Blog Archives

Publishing and Marketing 09: Reading Women In SFF

This is my 400th post. Naturally, I thought that I would do something a bit different from all the reviews I’ve been doing of late, for almost four months now. Reviews are well and good, but that’s not all that this blog is about. It is also “A Place For The Unrestrained Consumption of Good Fiction”. And this means a lot of things. One of the foremost is talking about good fiction, or just fiction in general beyond the context of a review. And that’s what this post is about. I’ve touched on this topic a little in the past, but with this “anniversary” on hand, I feel it is a good time to talk about it some more.

Over a year and a half ago, a friend pointed out to me that my reviews were all disproportionately of fiction from men. It was an eye-opener. It wasn’t something that I had considered before, and I was startled that such a bias had crept into my current fiction consumption, despite the fact that I consumed a lot of fiction from women growing up. And that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.

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Batman and Robin #23.2 by James Tynion IV (Comics Review)

After a slightly lackluster Batman and Robin #23.1: Two Face, I was ready to be amazed and wowed. James Tynion IV, a former student of Batman-scribe Scott Snyder has written a few back-ups for Batman and is the writer for the ongoing Talon, which is a Gotham title featuring a Talon of the Court of the Owls, one of their assassins. So it is well and good that if James is writing a Villain’s Month title, it be about both the Court of Owls and the Talons.

Scott Snyder introduced the Court of Owls and their Talons in his first year on the rebooted Batman title, and in them, he created some of the most iconic villains for Batman. Once that storyline ended with Batman #11, I’d been looking forward to reading more about them eventually, which was where James’ Talon stepped in, but I haven’t read more than two issues of that unfortunately. Which is why Batman and Robin #23.2 was one of my most highly anticipated titles for Villain’s Month. James certainly doesn’t disappoint.

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Teen Titans #23.1 by Marv Wolfman (Comics Review)

Teen Titans is a book that I’ve been struggling with ever since I picked the first issue just about a year ago. The writing hasn’t been all that great and the art has been decent but inconsistent at best. I can somewhat tolerate bad art in a comic, as long as the story makes up for it, which hasn’t been the case at all with this series. Scott Lobdell’s writing just meanders on and I really, really don’t understand why he needs to tie together all the books he’s working on. The first year of the series was all crossovers, first with Superboy and then with Ravagers, and all this meant that the writing was really fractured and the series was struggling to stand on its own. Things haven’t improved in the second year, even though the Death of the Family crossover issues were slightly better. Post that event, the writing just went downhill and I finally gave up after #19. I just called quits after that.

Then I heard about Villain’s Month and that Marv Wolfman was going to be writing the first tie-in issue, featuring Trigon, a villain who was being setup as the big bag for Lobdell’s current arc in the series. This excited me because finally someone other than Lobdell was going to be working on Teen Titans and because this gave me a chance to get back to the series. I want to like this series but Lobdell’s writing just turned me off big time. Thankfully, Wolfman was there to save the day, at least for this issue.

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RED 2: Far Too Dangerous

I saw RED last year on DVD, on the recommendation of a friend, and it was 2 hours of fun. Yes, it was a pure action spectacle from the first minute to the last, and the characterisation was thin with a predictable plot, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. RED did what Expendables tried to do with an ensemble cast in an action flick, but much better. And a major reason for this was that despite the predictability of the story, it was still exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat, and had much better acting from its cast.

The sequel, RED 2, came out about a month back and I was right in line to watch it on the release weekend. I’d originally gone to watch Pacific Rim (review) a second time since I had a free ticket but ended up watching RED 2 because the free ticket didn’t apply to a 3D movie. All the same, I don’t regret watching RED 2 since it really was such a hell of a film, a really great sequel to an already great film.

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Batman #23.1 by Andy Kubert (Comics Review)

So, my Villain’s Month reading kicked off a couple hours ago with Andy Kubert’s Batman #23.1, featuring The Joker. As I’ve remarked elsewhere, some of these Villain’s Month issues are essential origin issues, or they are continuations of the ongoing Trinity War/Forever Evil event continuity. This particular issue falls somewhere in the middle, since it is a flashback issue set at some point in The Joker’s past, presumably. It barely touches on his origins, and it doesn’t acknowledge the ongoing events in the DC Universe.

This made for some interesting, and it was certainly an issue I’d really been looking forward to. However, I was disappointed again and again by this book. And that’s kind of depressing really. When you go for cerebral stories in comics, you better be really good at handling that stuff, like J. Michael Straczynski or Jim Starlin or Gail Simone or Scott Snyder good. That is so not the case here, I’m sorry to say.

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Bechdel and Mako Mori: Team-up or Deathmatch?

In the wake of the international success of Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie, Pacific Rim, there has been a lot of chatter about the characterisation in the movie. Specifically, people have been talking about the characterisation of Mako Mori, the only female character of note in the movie. Many people have condemned her as a weak, ineffectual protagonist, while others have hailed her as a great example of strong representation of female characters in movies.

I myself fall in the latter camp because I loved the character and I was able to look beyond what false trap that the character generates and consider her within the context of her culture and her own dialogue. You can read my thoughts on Mako in my review of the movie here.

One of the fallouts of Pacific Rim has been that a Tumblr user came up with the “Mako Mori Test” to evaluate female characters in movies. You can read more about it here. The test is a response to the fact that Pacific Rim fails the much more popular and long-established “Bechdel Test” but, for that user, was indeed a good representation of a female character, as I’ve already said. Clearly, the older test has some limits and the newer proposed test seeks to address those deficiencies.

So the question becomes, how do the two tests fit in with each other? Are they in conflict or can they be used together? That’s what this editorial is about.

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Reviewer Subjectivity

Friend and reviewer Ria, over at her blog Bibliotropic, posted a while back about subjectivity and objectivity in reviews. Her post was borne out of her experience reading a novel that, while in and of itself was a good piece of fiction, did not measure so well when put in context of the genre it was written in. In short, she was writing about subjectivity and objectivity in reviews as an experience, rather than a review style or mindset.

And it got me thinking about my own experiences. I had never really considered this before, you see. I approach each novel, each comic, as an object on its own, without the context of the wider genre or industry first and foremost. That evaluation is something I do subconsciously, without thought, and it is automatic. In my reviews, I rarely if ever mention whether the piece of fiction being reviewed compares to the industry/genre at large. I merely note if it is as good as other books/comics I’ve read, and even then, I use a very sample of such works, only the ones that I consider to be absolute best.

And therein is the contradiction of it.

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Indian SF March/April Issue is now out

I mentioned a while back on the blog that I would be having my first magazine credit quite soon this year. And the day has arrived!

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Indian SF editor Geetanjali Dighe was kind enough to reprint my review of Particle Horizon, a 2012 debut science fiction novel by Selso Xisto. The review originally went live on The Founding Fields last year. Head over to the IndianSF blog and download the March/April issue for a fantastic magazine that will undoubtedly push Indian SFF into the limelight this year.

Also, I love that cover. Pure SF awesomeness.

Monthly Report – January 2013

This is quite a bit late, and I apologise for the delay. Lots of things going on this month, and not all of it good, so things have been off-schedule for a while.

In my blogpost titled “2013 – What Now? Some Resolutions Maybe?” I mentioned that I was not going to set myself any individual project word-count goals, and that my big aim would be to do 450,000 words for the whole year. January, on the whole, wasn’t all that great since there were two trips to India involved (one coming back in the first week, and another going there in the last week), so that crimped by writing quite a bit, not to mention that my slump and procrastination continued.

Try as I might, I can’t fix this stupid procrastination. There’s always something that comes up, that totally screws with my writing moment and I end up doing nothing. I have no idea how to get it sorted. The reading progresses great, just not the writing.

Eh, whatever. It’s still better than doing absolutely nothing for a whole month! So here’s how my writing and reading in January went down.

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2013 – What Now? Some Resolutions Maybe?

So the New Year has come and gone. The end of the second week is almost upon us. And so far, it’s been a somewhat lazy, yet productive month. Also one that has been spectacular in a few ways. It’s also time to make some new resolutions and challenges. So let’s get to it.

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Advent Reviews Day 9: Lot 13 #1-2 by Steve Niles

Horror isn’t my favourite genre by any means. Especially not when it comes to comics. But I’m always ready to read something different, and that’s where Steve Niles’ Lot 13 ongoing series for DC Comics comes in. Lot 13 is straight-up horror with ghosts and brutal murders and so on, not the kind of comic I’d normally read. I read these two issues just today, and since I needed some sort of different reviewing fare for my Advent Calendar, I thought I’d talk briefly about this series.

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Advent Reviews Day 6: I Love Judge Dredd by Jonathan Morris

Welcome to Day 6 of Advent Reviews, where I bring to you a Judge Dredd audio drama this time. This is actually the second Judge Dredd audio drama review by me, the first was written two days ago for a guest spot on A Fantastical Librarian, where I was interviewed yesterday (my first interview!), and will be going up tomorrow (edit: slight snafu by me here, the review is already up here). The reason I’m mentioning is to skip the usual intro stuff I write, explaining how I got into a franchise like this. Suffice to say that I’m quite the fan of Judge Dredd and that these audios by Big Finish are just plain excellent overall.

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