RSS

Tag Archives: media

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 »

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2019 in loten

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 28, 2019 in loten

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Character Development vs Character Assassination, a Failure Mode Analysis

Well, hello there. This is Mitchell, the person you’ve probably forgotten exists because I’ve barely written anything substantial for the better part of two years (fuck depression and fuck the ability of politics to exacerbate depression), but technically this is my blog too. I’m back to talk about a story about wizards and how it disappointed me. No, not that one, sorry. The other one.

Over two years ago, I wrote this post, and, more significantly, the Magic: the Gathering fanfic I link to in it. That context may be helpful to understand the rest of this post, but I’ll try to write this in a way that is comprehensible without it. I mainly want to use this opportunity to talk about character development, what makes it work and ways it can go wrong, but in order to do that I’ll need to go into detail about this particular example.

Honestly, writing about this at all is a bit self-indulgent, but please bear with me, I think there are some useful lessons to take from it.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 9, 2019 in mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bad Movies Are Bad, Film at 11 (but don’t watch The Crimes of Grindelwald)

We all knew it was going to be bad, the only questions were how bad and what kind? Reviews have been coming out and the picture isn’t pretty, needless to say, so here’s a link roundup for the time being. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to subject myself to this (I may do next week, solely so I can write about it, but I’m not sure), but hopefully this will tide you over for now. Honestly, these reviews remind me of nothing so much as the first leaks of Cursed Child spoilers; it’s just ludicrous.

Emily Asher-Perrin at Tor: The Crimes of The Crimes of Grindelwald (This is the most detailed dive into the wtfery, if you only read one I suggest this one)

Jeremiah at The Fandomentals: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a Post-Mortem for J.K. Rowling

Ani Bundel at NBC (yes, NBC): Harry Potter Franchise’s new Fantastic Beasts sequel should not have been written by J.K. Rowling

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw at the Daily Dot: Queerbaiting is Ruining the Fantastic Beasts Franchise

To make a long story short, it sounds like there’s pretty much a bingo here. Character assassination of some of the last remaining likeable characters, pointless unexplained retcons (among other things, how the fuck is Credence alive when the climax of the first film was literally him being killed? I’ve still yet to see an answer to this), needless overdramatic bullshit, plotlines that make no sense, forced cameos and attempts at continuity that somehow just break everything further, casual appropriation without even a good reason… oh, right, and Johnny Depp. Can’t forget about him.

[Links above contain extensive spoilers, obviously. For my part I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said; it’s more of Rowling’s tiresome refusal to put the franchise out of its misery already. It ruins everything that was decent about the first film, it invalidates the entire point of the first film, and it fucks up every single story arc without even having the grace to do it well on a technical level. There aren’t enough pretty imaginary animals in the world to compensate for this one.]

 
7 Comments

Posted by on November 20, 2018 in loten, mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monthly Spotlight: Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence

Shorter one this month, recommending a new thing I just finished reading that impressed me rather than an old favourite. I don’t quite know how to categorise the Craft novels; the setting is a little bit steampunk, a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy and a little bit something else. The basic premise of the world is that it takes place a little way into the future, where water has become the defining resource of the planet and power belongs to the companies who produce and control it – by using local gods for fun and profit, as well as mage lawyers.

(Shoutout to the Something Awful Let’s Play forums for recommending these: they covered one of Gladstone’s interactive text games, Choice of the Deathless by Choice Of Games, which is also set in this universe and lets you explore how the magic system works with your own character.)

The books (so far) are as follows: Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross and The Ruin of Angels. Each one has its own separate plot, but also ties in to each of the others and builds up to an overall story in the way so many authors try for and so few actually manage. The separate protagonists lead separate lives and their paths cross as the series goes on, and it manages to feel natural and plausible rather than being forced for the sake of the plot.

We’re checking all the representation boxes this time – there are a lot of queer and bi characters of different genders, various ethnicities (amongst others, two of the books are set in almost-Mexico and almost-Hawaii), and several trans characters, and it all seems (from my outsider perspective, for whatever that’s worth) to be well done and natural and none of them feel like they’re there just to prove a point. It’s just an inclusive setting in a way you don’t often see.

I can’t say too much without giving away the plot, and these are books you need to experience for yourselves. There’s a lot of detail and a lot of thought and some very clever moments. And interesting magic, of course. The Craft is powered by starlight, and blood, and gods, and other stuff depending on who’s using it. There’s necromancy, religious/clerical magic, your good old-fashioned raining fireballs, some neat dimensional stuff – something for everyone, with a healthy pile of humour on top.

Turns out Max himself says it better than I can. From his website:

The God Wars ended, and we’re living with the world they left.

I write the Craft Sequence series of books and games, set in a postindustrial (and post-war) fantasyland, where black magic is big business, wizards wear pinstriped suits and conduct necromantic procedures on dead gods, and day-to-day commerce rests on people trading pieces of their souls for goods and services. The Craft Sequence books are legal thrillers about faith, or religious thrillers about law and finance. Plus there are hive-mind police forces, poet gargoyles, brainwashing golems, nightmare telegraphs, surprisingly pleasant demons, worldshattering magic, environmental devastation, and that deepest and darkest evil: student loans.

Have fun. I did.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2018 in loten

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monthly Spotlight: Sir Terry Pratchett

Once a month, I pick something from my bookshelves and talk about it. There’s no better choice to kick off this series than the work of my favourite author of all time, Sir Terry Pratchett. This post is going to be insanely long because there’s just so much to talk about – no future spotlight is even going to get close.

Mostly I’ll be focusing on the Discworld series, easily his best-known books – 36 adult novels and 5 young-adult novels (broken down into character arcs), plus 4 science-based novellas, TV adaptations, animated adaptations, plays, music, computer games, diaries… you can see why this is going to be a long post. Before jumping into that, I’m going to talk briefly about his non-Discworld books, under the cut.

[Mitchell here. I don’t have a lot to add, as I unfortunately haven’t read a lot of Pratchett’s work. He was a thoroughly admirable human being and brilliant writer, and I’ve appreciated what I did read of his. I have issues with depression and I’ve found that interferes with my enjoyment of the humour: I tended to notice in the abstract that it was clever and I should be laughing without actually reacting, so I’ve been putting them off until I’m in a better mental place to experience them. That’s not going to stop me from seconding the recommendation, though, his books are great.]

Read the rest of this entry »

 
16 Comments

Posted by on January 25, 2018 in loten

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Very Harry Potter Miscellany

The delay in the existing Chamber of Secrets coverage is almost 100% due to me procrastinating about getting the new death counter sorted out. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer. In the meantime, here are some random little Harry Potter related asides and conversations – none of them justify posts to themselves.


Point the first: Dumbledore is actually the head of the Klan.

This is the post that triggered this conversation:
https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/09/21/there-must-be-a-word-for-making-a-fool-of-yourself-to-get-attention/
(Someone on Twitter arguing that yes, the KKK are awful, but their titles are pretty cool-sounding e.g. Grand Wizard.)

[Strictly speaking this isn’t just a random someone, it’s James Damore, better known as the former Google employee who wrote the awful manifesto claiming race and gender imbalances in hiring are justified by the facts because women and nonwhites are just so stupid, and how oppressed he felt for not being allowed to say so. He’s not exactly a neutral party here, and one questions how genuine his ‘yes the KKK are awful but’ is. Nevertheless.]

And from there it proceeded in an entirely logical and sane fashion, as one would naturally expect from your favourite bloggers…

Loten: Also, Grand Wizard = Chief Warlock?
Mitchell: Oh god
Loten: And of course they already have the pointy hats
Mitchell: Didn’t his bio also include ‘Grand Sorceror’
Mitchell: I remember checking to see if it had become Philosopher ;P
Loten: Yes, yes it did
Mitchell: …And his name is literally White
Mitchell: Oh my god
Loten: Also his backstory is that he is a racist.

Compelling evidence, I’m sure you’ll agree.

[More concisely: he is White Bumblebee, the Chief Warlock and Grand Sorceror and Supreme Mugwump (it’s like someone threw Grand Wizard into a thesaurus program!) and his backstory is that his ex-boyfriend was literally Wizard Hitler.]


Point the second: Rowling is probably a fan of Ayn Rand.

A brave soul named Adam Lee has been sporking Ayn Rand’s more notable works on his blog over at Patheos. He’s currently working through The Fountainhead, and a paragraph of this post jumped out at me.

But while Rand could make her protagonists either loved or hated, she couldn’t stand to depict them as unimportant. Whether for good or for ill, she just had to script a world where everyone’s got an opinion about what the heroes are doing.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Everyone either worships or despises Harry. Nobody sees him as unimportant and he is deeply relevant to everyone’s lives, to the point where he is almost the only celebrity in a world that doesn’t have a celebrity culture.

[In fairness, this is a criticism that could be made of a lot of fictional characters, and might be a good test for identifying when using the term ‘Mary Sue’ is appropriate; it’s not isolated to either of these particular authors by any means. Still, it’s a fantastic way of articulating this problem and you cannot argue that it doesn’t apply. (Also, Adam Lee’s Rand series comes strongly recommended by me, go look it up if you enjoy that sort of thing.)]


Point the third: Rowling may be a bigger Roald Dahl fan than we previously thought.

A little while ago Amazon had a number of Roald Dahl Kindle editions on sale, so I picked up a few. And while I was enjoying revisiting my childhood, I happened to notice the plot synopsis for James and the Giant Peach:

James Henry Trotter lives with two ghastly hags. Aunt Sponge is enormously fat with a face that looks boiled and Aunt Spiker is bony and screeching. He’s very lonely until one day something peculiar happens…

I’m sure everyone can see my point immediately, but allow me to change four words and slightly adjust the protagonist’s name anyway.

Harry James Potter lives with two ghastly people. Uncle Vernon is enormously fat with a face that looks boiled and Aunt Petunia is bony and screeching. He’s very lonely until one day something peculiar happens…

(Yes, I know his name isn’t a perfect match. But Harry’s been a legitimate nickname for Henry for centuries, so nyeh.)

Obviously, it isn’t deliberate. Plagiarism is important and people pay attention to it, and something this blatant would never be overlooked. [We hope.] But it’s a hell of a coincidence, isn’t it? We’ve been drawing parallels with Dahl’s work for a while without realising just how strong the link is. I wonder if Rowling herself knows…

[Honestly, I would suspect that she doesn’t. There’s an extent to which this is just a Stock Children’s Book Plot, so it may not be that surprising that the parallels are there (if you elide enough details in a summary you can make most stories sound vaguely similar; people like Joseph Campbell have based entire careers on doing so). But regardless, we still found it striking.]


Point the fourth: in which we are disappointed by a fandom thing, quelle surprise

[A little while ago, we came across a few discussions of a fan-made Harry Potter Cards Against Humanity set, ‘creatively’ titled Cards Against Muggles. The card combinations shown in that article could be interpreted as critical of the series, so we thought it might have been something that would interest us and make for amusing jokes at the expense of the books, and looked into it enough to acquire and read through the list of cards. We were wrong.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’d forgotten how stupid and unfunny the vast majority of Cards Against Humanity itself is, or if adding Harry Potter content just highlights the worst flaws of the original game, but at best it doesn’t work well and at worst it’s even stupider than the original. Far too many of the cards are just copies of things from the original with a Potterverse word stuck in, or just take the format $HPCharacterName’s $SexOrgan, etc etc. There isn’t even much opportunity to use it to make subversive commentary at the expense of the game’s intent, like there is with the original (I’m not going to defend CAH or encourage anyone to play it, it’s honestly vile garbage, but it’s theoretically possible to make it a decent experience if the people you’re playing with aren’t arseholes. I don’t think that’s true of the HP version).

Needless to say, the best I can say of this effort is that it’s a bit of a damp squib. And at its worst it’s just stupidly offensive and vulgar for the sake of being so, just like the original.

That said, it amused me that they couldn’t even get the parts of speech right between the two types of cards, such that “There’s no need to call me ‘There’s no need to call me sir, Professor’, Professor” is a completely valid play.]

Mitchell wrote this last one because I’d honestly forgotten this even existed, we found it a while ago. Oops.


Yes, this is more or less how our thought processes actually work. It explains a lot, doesn’t it. Hopefully regular content will resume at some point relatively soon. I might also be starting a new thing in the New Year. We’ll see.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 5, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,