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The Discworld City Watch TV series may be a crushing disappointment.

I’m still technically on hiatus, but I want to talk about this and frankly don’t know anyone personally who would care, so you lot get to listen instead.

Tor recently posted about the latest casting news for the City Watch series that’s been promised for several years now. The character descriptions are… very telling, and not in a good way.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2019 in loten

 

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Temporary Hiatus

There’s been a lot of stuff happening offline for me recently. I’m fine, there’s no need to worry, but right now I’m not really able to express myself very coherently, and the remaining spotlights I have lined up will be longer posts that need more effort than I can put in at the moment. I’ve not been reading much either so no new gems have presented themselves to provide a quick post.

I had a couple of non-spotlight posts slowly ticking over in the back of my head as well but those too need more brainpower than I have available right now.

No idea how long this is going to last. Hopefully by the end of next month life will be more stable and so will I, but I’ve learned my lesson about promising anything specific.

See you when I see you, and thanks for sticking with me.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in loten

 

No spotlight this month

No spotlight this month, I just don’t have the motivation at the moment.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Monthly Spotlight: Good Omens

I wasn’t going to do this. I mentioned this book way back during the Terry Pratchett spotlight, and that was going to be it, even though it’s one of my favourite books of all time. It’s not as if it needs my recommending it, I’m sure 99% of you have already read it anyway. But then the TV adaptation was released a month ago, and here we are because it’s amazing and I love it.

So what did I say about it in the past?

My favourite non-Discworld work is without question Good Omens, co-written with Neil Gaiman, which almost got a full post to itself. Whilst I do enjoy Mr Gaiman’s works, he’s probably not going to feature here again, but Good Omens is a work of genius. I can’t really talk about it too much without giving away the plot, but the short version is that an angel and a demon team up to try and stop the Apocalypse because they quite like Earth. Featuring the Antichrist, the Four Horsemen, dire prophecies and all the old classics, and I guarantee none of them are what you’d expect.

A television series is currently in development, hopefully coming out on Amazon later this year. I am very excited about this. There’s also a very good BBC radio adaptation.

Well, that’s all very true. Let’s go a little further now. Just in case there somehow is anyone reading this who hasn’t read it, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the plot.

[Before Loten gets too far into a plot overview, I think it’s also worth doing a quick thematic one. Good Omens has a few things at its core: a silly comedy of errors, a well-deserved parody of Christian eschatology, a fundamentally humanistic message, and (depending on your goggles) a story about deep friendship or gay romance. None of these things are particularly surprising if you know anything about the authors, really, but it’s worth pointing them out nonetheless. I do think the humanism is an important aspect of the story and one I don’t see discussed as much; it’s also not a religion-antagonistic humanism, so even if you’re not an atheist, give the story a chance, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.]

Our joint protagonists are the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They both live on Earth and follow the orders of their respective superiors, tempting and blessing humans at various points, ostensibly opposing one another and trying to win souls to their side. In reality they first met in the Garden of Eden, they’ve known one another for six thousand years or so, they realised a long time ago that they have more in common with one another – and with humanity – than with their fellows, and would much rather be left alone to enjoy life.

Then Crowley is handed the baby Antichrist and ordered to kick off the end of the world. Both Heaven and Hell are very keen that this should happen because they want to fight each other and are of course each convinced that their side will win. Crowley and Aziraphale would really rather not, thank you, and decide to help bring up the Son of Satan with a more balanced view of the world in the hope that he’ll decide not to destroy it when he comes into his power.

Of course it doesn’t work the way they planned – human error is a far stronger force than any divine power – and eleven years later they find themselves racing to try and avert the apocalypse with no idea of what’s going on and with their own teams trying to stop them. The rest of the cast include the Four Horsemen, the descendant of the last witch in England (who foresaw all this), the last witch-finders in England, a few people in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the Antichrist himself.

It’s a fantastic book. It’s funny the whole way through, the drama moves at a good pace and the characters are wonderful. And the recent Amazon Prime adaptation is easily the best TV adaptation I’ve ever seen.

It ought to be, really, since it was written by Neil Gaiman and co-produced by him and Rob Wilkins on behalf of Terry Pratchett. Getting Good Omens to the screen was one of Pratchett’s last requests and nobody’s been allowed to mess with it too much, and it’s obvious that everyone involved loved what they were doing. (I’ve seen a few reviews complaining that it’s too faithful to the book, which confuses me since to my mind the point of adapting a book is to transfer the book to the shiny screen, not to retell it in the process.)

There are some additions, particularly Aziraphale’s superiors in Heaven, who were taken from the sequel that was sadly never written. There’s additional material covering more of Crowley and Aziraphale’s history and an ending dealing with the consequences of their defiance. Sadly some things were cut – the Other Four Horsemen just didn’t have time to ride out, and the Antichrist himself has reduced screen time apparently because of the regulations around child actors. Almost all the jokes made it in, even if some of them wouldn’t be noticeable to someone who hadn’t read the book.

[I do think there were a few things that didn’t quite work well in adaptation, and some of the things that were cut (like the bikers) really were an unfortunate loss because that was one of my favourite moments in the book, but it’s still damn good and one of the best book adaptations I’ve seen in a long time. I do think that people unfamiliar with the source material might struggle to understand (or just miss) some things, or be confused why some jokes or plotlines are getting focus relative to others. Also, YMMV as to whether all of the jokes land: in order to preserve the wordplay and jokes that only work verbally, they chose to have the series be narrated by the Voice of God. That allowed them to get a lot of things in that couldn’t have worked otherwise, but it can feel a bit pedantic at times (I didn’t mind it at all the first time through, but it can grate a little on repeat viewing).]

The casting is absolutely superb. David Tennant is Crowley, completely. I wasn’t sure about Michael Sheen as Aziraphale when it was announced but the first trailer sold me immediately. Ned Dennehy as Hastur nearly stole the show [he absolutely did for me] and almost everyone else was spot on, with some cameos that probably escaped most non-British viewers.

[There are some other things worth discussing about the casting, too. They clearly went out of their way to have a diverse cast both in terms of race and gender, which I did find occasionally jarring, but usually in a good way; it was just such a pleasant surprise to see how committed they were to it. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but this might be worth discussing further in the comments. Anathema being American was the one we found strangest, but it’s not as though it actually harmed anything.]

And, of course, the show is its own fanfiction. (I wish I could take credit for this line, I can’t remember who said it because I’ve read quite a lot of reviews for this show by now.) It’s really about the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale, with the apocalypse happening in the background.

The vast majority of the fandom ships them to some extent. Not always sexually, but you know, fandoms gonna fan. The official stance of the writers has always been, more or less, “Well, we didn’t actually intend it that way when we wrote them, but we can see why.” (One reason I love both authors is that they’ve never lashed out or mocked their fans for having different headcanons.) Gaiman decided to lean hard into it and Tennant and Sheen happily played along.

Tor’s review says it all (beware spoilers if you haven’t watched it yet): https://www.tor.com/2019/06/04/the-good-omens-miniseries-is-a-love-story-and-i-will-never-recover-from-it/

I could go on for pages about this, I have a lot of FEELINGS, but I’ll refrain. If you haven’t read the book yet, do it now. If you haven’t seen the show yet it is absolutely worth finally taking that free trial Amazon keeps waving in your face – it will be coming to DVD eventually but it’s more than good enough to justify seeing it as soon as possible. It makes me very happy and I’ve already rewatched it more than once. [So have I.]

As a final addendum, there’s inevitably been some backlash from a lot of very angry Christians who missed the point completely (watched with some bewilderment by a lot of other Christians who possess basic comprehension). Bless their little cotton socks, the group who started a petition to cancel it must be feeling a little silly now after approximately half the population of the internet pointed out that none of the 20,000 frothing balls of blind outrage who signed it had spotted that the petition was aimed at Netflix, rather than Amazon Prime.

Netflix very nicely promised not to make any more.

Amazon offered to cancel Stranger Things if Netflix cancelled Good Omens.

Neil Gaiman just enjoyed watching it happen, as did a lot of other people.

Now go watch the show again.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in loten

 

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Monthly Spotlight: Naomi Novik’s Temeraire

One day I will get around to the next spotlight on my planned list, I swear. But last week I picked up the first Temeraire novel and he is the most adorable dragon ever and everyone needs to read these books immediately.

Captain Will Laurence is serving in the Navy during the Napoleonic War when his ship defeats and captures a French vessel that has a dragon egg on board. When it hatches the baby dragon will only accept a harness and a name from him, so he has to leave the Navy to join the Aviation Corps as a dragon rider. For some reason he’s initially not very happy about this, but the dragon – who he names Temeraire after a famous ship – wins him over through sheer cuteness, more or less. Temeraire is very intelligent, and he is incredibly curious about everything, very enthusiastic, and sweetly attached to his rider.

All I knew about these books going in was ‘Napoleonic War with dragons’. Nobody told me how goddamn cute said dragons were. Inevitably for a Fantasyland-esque protagonist there’s a degree of Sueishness – Temeraire is not only a rare breed but the rarest of the rare with all the special things ever, and Laurence easily sees and solves all sorts of problems none of the veteran aviators do – but I don’t care, because dragons.

Novik is a great author with a good eye for detail, and she’s managed to balance the addition of dragons to the war. There are still ships and cannon and everything else, and it all makes sense together; not everything is explained but there aren’t any obvious holes. The rider training is handled more sensibly than a lot of books do it and there’s a decent variety of characters, human and dragon. The dragons feel convincing as well; they’re not just big scaly humans, they don’t necessarily share their riders’ views or values, and there are a lot of different breeds with different abilities and levels of intelligence. Most of them don’t breathe fire but have a nice variety of other skills.

The combat is pretty epic too. Hard not to be excited by fighting taking place on dragonback.

I’ve currently binged my way through the first three and a bit books – there are nine in total. It’s going some very interesting places. Laurence and Temeraire haven’t spent all that much time actually dealing with the war; they’ve been travelling, dealing with various diplomatic issues arising from Temeraire being a Chinese dragon, gifted to France, who was never meant to end up in England, and they’ve seen a lot of other cultures and how they treat their dragons. Abolition is being debated in human society at the time and Temeraire’s getting very interested in the question of dragon rights. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes because I don’t think it’s going to be the predictable and unrealistic fairytale solution that most series would throw out.

Why can’t someone adapt awesome stuff like this for TV instead of producing utter garbage? I saw the trailer for the upcoming His Dark Materials show recently. They’ve clearly rushed to do it on a very, very small budget and it looks awful. Given the great source material it’s surprising nobody’s managed to do anything half decent; this may be the worst attempt yet. And we’re not even going to talk about Game of Thrones. Though I can’t complain too much, Good Omens is coming out at the end of this month and looks amazing.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2019 in loten

 

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Monthly Spotlight: W R Gingell’s Shards of a Broken Sword

Thanks all for your comments on the post regarding the Harry Potter continuation, I appreciate the understanding.

Another shorter spotlight this month, for a trilogy of shorter books. These are a fairly quick read, but they’re funny and sweet and well plotted. Each of the three stands alone, but there is a core plot winding through them as well that ties it all together – the Fae are slowly beginning to take over human lands, and the broken sword of the title holds the key to banishing them, and various characters come across shards of the blade while enacting their own stories.

In Twelve Days of Faery a young enchantress comes to break the curse on a prince that seriously injures or kills any eligible woman he comes into contact with. The story is told from the point of view of King Markon, the prince’s father; the enchantress, Althea, is probably my favourite of the various characters.

In Fire in the Blood a dragon is bound to help a prince (not the same prince) pass the trials that will let him rescue a princess. I can’t say much else without spoilers but suffice to say things aren’t quite what they seem.

In The First Chill of Autumn we learn what the shards actually mean and what the main plot is, and various characters reunite to help the Chosen Ones attempt to remake the sword and banish the Fae.

W R Gingell has written quite a few other series and standalones, mostly dealing with fairy tales in some way and from the sound of things also some mythology and some modern urban fantasy. I have some of them in my waiting-to-be-read pile, and others I’m sure I’ll get to eventually, because her books are fun and happy and interesting.

In other news, I did a thing! More precisely, an author interview! Someone on fanfiction.net contacted me, they run a SSHG Facebook page and wanted to interview me. If that’s something that interests you, you can find it:

Here: https://relishredshoes.tumblr.com/post/184220751800/interview-taken-from-the-severus-snape-and
here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/199718373383293/
here: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/relishredshoes
and here: http://sshg-hub.livejournal.com/129691.html

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2019 in loten

 

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Harry Potter, going forward

It’s time to address the elephant in the room that is the Harry Potter series. I keep getting asked whether it’s going to continue, which is understandable given how long it’s been. (Incidentally, I see all comments, not just the ones on the most recent posts. If your comment isn’t about the newest post, please try and leave it on a relevant post instead.)

The honest answer at this point is that I don’t know. I want to keep going but every time I think of starting up the next chapter I just don’t have the motivation. When we started, it was supposed to be fun; we were supposed to enjoy at least the first two books and gradually ease in to the bad stuff later on, and slowly pick it apart over time while still preserving the good parts. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I never thought these books were the most amazing literature to ever grace the earth, but I really didn’t think they were this bad, and part of me doesn’t want to keep going because I don’t want to end up actively hating them. This series has been a huge part of my life and had a tremendous impact on who I am, dumb as that is, because of what it led to, and I don’t want to lose that or taint the memories. I’m also still planning to write more fanfics someday (ah, the elusive someday), and while I don’t think I’m ever going to end up hating my favourite characters specifically, I’m not going to be able to write about them if I hate literally everything about their entire universe and canon history.

Rowling is really not helping matters by her constant gleeful abuse of a very, very dead horse. Everything she says about the franchise makes me dislike it more, which makes me harsher when analysing it, which makes my opinion sink further.

So I don’t know. I’m doing some thinking and juggling some ideas, I’ll try to come up with a way to keep going without burning out and ruining things for me (obviously in consultation with Mitchell). It might be that he takes over and I just drop the occasional comment, though he’s not much more motivated than I am at this point. It might be that we stop doing every single chapter and just cover scenes we think are worth discussing. Not promising anything, it might well be that we stop completely.

[Honestly, the most likely outcome is that I take over so that the brunt of the impact falls on me. It helps that I’m more comfortable hating them than Loten is, so that particular issue isn’t a deterrent for me, but it’s still a matter of not knowing when I’ll have the energy. I’ve tried to start the next chapter on my own a couple of times and didn’t get anywhere, but I’m not giving up yet. One of the reasons we started this project was that it was something to do together, after all, and doing it separately is less appealing. There are a lot of things in the series I do think are well worth getting to, but I guess we’ll have to see.]

I am aware that most of you are only here for Harry Potter content and that the other stuff gets far, far less attention, but so it goes.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2019 in loten, mitchell

 

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