

DC and Warner Brothers didn’t have nearly so many properties to share this year, but to their credit the ones they did share were much less problematic-seeming than what Marvel had to offer. Both DC trailers, for Wonder Woman and Justice League actually have me cautiously optimistic that I may someday see a DC movie in a theater again.

I do have some mixed feelings about this Justice League trailer, but it looks a good deal less grim than some other Zack Snyder flicks, and I actually laughed a couple of times during this footage. I have thought since I heard the news that Ezra Miller was well-cast as the Flash, and I’m thrilled to see more of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. However, I get the feeling that Wonder Woman is being demoted to sidekick status, and it’s disappointing to see that she’s the only woman in the movie (at least so far). Justice League looks marginally more fun than Snyder’s other fare, but still not great.

So, I know I’m still salty about the skeevy poster for Wonder Woman, but I just do not get the hype for this movie. Like, sure, I will probably go see it in order to support women-led films or whatever, and it looks pretty good, but there’s no way this movie is going to really deserve all the “This is the superhero movie we’ve been waiting for!” love that I see it getting in feminist-friendly corners of geekdom. The film does appear to have some incredible artistic action sequences that I’m looking forward to seeing on a big screen, though I saw at least one obvious crotch shot of Wonder Woman in the trailer that is kind of disheartening. In any case, I’m sure Wonder Woman will be okay; it may even turn out to be really good, but at this point in my life, after many years of disappointments, I’m keeping my expectations low. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than let down once again. Also, this is the only woman-led super hero project with a trailer at this year’s con, so that’s depressing.

(Part 2 covers non-super-hero movies plus Suicide Squad HERE)

Cool Things You Could Be Crowdfunding: June 22, 2016

So, it used to be that I just didn’t have the money to support crowdfunding and it’s still something that I don’t get to do as often as I’d like, but these days I do at least periodically check out what’s shaking over at Kickstarter and on Patreon, though I’m generally much more likely to do Kickstarter’s one-time backing than Patreon’s recurring payments. There’s so much great stuff out there, but since I can’t afford to support everything myself, I thought I’d start sharing them with you. I haven’t decided how often or how regularly I’ll be doing these posts–that’ll depend on if people find them interesting and useful–but I’m thinking somewhere between weekly and monthly, most likely every couple of weeks to be sure that each one is mostly new content.

I’d also love to hear what you think is cool, so if there’s something you’ve seen that I missed, please share it in the comments!

Things to Read

Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories About Marginalized Children

140k words of brand new short fiction, a cover by Julie Dillon, and interior artwork for every story. At the $10 backing level, you get the ebook, and for $15 you can also get a digital copy of 2014’s Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History.

Heroes of Red Hook

From their page:

“Heroes of Red Hook is a collection of cosmic horror tales taking place during the Jazz Era with a very important focus. The protagonists of this anthology are members of the various under represented demographic in Lovecraftian fiction. Our heroes and heroines are the outsiders who are most often blamed (wrongly so) for the actions of various alien horrors of the mythos. Our stories put the spotlight on ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, independent free thinking women, those with special needs, and members of the LGBT community. This collection features people struggling to overcome not only the horrors beyond mankind’s understanding, but an oppressive society seeking to deny them basic human rights.”

Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists

I’m not 100% sold on this concept from the team at Grimdark Magazine, but there are some authors I really like in their Table of Contents. It’s also very close to being funded with 22 days left to go and seems likely to hit at least a couple of very nifty stretch goals over the next three weeks.

Enough Space for Everyone Else: An Anthology

This optimistic project had me at “no war/imperialism narratives,” but it’s also focused on showcasing diversity.

Things to Play With

Dressing Your Octopus

Steampunk-ish paper dolls? With an octopus? Yes, please.

Game of Blame

I don’t play many card games these days, but the tagline on this one, “A Game of Shirking Your Duty,” made me chuckle.

Exoplanets: A Planetary Life-Development Boardgame

Exoplanets is a dynamic game for 2-4 players, wherein each player contributes to the creation of an entire planetary system. Each player’s role in Exoplanets is to expand the system by adding new planets, create and evolve life forms, and fulfill various tasks. To fulfill these tasks, you will manipulate the planetary system in any way necessary, potentially altering the relations between planets and possibly even the life-giving star at the system’s center.”

The Purrmaid: A Mermaid Cat Plush

These are adorable, and there’s already a second design unlocked from stretch goals.

Magazines on Patreon

Did you know that several pretty important publishers of short fiction–much of it free to read online–can be supported through Patreon? If you appreciate their content (even if, and maybe especially if, you don’t want or can’t afford a subscription), this is a great way to help them stay in business.

Clarkesworld

Clarkesworld (clarkesworldmagazine.com) is a science fiction & fantasy magazine that has been publishing free monthly issues online for over nine years. Each issue includes six-to-eight short stories (which are also podcast over the course of the month) and four non-fiction pieces. We have won three Hugo Awards, a British Fantasy Award, and a World Fantasy Award. Our fiction has been nominated for or won the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Locus, Shirley Jackson, Ditmar, WSFA Small Press and Stoker Awards.

Uncanny Magazine

Three-time Hugo Award-winner Lynne M. Thomas (Apex Magazine, Chicks Dig Time Lords, Glitter & Mayhem) and three-time Hugo Award nominee Michael Damian Thomas (Apex Magazine, Queers Dig Time Lords) are seeking support for Uncanny: A Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy. Each bimonthly issue of Uncanny contains new and classic speculative fiction, poetry, essays, art, and interviews. Uncanny’s monthly podcast includes a story and a poem from each issue and an exclusive interview with one of our creators.

Sci Phi Journal

Sci Phi is a science fiction and philosophy magazine that is published every two months and was founded in 2014. In each issue you will find stories that explore questions of life, the universe and everything and articles that delve into the deep philosophical waters of science fiction universes.

I’m only familiar with Sci Phi Journal because several stories they published showed up in Up and Coming, and their work isn’t always to my taste, but it’s definitely worth a look if you like more serious, philosophical science fiction.

 

Let’s talk about Lego, or, Why I hate Nexo Knights

I do not understand how a company as large as Lego can continue, year after year, to fuck up this spectacularly and still have the enormous brand following that it does. I mean, okay, I understand, but it pisses me off, a lot.

A gender neutral Lego ad from the early 1980s.

When I was a kid, Lego was still primarily focused on selling building sets that encouraged imaginative play and creativity, and their themed sets were generic–City, Castle, Space, etc.–but as the company grew and time passed, Lego has increasingly shifted into the licensed merchandise market, with themed sets for enormous properties like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Marvel and DC comics. Along with that change in focus, Lego’s original sets have also changed and become more specific, with settings even being discontinued and replaced with new iterations on the old themes. In some ways this has been kind of cool, and there have been some interesting developments over the years. However, there have also been disappointments.

Lego Friends’ hyperfeminine, stereotypical ideal of girlhood.

After years of facing criticism for their increasing marginalization of girls, in 2012 Lego introduced the Friends line of building sets, specifically (and sexistly) tailored to what they believe girls are interested in. It started with, basically, a Lego dollhouse kind of deal and expanded to include Disney Princesses, Pop Stars, and even Elves. While some of these Lego-for-girls themes have been fun, they largely play into and promote gendered stereotypes. More importantly, and to greater negative effect, by mostly merchandising these “for girls” products separately from the rest of the “regular” Lego sets in stores, the gender problem has been compounded rather than solved.

It was bad enough when the problem was just that parents and fans of the brand wanted the toys to be more inclusive, but now the company has decided on a kind of “separate but equal” approach–and like all “separate but equal” policies, it’s not equal. At all. All it has done is clarify that, though Lego may have begun as a toy for all children, the company’s evolving vision is of Lego as a toy for boys unless specifically marked otherwise. Lego Friends made it very explicit what Lego, as a company, thinks a girl’s place is.

Here’s the thing, though. I still kind of love Lego. I get excited about new theme sets when they come out, especially new original themes because it’s neat to see what they come up with. So when I first read, in passing, about Nexo Knights, I was intrigued. While Lego has definitely changed up its castle stuff over the years, it’s basically always been various flavors of medieval fantasy. Nexo Knights is much more sci-fi, with robots and mech-armor and war machines as well as castles and knights. Which sounds pretty cool.

Today I finally got a chance to sit down and look through the sets online to see if there were any that I might need to buy. It turns out that, nope, I don’t want any of these. With Nexo Knights, Lego once again shows how little they think of girls when designing their play sets: only about a quarter of the Nexo Knights characters are girls or women.

Nexo Knights mini figs.

Of the actual knights, only one is a woman, Macy, who is identified by her large red ponytail and the feminine figure printed onto the body piece of the figure. Of course, on her character page, the first image we see of Macy is her in a dress, looking unhappy, and her backstory is all about how she hates being a princess and wants to be a knight and impress her father, King Halbert. Because we definitely, in 2016, still need to have toys normalizing the idea that girls always have to struggle for recognition and acceptance, not to mention the idea that to be “strong” a girl must reject femininity.

Queen Halbert

Unlike many fictional princesses, though, Macy does have a mother, Queen Halbert, who couldn’t even get her own name–she has to share her husband’s. We’re told on her character page that Queen Halbert “is quite capable at defending herself (and her husband),” and she’s pictured with a huge, rather badass-looking hammer. However, Queen Halbert only appears in one of the twenty Nexo Knights sets currently for sale, and the story line of the set? Is that you have to rescue Queen Halbert from Infernox, a sort of robot-y lava monster. It’s bad enough that the supposedly capable and tough queen only appears as a damsel in distress, but the other minifig included in the set, who is supposed to do the rescuing, is a man. Having her rescued by her daughter, Macy, would have neatly subverted the trope, but clearly Lego intends to stick with traditional, sexist gender roles as much as possible while still pretending as if they are creating strong female characters.

Ava Prentiss

Ava Prentiss is the one female character in Nexo Knights that I don’t think I can complain much about. She’s a student at the Knight’s Academy, and is really into computers. I actually kind of love the idea of this character as a way to introduce kids to the common SF theme of magic vs. technology. I only wish that Ava’s story included a friendship with Macy or Queen Halbert. All three of the “heroic” female characters in Nexo Knights seem to exist totally independent of each other, and none of them are mentioned in the stories of any of the others in either the Lego website content or the marketing copy for the actual sets.

Flama

To balance out the three good female characters in Nexo Knights, there are likewise three evil ones. In a way, this is refreshing and a step in the right direction for the brand; I can’t recall another Lego line that had this many lady villains. On the other hand, they’re also a mess of gendered weirdness.

Whiparella and Flama aren’t too bad. Whiparella is a sort of fiery naga-looking thing, which is pretty rad, and Flama is straight-up awesome-looking, though I am a little confused about why fire monsters need to have visibly feminine figures. Whiparella even has actual drawn-on breasts. Are fiery naga things mammals? I wasn’t aware.

Lavaria

The character that has me spitting mad, however, is Lavaria. I liked that she gets her own set, but I definitely got some vague succubus vibes from the image included with the product listing. When you look closer, though, you’ll see that Lavaria–though she has a cool spear thing, a shield, and this mech-spidery vehicle–is wearing what amounts to a sort of chain mail bikini type outfit. I suppose this could be explained by the description of Lavaria as more of a rogue-like character, though I would argue that being a rogue still doesn’t eliminate the necessity of protecting one’s vital organs in battle.

However, the worst thing about Lavaria shows up on her character page on the Lego website. You see, Lavaria is basically the Harley Quinn of Nexo Knights–the thing she “truly wishes for” is “a kiss from her wicked master,” Jestro.  I’d love to say that this is as deep as the awfulness of this goes, but that’s not the case. It’s like an onion of sexist bullshit. The character pages give us quite a bit of information about the characters, and while Lavaria is described in some detail as a confident, villainous woman, Jestro is, well, something else. Namely, an inept, unintelligent buffoon, who is still inexplicably a love interest of sorts for Lavaria and the dominant half of the pair (he’s the main villain, she’s his sidekick).

Sadly, this new line of building sets could be seen as a sort of progress for Lego. Though only about a quarter of the total minifigs in the set, women and girls do make up fully a third of the named characters, and there is some amount of diversity in their personalities and backgrounds. This actually makes Lego’s failure in this set that much more frustrating. The movement towards something closer to gender parity shows that there is some recognition that the products have a problem, but the continued reliance on sexist tropes and antiquated (and insulting) gender roles shows that whoever is in charge at Lego still doesn’t truly understand or respect (or maybe just doesn’t really care about) the criticisms that have been levied against Lego products over the years.