It’s A Wonder Woman’s World

I saw Wonder Woman (like so many of you) last weekend and went through all the feels, including a few disappointed ones. Before we get into spoiler territory, let me say that it’s a triumph of a superhero movie, and a redemption for the DC series that I’d completely given up on. (I still don’t know if it’s enough to make me go back and watch BvS though.)

It killed at the box office, and people are cheering the record-breaking opening by a women director, in a movie where the superhero is a woman and yes, all of those things are awesome but I am looking forward to the day when those aren’t the headlines.

Yes, my beautiful nieces, that day will come.

WW

Spoilery spoilers of spoilerific doom ahead!

Really. SPOILERS.

The Good:

Setting it in WWI. I agree with many reviews that this works as a whole, but for me, with the whole Ares subplot, I’m glad they went with WWI rather than WWII because at least the Ares subplot makes some amount of sense given that WWI made no sense. In other words, I could buy that there’s a Greek god of war whispering in the ears of of the world and contributing to their insanity. To a degree, at least.

Etta Candy. So good, but also totally underutilized. I really want to see a lot more of her in the future, but if we’re skipping ahead to contemporary times, I’m not sure how they’re going to manage that. It would be a real shame if all we see of Etta is contained in this movie.

Likewise with Steve Trevor, played by the enormously underestimated Chris Pine. I’ve always liked his work, and here, he’s the perfect Captain Trevor. Committed to his mission, with astonishingly little in the way of ‘little lady’ mannerisms, especially given the time period. He accepts our Diana for who she is, and, as befits a man trying to prevent as many deaths as possible in this war, is willing to let her take care of herself and go along to help him achieve his mission. For a man of the early 20th century, he’s remarkably woke.

The score. I’m a sucker for a good film score, and this one is the perfect match for the actors and the action on screen. Rupert Gregson-Williams gives us the perfect mix of lyrical and driving themes that balance out the bigger-than-life scenes playing out on-screen. He shows restraint and doesn’t go full-on Zimmer during the biggest action sequences (a relief, and I say that as a huge Zimmer fan), and his theme for Diana is just perfection.

Okay. REALLY REALLY SPOILERY.

The… not exactly bad, but the things that made me sigh.

I saw this with a few friends and my husband and everyone except the husband agreed that we all kind of wish that the thing that triggered Diana’s full god-like powers hadn’t been the death of her man (the husband simply thought the entire movie was fantastic). I think the romance between Diana and Steve was handled perfectly, and give huge props to everyone for pulling that off in a way that was genuine and kept both characters on equal footing. But wasn’t there enough awful and emotional things going on around her that might have triggered the explosion of powers? It was a wistful moment for us.

I was also not a fan that Diana was, essentially, lied to her entire life, including the part where she’s going off to try and save the world and don’t you think maybe this would be the time to come clean, Mother Queen? Especially because Diana is all about the TRUTH, I felt like she never really had that moment to process the lies she was told, or to come to terms with it. And it makes me think so much less of Queen Hippolyta. It’s one thing to want to protect your child, but to actively send her into harm’s way knowing that everything she has been told is a lie? That swings from protection to abuse.

I CANNOT GET MUCH SPOILER WARNING THAN THIS.

I really, really disliked…

Ares. That whole thing. That we killed off all the other gods AND GODDESSES WTF and left the world with… Ares. I don’t think the film needed this subplot at all. Believe me, the world is way capable of being horrible enough without blaming it on deity. I really was impressed when it looked like Diana was going to have to come to terms with Steve being right, that Ares wasn’t real and that all this awfulness was just mankind being a collective bunch of assholes. But then, Ares came along and … if it hadn’t been for the absolute strength of the movie up to this point, it could have been disastrous. Fortunately, the other amazing things were amazing enough to prop this plot point up.

This was also the one bit where the role was horribly miscast, at least for me. David Thewlis just doesn’t work for me here (and I love me some Lupin so much). And then, we have the big sacrifice, and Diana’s godhood unleashes itself fully, and … well. It’s a minor quibble overall, but there it is.

THE OH MY GOD I LOVED THIS SO MUCH I NEARLY DIED PARTS

The Amazons. THE MOTHERFUCKING AMAZONS ON THEMYSCIRA. Seriously. Please just give me a three-hour movie set on Themyscira with these women and I will eat all the popcorn and spend my entire summer just watching that movie. These women were beautiful and fierce and diverse and THEY WERE MIDDLE-AGED and had lived lives and fought in glorious battle and when the German army showed up on their beach they saddled the fuck up and rode them down like the badass warriors they are.

Just. I could have spent the entire movie right there. I’m going back just to see that part, again and again and again.

And then… the one other scene. You know which one I’m talking about.

No Man’s Land.

I have to be honest here. I started to cry when she came up over the ladder. Not just a ladylike sniffle with a single tear running down my cheek, but I came close to ugly-crying with heaving breasts and snot and all of it. It was … I don’t even know that I can put it into words. World War I was so horrible, horrible in a way that we can never understand. Those men – and those boys – stuck in the trenches, for weeks on end, in the mud and the shit and the fear and all of it. Never in a million years could you blame them for not wanting to go out there, for just wanting to stay alive.

And she went. She went up and over and she was glorious and it was every single childhood fantasy of Wonder Woman and Princess Leia and She-Ra and Sarah Connor and Ripley and Eowyn all whirled up through the blender of womanhood and come to life on the screen. And she went out there, she went into No Man’s Land, because she is Wonder Woman.

And it was so right and beautiful and perfect in that moment that I wept.

*****

After the movie was over, my husband nudged me to point out something behind me. A little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, dressed up like Wonder Woman. She was beaming. She loved it. She flashed the power pose, arms crossed out in the lobby. It was everything. I’m a little jealous that this is what she gets to grow up with, but mostly, I’m just beaming right alongside her.

It’s about fucking time.

TBR: The Neverending Pile of Stories

I came home from the Nebulas with more than 30 books that were either part of my swag bag, or were offered up on the swap table for others to find. It’s a good thing I drove – there’s no way I would have been able to get so many home otherwise!

nebulaswag

I had a small shelf in a corner of the sunroom that was empty (the result of recent culling and reorganization). It’s now completely full again. Plus the other shelf in the sunroom that still holds the ‘to be read’ pile from the last Readercon I went to and the last *two* WFCs.

So what do I do when I got home? Read e-books. Of course.

A few recent reads:

Curtis Chen’s Waypoint Kangaroo: This was a fun read. The character of Kangaroo (will we ever learn his real name??) is the snarky superspy who can open a pocket into another universe that I’ve always wanted. Chen really nails the character with this one, which is the perfect balance to all of the shenanigans that follow. I think what I love most about this book is how strong and present Kangaroo is as a person for me. I love it when I can hear the character in my head, reading along with me. I’m looking forward to the next book which is coming out very soon.

Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth: I had no idea I could love hippos so much. This is flat-out one of the most fun and unique premises I’ve come across in a long while. Apparently, once upon a time, the U.S. government actually had a plan to address the country’s meat shortage with hippopotamus ranching. I had no idea! Well, Gailey took this little nugget of history and ran with it. The result is a romping alternative history where a wonderfully diverse and shady cast of characters takes on a job to drive feral hippos out of The Harriet. Sounds easy, right? Well, things go wrong, there’s betrayal and romance and death and friendly hippos along with terrifying feral hippos. I loved this. My only complaint is that it’s “only” a novella – I want more!

I’m a few stories into The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter Beagle and Jacob Weisman. So far, the standout story for me is “Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander. It’s the kind of story that is so wonderful that it’s painful. The story of a lovestruck tornado and a person just trying to find her place in the world is one that resonates on a deeply personal level for me (although my tornado encounters didn’t quite go like this). Bolander is hands-down one of the fiercest and inventive writers out there today, and she’s in great company in this anthology, which also features stories by Sarah Pinsker, Sofia Samatar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Alyssa Wong and many other outstanding writers. This is one I’ll be savoring for a very long while.

 

Nebula Bound

I’m off to my first Nebula conference this week. Bonus points in that it’s held this year in Pittsburgh, which is driving distance and the city where my husband attended university. So he’s coming along for a combined business/pleasure trip for us both.

As I lean more and more toward publishing ‘Seven’ myself, I’m especially interested in the workshops and discussions geared toward indie publishing. Between Berkeley getting rid of a huge number of its authors, and Harlequin shutting down five of its lines, I’m worried about the health of the traditional publishing industry. (And I’m looking for conversations on this over the weekend too.)

In the meantime, I need to revise my book pitch, just in case, and get the epic packing list underway. See you in Pittsburgh!

The value of feedback

A group of local genre writers in my area meets once a month for dinner, conversation and some light critiquing. We have a young writer with us who mentioned that he didn’t realize we’d be critiquing so formally and laughed about his high school writing class where they read each other’s works and don’t say much at all.

His comment is one I’ve seen echoed in a few online writing groups where some are proud of the fact that they never read other books or critique others. Usually, it’s to keep their own writing “pure”. For me, critiquing is as much a part of the writing process as research and proper wordsmithing is.

I’ve learned so much by critiquing other people’s writing, and the more I do it, the better I get. I also read other people’s critiques, trying to see a story through their eyes. I’m part of the OWW and find it to be very much worth the small monthly fee to have full access. I’ve got the monthly local writing group that meets, plus a small online group of writer friends who have been together almost three years. It’s a lot of work each month to read other stories and think about them and write thoughtful critiques, but in the end, absolutely worth it.

As for that young writer in my group, he shows a lot of promise. He listens, and most important of all, he’s actually putting butt-in-chair and writing. It’s a lesson a lot of older writers are still figuring out.

 

Diversity Panels I’d Like To See

Annalee nails it when it comes to diversity panels that go beyond what is offered at many cons.

The Bias

Generic “diversity panels” are boring.

I get it: you schedule “Women in Gaming” and “Disability in Genre Fiction” with the best of intentions. You know these are hot topics of discussion in the fandom community right now, and you want your con to add to the conversation.

But these generic panels don’t so much add to the conversation as recap it. It’s impossible to go into a subject as broad as “Race In Science Fiction” in any depth in a one-hour slot, and without knowing how well the audience has educated themselves on the topic, the panelists generally just end up summarizing the background reading.

What makes this worse for panelists is that, as members of underrepresented groups, we’re in high demand for this kind of “diversity homework.” We get scheduled for these panels instead of panels on subjects related to our actual expertise or current projects. While folks with…

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they travel in the time of the prophets…

1200 words today, all of them on an outline.

My style of writing is slowly changing. Evolving. I used to just sit down and let the words come out, but I’ve learned that that particular well dries up pretty fast. I’ve been outlining more, mostly because a couple of workshops I took required it, and to my surprise, I like it. A lot.

In one of those ‘well, duh’ mirror moments: I can’t believe it took me so long to jump into this degree of outlining. I plan EVERYTHING. I’m the person my friends go to when they need something researched, or when they need help with logistics. When we plan a vacation? I will spend months, down to plotting out all the restaurants with good reviews and within our budget within a 10-block radius of every stopping point on our trip.

So yes. Discovering that outlining works for me when it comes to my writing? I definitely have felt quite sheepish here.

Now, it’s time to write the story. This is definitely the most ambitious story I’ve attempted, so there’s that scared worried excited thing going on right now. But I have my map, and while I’m sure things may change along the way, I won’t get quite so lost.

I just wish I could come up with a good way to find titles.

The Big Roundup

It’s been a whirlwind of a couple of months! The highlights:

My short story, “Extant” was published in the anthology What FollowsI really enjoyed writing this story, and really wish I had another month to work on it. I’ve been told that this is all part of the writer package: you always think of just one more thing you could tweak even after it’s gone out. I confess to being a horrible anthology mate to my co-writers since I haven’t had time to actually read the rest of the stories. But that is all because of that whirlwind I mentioned before.

I attended my second World Fantasy Convention in November. It wasn’t quite the magical thing that my first one was, but I did get to meet most of my online writing group in person. There were shenanigans, and whiskey, and a really inappropriate game of Cards Against Humanity. And some panels. And meeting and chatting with other writers. And I think I made my first real pitch to an editor, and totally didn’t realize it until after the fact. Mary Robinette Kowal hosted a meetup for those writers who have taken classes from her and that was delightful. Except for the screaming. Yeah, that was a thing.

Also in November, it was NaNoWriMo! And that was a beast. I won (50,001 words!) but I think this will be my last one. I do not expect 70% of what I wrote to actually make it into a final manuscript. I think NaNo has served its purpose for me, and my focus has to be on steady writing year-round, and not just one massive effort in November that leaves me drained for the next two months. Still, I got an excellent early draft of BloodKin kinda sorta fleshed out. I wrote two short stories, and am finishing the third one this week. I’m learning more about Scrivener, and happy to say I won a secret contest that I’m really delighted about.

I’m taking a workshop on short short fiction with Carrie Cuinn (started that on November 15th). I have mixed feelings about it so far, mainly because I have had zero time to really engage with the classes or the other writers. I also think that the online-only approach has its drawbacks; there are ways to do ‘face time’ engagement even over long distances. I hadn’t realized just how much depth and flavor that can add to a workshop. (ooh, now there’s an idea – what if humanity, because of some kind of biological/climate thing really is segregated and limited to face-to-face interactions mainly through tech. hmmmm….)

I also cleaned my office. And this weekend, I’m planning to re-organize my kitchen. I get gold stars for everything! (no, really, I have a post to make about gold stars but that’s for another time.)

Extant finds a home…

Very happy to report that my short story Extant has found a home in the “What Follows” anthology. The anthology is a post-apocalyptic look at what happens to the immortals after the world has ended. It’s shaping up to be a great collection of new and fledgling authors. On sale soon!

QOTD: 08/22/2014

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard & you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, & that hard.”

– Neil Gaiman

Back to the basics.

I’ve been struggling with the WIP. I like where it started, I know where it has to end, but I also know that there hasn’t been enough movement for my main character. Too much observing, not enough emotional engagement. Potential, but no pizzaz. 

It’s been bothering me all week, so I tried the usual fixes of ignoring it, taking naps, cleaning my office (which meant blowing it up first as I “re-organized” stuff. I even spent money I shouldn’t have on handy organizational gadgets. “If I just get organized enough, the story will fix itself!” she said, despairingly, before laughing ironically and sinking into another glass of scotch. (ye gods.) 

So tonight, after another round of “writing,” I had managed to organize my chest of drawers, and had 17 new words. So, I took my plotbook (8″x11″ Moleskin hardcover, squared, black), my favorite pen (Pilot G-2 07 Bold), and sat down on the newly-cleaned loveseat (hand-me-down, plush, ugly shade of blue), and wrote it out. 

And wrote. And wrote. Not the actual story, but what is the story? Where is the movement? What is the journey? Brain to hand to pen to paper. And there it is. 

It’s not done, of course. There is still the writing, but for me, the journey is a little easier with a map to guide me. There are questions answered. And there is the final scene – so perfect, so exactly what the story is. It’s there, waiting for me to connect all the letters and words leading up to that point. It’s that moment that makes me love writing so very much.

What is it about the physical act of writing of writing with pen and paper that is different than keyboard and screen? They are just tools. But with pen and paper, there are no distractions. There are different connections firing in the brain. I used to know this, when I would write page after page of stories and sketches and doodles. And tonight, I remembered that. 

And I am grateful for it.