So, Gina Carano got cancelled

They’ve been after her for a while, but I didn’t expect Disney to start chiseling away at the cow that produces the golden m….I’m going to stop that metaphor right there.

Gina, who portrays an unabashedly physically and mentally strong, female character on The Mandalorian, has been under fire for a while by the twitverse psychopaths for: mildly poking fun at mask and lockdown hysteria, not putting pronouns in her twitter bio and publically stating she was not going to (if you see her described as transphobic, it’s because of this incident), generally being suspected of having less-than-extremist-left-wing-views, and now, apparently for anti-Semitic tweets. Given the context of the attacks on her, I’m going to guess she said something on the lines of, “Palestine and Israel should both chill out.” (Oh, wait, it’s even worse than that. Apparently, she made a reference to the pre-WW2 period of history as could be applicable to current events.)

(Oh gosh, it’s even worse than that. SHE WROTE ABOUT HOW THE NAZIS MADE JEWS INTO ACCEPTABLE TARGETS BY SOCIAL MANIPULATION AND ENCOURAGING HATE.)

A lot of people have been urging me to watch The Mandalorian season 2. I probably will get around to it.

But guess who isn’t going to be watching Season 3?

Dark Avenger’s Sidekick – John C Wright – Repost Review

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Dark Avenger’s Sidekick is the second trilogy in the Moth & Cobweb series by John C Wright, comprising Daughter of Danger, City of Corpses, and Tithe to Tartarus. It is YA novel that straddles the line between science fiction, urban fantasy, and high fantasy and does it effortlessly. It’s written by the one SF/F writer alive who can use prose on the level of Jack Vance and write worlds with the scope of Roger Zelazny. I liked it a lot less than the previous trilogy. I wanted to like this book a lot more than I liked it; caveat: I think part of my problem is that I don’t like Urban Fantasy that comes down too heavily on the Fantasy side.

In short? I was disappointed in the resolution of the plot, and did not feel that the heroine’s characterization worked properly for the genre and her narrative role in it.

Also, not enough respect for my boy Batman/Winged Vengeance.

Plot: an amnesiac woman wakes up in a hospital bedroom, convinced that it is a trap. She’s right. A trio of monsters invade and try to kill her; she fights her way clear and escapes. (The whole five-feet tall, 90 pounds soaking wet = ineffective combatant rule doesn’t apply to mooks, I guess). She’s wearing a hospital gown and a mysterious ring that changes its appearance and has various powers.She doesn’t know her own name.

Long story short, she is Yumiko Moth the Fox Maiden, apprentice of a night-stalking vigilante called Winged Vengeance (he’s basically Batman except hardcore, lol); she lost her memory during a raid and was either left behind by Winged Vengeance (boo), or escaped via the sacrifice of her fiancee, Tom. I forget which. In any case, Tom is being held prisoner by the bad guys and is going to be sent to Hell as teind for the court of the evil faery. Does this sound vaguely familiar yet?

Yumiko, despite her deep reservations about the kind of silly, post-modern, unrealistic story where *girls* rescue *boys* (hmph!), well, has to go rescue him. Part of this involves going undercover. In time-honored tradition for beautiful young female detectives, this involves being scantily clad. (Book 2) I did snicker at the wardrobe mistress assuring Yumiko, with sadistic cheerfulness, that their weight-watching regimen was no more arduous than that of a professional wrestling team.

Book 2 and a chunk of book 3 comprise Yumiko failing at her mission in various humiliating-to-hilarious ways, until she teams up with the hero of the previous trilogy, Gil Moth, is baptized as a Catholic, and stops trying to fight for her love and just to hold on to him. Literally. While being injured in various gross and horrifying ways that are described with sadistic relish.

I found this ending unsatisfactory.

I have three problems with this story overall.

Problem 1: Improper handling of female character archetype. See, authors have limited repertoire of characters. Their expertise is in how they change and modify their own stock of characters by giving them different skillsets, placing them in new settings, or using different, new plots to show them off in different ways.

This is why Roger Zelazny writes of tall, laconic, green-eyed men with many names; but they are differentiated into the tall, ballad-writing, many-named Corwin of Amber, the tall, laconic, many-named hero of My Name is Legion, and the tall, sarcastic Carlton Davits. All have different roles to play. His female characters are either sultry but straightforward or sultry and coy; they are memorable either way. Larry Correia writes big, burly men who are smarter than they look and like guns, handsome antagonistic men who are dumber than they look and like guns, and beautiful women who are not particularly sophisticated, who like guns *a lot*. Gordon R Dickson writes square-jawed space-age heroes who Know How Systems Work, who confidently set forward to make them Work For Me. The confident hero can either not be quite as smart as he thinks he is (Soldier Ask Not), not nearly as smart as he thinks he is (Pro), or dead right (Wolfling). His female characters tend to be: annoying. Well, you can’t do everything all at once. Especially if you’re a nerd. Writing for nerds.

Again: an expert author can have a limited repertoire, it’s fine–but he must know how to use what he’s got.

John C. Wright’s female character repertoire is singular: highly feminine, happy to be so, happy with life in general, cheerful, helpful. (Any similarities to Mrs. Wright, who, as per her blog seems like a lovely person, are purely speculative. But, yeah.) This type of heroine works quite well–as he himself noted in character, in the Golden Oecumeneif the genre is first-person romance (heh). Now, as his skills improve, he is able to vary this somewhat: highly feminine, cheerful, and secretly a femme fatale Trying To Lure Hero Into MORTAL SIN (Iron Chamber of Memory); or, highly feminine, not cheerful because her mission is not going well, and doesn’t particularly like her putative love interest (yet) (Somewhither). Both of these heroines do work and I rate both of those books highly.

Yumiko is an attempt to write a Short Female Badass (an archetype in its own right)…who is also highly feminine, giggly, and revels in male attention. She starts out as the Fox Maiden, the Dark Avenger’s sidekick, someone whose deeds of vengeance strike fear and nausea into the hearts of her victims. Or so we’re told. Yumiko herself has amnesia and, over the course of the story, mostly proves herself to be the kind of girl who, as a presumable adult, still has relations with a large stuffed teddy bear. (not kidding). The dichotomy doesn’t work. Now, while I think there is a way it *could* have worked, (see the Tam Lin section below), as it is, it doesn’t.

Problem 2. Subversion of narrative structure.
Bear with me.
The central tenet of fiction is that heroes win after they lose. Especially after losing in a particular way, with additional humiliation, by showing more prowess, intelligence, technique. Those who completely abandon their initial techniques and try to win without fighting are those who are certain of possession of the moral high ground (Return of the Jedi) (or physical high ground, Revenge of the Sith), and the conflict ceases to be about the fight so much as about the moral and psychological dimensions of it.

The hero’s learning curve has to continue logically forward from whatever has already been shown before. Otherwise, why show it? So if hero lost before by: applying brute force instead of strategy–win by applying superior strategy. If loss was by expecting fair play–win with overwhelming force.

Yumiko doesn’t change her initial technique by Being More Clever. The heroes are outwitted at every single step of the way by What’s-his-name Moth anyhow. She doesn’t change her initial technique by Working On A Team and Trusting Her Allies, either. No: what she *does* change is her violent pagan heart for a new, sinless, Christian (Catholic) one, and then also doesn’t fight. (Not Kidding) Protestants (and atheists) read these damn books too, you know.

This is, I believe, a narrative-level mistake. Changing from a physical battle to a physical struggle that isn’t a battle, without allowing hero to negate their previous failures is highly unsatisfying. Not allowing the hero to make up for previous humiliations caused by being dumb is unsatisfying. If Yumiko had won without fighting by outsmarting the Moths and the forces of Hell, that would have been satisfying. If Yumiko had managed to learn a new fighting technique and suddenly was able to overpower the enemy physically, that would have been satisfying. Instead, Yumiko wins by being passive. (Is it because girls should be passively courageous and not try to fight and (hmph!) rescue boys? I have my suspicions.)

Problem 3:
The climax of the story is a nearly point for point retelling of Tam Lin. For your amusement and/or edification, please follow the link, which is a brief and highly editorialized retelling. In short, though: heroine’s lover is on his way to hell; heroine must identify lover accurately; heroine must physically grab hold of lover; heroine must hold on to lover through various shapeshifts, boom, lover has been saved from hell.

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(Image via wylielise.deviantart.com. Have I mentioned recently that WORDPRESS SUCKS AND THEIR EDITORS ARE NOW FAR LESS USEFUL THAN BEFORE? BECAUSE WORDPRESS SUCKS.)

Ahem. So, anyway: despite being someone so absolutely gifted at reimagining old tales, putting new twists into them, making utterly absurd and illogical things happen in charming and funny ways…Wright nonetheless plays this absolutely, completely, straight. And misses by a mile.

Part of the reason Tam Lin works is that there’s an extra archetypal quality to it, something my liftime as a Pratchett reader insists on calling “myffic.” Janet is pregnant; she needs Tam Lin to live not only for her own sake, but for her child’s. Tam Lin wants to escape Hell, and also to escape the Faerie, to be a father to his child in the world of men. The subtextual meaning of this story is that people who take responsibility for themselves at each step of the way, can, will, and should make great efforts to better their lives and the lives of their children.

This paratext is absent from Wright’s story. And I think that actually putting it back in–making Yumiko knowingly or unknowingly pregnant during her story–would have actually worked at some level. At the very least, it gives Yumiko an out for not being All That, physically. Thus it’d be OK that she can’t defeat the enemy in a hand-to-hand battle; thus, it would add a ticking clock element to her days as a corseted undercover dancing girl.

A second myffic point in Tam Lin is that Tam doesn’t injure Janet even though the enemy turns him into different, scary animals to try and make her let go: things may be weird, appearances may be scary, but he is the same person underneath, worthy to be her husband and the father of her child. He may not be able to control his outside circumstances (shape), but he can control himself and not harm the mother of his child. Here, Yumiko is *horribly* injured as Tom is turned into a variety of porcupines, sword fish, ray fish, sawfish, venomous porcupines, and other nasty things with spikes on them. What’s more, this section goes on for a long time.

Misery porn + the climax of your novel? DO NOT MIX.

(Then she gets healed by drinking the blood of her vampire priest cousin. Not kidding. What??)

Could Yumiko have used her Tom-provided technology nonlethally as it was “intended” to be used, to grapple and hold him? Sure. Does she? No. Could Yumiko have provided the bigwigs of Faerie proof of What’s-his-Name’s treachery and misdeeds, and persuaded them to switch out Tom for him? Sure. Does she? No. Could Yumiko have engaged in one-on-one battle for Tom? Sure (she has a magic ring that is kryptonite to the faery, a magic bow that is kryptonite to the faery, a magic sword that is…yes. If that’s not enough to make it a fair fight, then Tom should have made her some ray guns, too.) Does she? No.

Does this book have any pros? Yes, like all JCW books, it is superbly worded, the worldbuilding is excellent, the descriptions, gadgets, and settings are vivid. There are many good points about this story; I’m just out of time to write about them and it was more fun to complain.

Rated: 2/5 magic swords that are never drawn, magic bows that are never strung, and magic arrows that are never fired.

OH HELL NO

So there’s a comic about a woman who’s in love with Darth Vader.

The series is intended to show how the idea of Vader, like his legacy, and his reputation can vastly change depending on who in the Star Wars galaxy is telling the tale. To some, he is a strange black knight who appears to vanquish a great beast and free an entire planet (despite not caring that he did any of it). In this case, his celebrity earns as many devoted (infatuated?) followers as modern day actors or other sex symbols. But fans will need to read the entire issue to find out if this mystery woman’s affection is returned. Something tells us she is in for a disappointment.

….

….

I’m so tired.

Where did I leave those matches?

Rewriting Captain Marvel

I Like My Ideas Better, #3

So I’ve only seen the opening scene of the latest MCU movie, and I’m going to show how it could be way better. I’m not a huge fan of Marvel movies, although the Mother of Skaith is, and my interest in this one was purely and solely piqued by the fact that Jude Law was in the trailer and looking really buff.

 


Ahem. Where was I? Anyhow, I probably won’t be watching the rest of it until the DVD quality rips come out and my mother wants to see it. Why? So I’ve mentioned that I have a five-minute, ten-minute, and fifteen-minute quality test. If nothing interesting happens in the first five minutes, the movie is suspect. If there is no sense of immersion in ten minutes, the movie is already a failure. If fifteen minutes pass and no (main) character has: done something striking, funny, admirable, exciting, or interesting, the movie gets turned off. It had its chance.

So, opening scene: the movie opens with a flashback nightmare by main character, Carol. She is surrounded by flames, but has no readable reaction. In the present, Carol wakes: she is in Hala/Halo/Hell/something or other city, the capital of the Kree empire, or something. (1) She then wakes her mentor

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Pity he hasn’t had a good movie since Gattaca

(Jude Law), ignores his protests that it’s Freaking Early O’clock, and spars with him in the gym. Jude Law, AKA Yon-Rogg, questions her about the dream; admonishes her for being emotionally bound by the past. Carol banters with him, but is also losing the sparring match. She starts to trigger her glowy-power fists (2), and is warned not to by Yon-Rogg. Since, you know, they are sparring hand-to-hand, not wizard-power to wizard-power. He tells her to control herself, and continues with the beatdown (3). Carol responds by blasting him with a glowy fist, and then, off his pained reaction, making a face I can honestly only describe as “That’s what you get!” There is then a scene change, with the duo aboard some kind of sky train. Carol is questioning (4) Yon-Rogg about (something or other), which he responds is a sacred Kree belief which is personal and private to each individual. Carol, archly, continues to pry, and it was at this point that I turned it off.

There are only two problems with these scenes:
1. The actress can’t play it off. Angelina Jolie could have played the character with humor, a sense of actual physical danger, and charm. I’ve never seen Brie Larson in any other movie, but the consensus is that she’s a good actress grossly miscast. She absolutely lacks the lethality and charisma which Jolie could have brought.

2. The script as written makes Carol an insufferable brat….and my proposed changes to each of the four beats marked above, would change this. And, I feel, advance the feminist message of the movie even more effectively.

So, starting at the beginning. Carol wakes up her mentor after having had a rough night, spars with him in the gym, and cheats to win. I’ll point out how this comes across as written, show how it could have gone, and then show a third way, how I would have done it.

How it comes across: not well. First: calling somebody else out of their off hours to help you work through your emotional issues is the act of character type “self-absorbed superior who doesn’t care about their subordinate’s well-being or comfort.” It’s the act of a prima donna. And it’s the very first action Carol takes in the movie. Second: she’s apparently not doing it to a subordinate, but to a superior, her mentor. [I think. I’ve only watched the first scene and a few critical reviews]. That’s the act of an entitled prima donna. Thirdly, as mentioned before, the main attitude Carol exhibits in the two scenes I’ve seen is: arch. An entitled, arch, prima donna isn’t a good way to garner audience sympathy and recognition for your protagonist, if she’s supposed to be tough but beautiful, dangerous but nightmare-haunted, warrior woman. It doesn’t match up.

How it could have gone: Carol goes to her mentor because she is haunted and troubled, knows she needs help; she tries to lighten the mood with a little flippancy, and yet fights and fails to win because her suppressed emotions are running far too high–to the point where she accidentally blasts Yon-Rogg… basically, the same thing as in the movie, only written a little better and with a bit of effort on the actress’s part to look emotionally affected, and without any stupid banter.

How I would have done it: Carol wakes up from a nightmare, and it’s revealed that she’s being closely monitored. Yon-Rogg shows up at her door, and, ignoring her protests that it’s Freaking Early O’clock, drags her off to the gym to spar. The action is broken up into three rounds: Yon-Rogg wins the first, lectures Carol that her emotions are the reason she a) loses b) is troubled, and that she needs to forget the past. Carol replies that she can’t remember the past, the dreams are getting worse, and feels that remembering would help. The second round commences, Yon-Rogg pushes a lot harder this time; Carol is on the defensive. He notes that Carol is not exerting herself, and points out that she can do better–she always does, when she’s in a simulation; in effect, when she’s playing, not fighting. Carol, her fists involuntarily starting to glow, can only warn: “Stop pushing me.” Yon-Rogg keeps coming, at an even higher intensity. Carol warns him again to back off, and then, with her back against the wall, blasts him out of sheer instinct. Reversing from his pained reaction, the closing shot is her feeling ashamed, angry, and frustrated.

I’d use this to set up two themes: one, that Carol doesn’t want to use her full strength unless she’s truly threatened or unless there’s something that she feels needs or deserves it….such as when the plot reveals that it’s time to step up and be a hero. Second, it would hint that Carol subconsciously doesn’t see the Kree military as one of those things that is worth using her full strength for. Thirdly, reversing the power dynamic between Carol and Yon-Rogg, puts Carol in the underdog role…and underdogs are sympathetic by default. Also, no one likes being dragged off to the gym first thing in the morning, cough, cough, cough.

So, I’m not going to bother going any further. Those are my thoughts on the first (checks) wow, it was only five minutes….of Captain Marvel.

Rated: Jude Law was the best thing about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, too, but I’m not watching that again, either.

ARGH NO MY EYES NO NOOOOOO

First photo of Dame Judi Dench (female) (human) in costume as Commander Julius Root of the LEPRecon (male) (elf). The howling you may hear is real and coming from inside the house.
ARTEMIS FOWL

Let’s break this down.

1. This affects the protagonist’s arc directly.
Holly Short being the first female in the elite, highly hazardous Recon unit of the Lower Elements Police is a part of her character, especially from the first few books. She has a lot to prove, and mostly has to prove it to Commander Root. Root himself specializes in making Holly’s life a living hell. He’s far harsher on her than on any of his male officers, admits it, and puts effort into it…because he knows that Holly has great potential, and wants her to succeed as the best she can.

This dynamic is going to go completely out the window. I don’t know exactly what tack the politically-correct Woke Hollywood hacks are going to take, but it’s not going to be one that celebrates male authority figures who use tough love to support the people they care about.

Oh, you want to hear my prediction? I’m going to go with, Julia Root is Holly’s disapproving mother.

You heard it here first.

2. This directly affects Root and LEPRecon, and therefore is going to have an affect on the structure of the action.

Root in the book is as much of a cowboy as a senior officer who spends most of his time at a desk underground can be. When the time calls for it, he goes in guns blazing. He takes point personally on the troll mission, and when Holly goes missing, runs the recon for her himself. These things indicate a middle-aged (at most) actor, who is fairly physically capable or at least can convincingly fake it.

Judi Dench is (checks) oh my gosh, eighty-four years old. I’m pretty sure she’s also gone blind, or something. No matter how good you are at being a commanding, authoritative presence, and I love Dame Judi’s M as much as anyone, she is too old to be anywhere near action scenes. It’s not convincing. It’s not smart. It’s going to look extremely stupid.

Now, in the books there is the additional character of Captain Trouble Kelp (Trouble is his first name. He insisted on it at his manhood ceremony), the Retrieval-AKA-SWAT team leader. It might be possible to swap out Trouble for Root as far as the action scenes are concerned…but given that a) this would require having and developing another character to be recognizable to he audience, b) explaining to the audience Trouble’s role is in taking over the action…y’know, beyond it’s his job, c) having a male character in a heroic role–would be necessary, I doubt it’s going to happen. (presence of a male LEP in the above picture notwithstanding. Because, if you look slightly more closely at the damn picture, there appear to be two other females behind him in the same LEP uniform. And if they’re showing up with Root, that’s the Retrieval squad. There aren’t supposed to be any females other than Holly. Recon is considered extremely dangerous…and even Holly thinks that the Retrieval boys are insane.)

I predict that the action is going to be widely toned down or rearranged. We already know that the movie is going to have a much greater focus on fairy/magical weaponry than on Butler’s modified Kalashnikov tranquilizer-dart rifle, or Butler’s martial arts, or Root’s tri-barrelled, water-cooled blaster, the most powerful production handgun Underground…man, I was re-reading the book and it’s so good. I wish they’d leave it alone…where was I?

Oh yeah, the action’s going to suck.

3. This affects Root’s character directly.
Judi Dench’s most famous leadership role, MI6’s M is cool, and decisive. She gives orders with a calm assurance that they will be followed; icily decides life or death for her men, keeping her emotions under control–but with a deep maternal care for them all the same.
Commander Julius Root is a volatile, hot-tempered, loud, brash, grumpy cowboy cop of an old gun. His nickname is Beetroot because he’s always yelling at people. The department walks in mortal dread of him and no one but Foaly dares tell him to put out that cigar. No one ever accused the Commander of political correctness and no one ever would, either.

Look me in the eye and tell me that they’re going to have Judi Dench play the character the way he was originally written.

4. LEP are supposed to have spiffy helmets and fancy space-age-esque uniforms.

5. Hollywood delenda est.

[EDIT:

6. Captain Trouble Kelp is apparently being played by a young Asian woman named Chi-Lin Nim. Goddamnit, Disney.]

Dark Avenger’s Sidekick

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Dark Avenger’s Sidekick is the second trilogy in the Moth & Cobweb series by John C Wright, comprising Daughter of Danger, City of Corpses, and Tithe to Tartarus. I liked it less than the previous trilogy.

TLDR: I was disappointed in the resolution of the plot, and did not feel that the heroine’s characterization worked properly for the genre and her narrative role in it. I wanted to like this book a lot more than I liked it; caveat: I think part of my problem is that I don’t like Urban Fantasy that comes down too heavily on the Fantasy side. If a monster is vulnerable to a sword, or magic sword, but not a gun (or an energy gun), I get annoyed. Also, not enough respect for my boy Batman/Winged Vengeance.

Plot: a woman wakes up in a hospital bedroom, convinced that it is a trap. She’s right. A trio of monsters invade and try to kill her; she fights her way clear and escapes. (The whole five-feet tall, 90 pounds soaking wet = ineffective combatant rule doesn’t apply to mooks, I guess). She’s wearing a hospital gown and a mysterious ring that changes its appearance and has various powers.She doesn’t know her own name.
Long story short, she is Yumiko Moth the Fox Maiden, apprentice of a night-stalking vigilante called Winged Vengeance; she lost her memory during a raid and was either left behind by Winged Vengeance, or escaped via the sacrifice of her fiancee, Tom. I forget which. In any case, Tom is being held prisoner by the bad guys and is going to be sent to Hell as teind for the court of the evil faery–aka, Tam Lin. Yumiko, despite her deep reservations about the kind of silly, post-modern, unrealistic story where *girls* rescue *boys* (hmph!), well, has got to rescue him. Part of this involves going undercover. In time-honored tradition for beautiful young female detectives, this involves being scantily clad. I did snicker at the wardrobe mistress assuring Yumiko, with sadistic cheerfulness, that their weight-watching regimen was no more arduous than that of a professional wrestling team.
Book 2 and a chunk of book 3 comprise Yumiko failing at her mission in various humiliating-to-hilarious ways, until she teams up with the hero of the previous trilogy, Gil Moth, is baptized as a Catholic, and stops trying to fight for her love and just to hold on to him. Literally.

I found this ending unsatisfactory.

My problems:
1: Improper handling of female character archetype. See, authors have limited repertoire of characters. Their expertise is in how they change and modify their own stock of characters with different skillsets, settings, or plots.
This is why Roger Zelazny writes of tall, laconic, green-eyed men with many names; but they are differentiated into the tall, ballad-writing, many-named Corwin of Amber, the tall, laconic, many-named hero of My Name is Legion, and the tall, sarcastic Carlton Davits. His female characters are either sultry but straightforward or sultry and coy.
Larry Correia writes big, burly men who are smarter than they look and like guns, handsome antagonistic men who are dumber than they look and like guns, and beautiful women who are not particularly sophisticated, who like guns *a lot*.
Gordon R Dickson writes square-jawed space-age heroes who Know How Systems, be they spaceships, societies, or political entities, Work, who confidently set forward to make them Work For Me. The confident hero can either not be quite as smart as he thinks he is (Soldier Ask Not), not nearly as smart as he thinks he is (Pro), or dead right (Wolfling). His female characters tend to be: annoying. Well, you can’t do everything all at once.

Again: an expert can have a limited repertoire–but he knows how to mix things up anyhow.

John C. Wright’s female character repertoire is singular: highly feminine, happy to be so, happy with life in general, cheerful, helpful. (Any similarities to Mrs. Wright are purely speculative. But, yeah.) This type of heroine works quite well–as he himself noted in character, in the Golden Oecumene–if the genre is first-person romance (heh). Now, as his skills improve, he is able to vary this somewhat: highly feminine, cheerful, and secretly a femme fatale Trying To Lure Hero Into MORTAL SIN (Iron Chamber of Memory); or, highly feminine, not cheerful because her mission is not going well, and doesn’t particularly like her putative love interest (yet) (Somewhither). Both of these heroines work quite well and I rate both of those books highly.

Yumiko is an attempt to write Short Female Badass (an archetype in its own right)…who is also highly feminine, giggly, and revels in male attention. She starts out as the Fox Maiden, the Dark Avenger’s sidekick, someone whose deeds of vengeance strike fear and nausea into the hearts of her victims. Or so we’re told. Yumiko herself has amnesia and, over the course of the story, mostly proves herself to be the kind of girl who, as a presumable adult, still has relations with a large stuffed teddy bear. Who signed off on her badass card? The dichotomy doesn’t work. Now, while I think there is a way it *could* have worked, (see the Tam Lin section below), as it is, it just doesn’t.

Problem 2. Subversion of narrative structure.
Bear with me.
The central tenet of fiction is that heroes win after they lose. Especially after losing in a particular way, with additional humiliation, by showing more prowess, intelligence, technique. Those who completely abandon their initial techniques and try to win without fighting, are those who are certain of possession of the moral high ground (Return of the Jedi) (or physical high ground, Revenge of the Sith), and the conflict ceases to be about the fight so much as about the moral and psychological dimensions of it.

The development/learning curve of the hero as shown has to be a continuation of whatever has already been prominently shown before. Otherwise, why show it? So if hero lost before by: applying brute force instead of strategy–win by applying superior strategy. If loss was by expecting fair play–win with overwhelming force.

Yumiko doesn’t change her initial technique by Being More Clever. The heroes are outwitted at every single step of the way by What’s-his-name Moth anyhow. She doesn’t change her initial technique by Working On A Team and Trusting Her Allies, either. No: what she *does* change is her violent pagan heart for a new, sinless, Christian (Catholic) one, and then also doesn’t fight.

Protestants (and atheists) read these damn books too, you know.

This is, I believe, a narrative-level mistake. Changing from a physical battle, to a physical struggle that isn’t a battle, without allowing hero to redeem their previous failures in some way, is unsatisfying. Not allowing the hero to make up for previous humiliations caused by Not Being That Clever, is unsatisfying. If Yumiko won without fighting by outsmarting the Moths and the forces of Hell, that would have been quite as good as if she’d kicked What’s-his-name’s teeth in.

Problem 2.5:
The climax of the story is a nearly point for point retelling of Tam Lin. For your amusement and/or edification, please follow the link. Lover on way to hell; identify; grab lover; hold on to lover through various shapeshifts, lover saved from hell.

Despite being someone so absolutely gifted at reimagining old tales, putting new twists into them, making utterly absurd and illogical things happen in charming and funny ways…Wright nonetheless plays this absolutely, completely, straight. And misses by a mile.

Part of the reason Tam Lin works is that there’s an extra archetypal quality to it, something my liftime as a Pratchett reader insists on calling “myffic.” Janet is pregnant; she needs Tam Lin to live not only for her own sake, but for her child’s. Tam Lin wants to escape Hell, and also to escape the Faerie, to be a father to his child in the world of men. The subtextual meaning of this story is that people who take responsibility for themselves at each step of the way, can, will, and should make great efforts to better their lives and the lives of their children.

This paratext is absent from Wright’s story. And I think that actually putting it back in–making Yumiko knowingly or unknowingly pregnant during her story–would have actually worked at some level. At the very least, it gives Yumiko an out for not being All That, physically.

A second myffic point in Tam Lin is that Tam doesn’t injure Janet; things may be weird, appearances may be scary, but he is the same person underneath, worthy to be her husband and the father of her child. He may not be able to control his outside circumstances (shape), but he can control himself. Here, Yumiko is *horribly* injured as Tom is turned into a variety of porcupines, sword fish, ray fish, sawfish, venomous porcupines, and other nasty things with spikes on them. What’s more, this section goes on for a long time.

Misery porn + the climax of your novel? DO NOT MIX.

(Then she gets healed by drinking the blood of her vampire priest cousin. Not making that up. What?)

Could Yumiko have used her Tom-provided technology nonlethally as it was “intended” to be used, to grapple and hold him? Sure. Does she? No. Could Yumiko have provided the bigwigs of Faerie proof of What’s-his-Name’s treachery and misdeeds, and persuaded them to switch out Tom for him? Sure. Does she? No. Could Yumiko have engaged in one-on-one battle for Tom? Sure (she has a magic ring that is kryptonite to the faery, a magic bow that is kryptonite to the faery, a magic sword that is…yes. If that’s not enough to make it a fair fight, then Tom should have made her some ray guns, too.) Does she? No.

Does this book have any pros? Yes, like all JCW books, it is superbly worded, the worldbuilding is excellent, the descriptions, gadgets, and settings are vivid. There are many good points about this story; I’m just out of time to write about them and had more fun complaining.

Rated: 2/5 magic swords that are never drawn, magic bows that are never strung, and magic arrows that are never fired.

Expect more of this to happen in the future

Pax Dickinson apologizes to Amanda Robb

Summary: Lefty journalist wants to write a hitpiece on ComicsGate. How best to do this than by linking it to the terrible spectre of the current fifteen minutes–incels? Of course by tying in the incellular alt-right! And how best to do that than by lassoing a right-winger to opine on comic books?

Only…in this particular case she decided on someone who a) was not into comic books, and told her so, and b) had absolutely no interest in talking to her, and told her so.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Dickinson proceeded to send her on multiple wild-goose chases over the course of several days, the crowning moment of humiliation being requiring her to purchase, wear, and send photographic evidence of wearing, a MAGA hat. Robb retreated, Dickinson apologized, and (some) ComicsGators are currently doing a victory lap.

I for one am rather curious as to what her eventual article will actually say when it’s published…