History Repeating: A return of violent machismo to Fantasy and Science Fiction

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Image above shamelessly stolen from Mark Lawrence’s Blog

History Repeating: A Return of Violent Machismo to Fantasy and Science Fiction

At the 35th Annual Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in Orlando, March 2014, Stephen R. Donaldson, as a guest on a discussion panel, raised a concern about the apparent rise of violence, nihilism, cynicism, and darkness in modern genre fantasy writing.  In particular he singled out what is most commonly referred to as ‘grimdark’, a sub-genre of fantasy popularised and exemplified by authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and George R.R. Martin.  Although I should mention that he did not explicitly name those authors.

The common (mis)understanding of grimdark is that it is fantasy writing that eschews the tropes of hero, heroic quest and the simplistic morality of good winning out over evil, in favour of a much darker, more cynical fantasy world which is generally graphically and explicitly violent, morally bankrupt (or at the least deeply flawed), and celebrates the dirt, darkness and grittiness of the world.  Heroic characters are replaced by violent, sociopathic, immoral or amoral protagonists, who are not so much anti-heroes as villains but on a side less villainous than the other.  Good and evil have been replaced by evil and slightly less evil.  In many ways a fairly accurate rendering of what the news presents us with on a daily basis, on the hour, every hour.

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Worldbuilding and the Malazan Book of the … Feminist?

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Worldbuilding and the Malazan Book of the … Feminist?

At the heart of a significant proportion of fantasy is the diegetic reality, the setting itself, the diegesis or storyworld.  It is one of the things that often sets fantasy apart from other forms of literature, those stories that use the real world as the foundational basis for the setting of the narrative.

Fantasy, like a lot of SF and Horror, creates a new reality in which the narrative resides.  So where Dickens, Austen, the Brontёs set their work in a contemporaneous, if fictionalised, England, the settings of their works did not need to be invented as they simply lifted complete societies, customs, economics, races, prejudices and biases from England, the real world.  Not only that, but their diegetic storyworld did not have to be fundamentally altered or disguised, it could be a fairly accurate depiction of the real world.  They could pretty much copy wholesale from what was outside their window.  And lastly, the setting would be immediately familiar to their readers because it was not invented.

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Guest Review by P. Hurley: Southbound (dir. Benjamin, Bruckner, Horvath, Silence, 2016)

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Guest Review by P. Hurley

Southbound (2016). Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, and Radio Silence.  Written by Roxanne Benjamin, Matt Bennelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Susan Burke, Dallas Hallam, and Patrick Horvath. Willowbrook Regent Films,  89 minutes.

Synopsis:  Interlocking tales of highway terror revolve around malevolent spirits at a truck stop, a mysterious traveler, a car accident and a home invasion.  (imdb.com)

Fuck this shit. Let’s go home.”

This film is an anthology in which the stories and characters are interwoven, taking place in a nameless town (as it’s a horror film, you can probably guess the name) on a nameless highway (save that it’s going south) in a nameless part of the southwest United States (most probably Nevada).  It tells four stories of people who are unfortunate enough to drive through (and stop in) this neck of the woods, and documents their various fates.

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Superhero Fatigue or Second Wind?

 

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Superhero Fatigue or Second Wind?

Without a doubt it is a good time to be a superhero geek.  Superhero comics are increasingly reaching out to broader demographics and trying to engage fans from all walks of life.  Comic Cons are basically mainstream media events with high profile guests and impressive production values.  Superhero films are smashing box-office records left and right, not to mention being churned out at a pace of three or four a year (or more), with no sign of stopping.  Superhero television shows are springing up on channel after channel and catering for different demographics and audiences.   And in the face of this we say, ‘Well it can’t keep going at this pace… It will have to end sometime… The public will get bored with the constant stream of superheroes…’ and on and on and on.  In a number of regards that is undoubtedly true, Hollywood has always had something of a cyclical nature to its production schedule.  The era of the Western, the era of the Musical, the era of the Noir and so on.  Each genre has its day to shine and dominate the box office, spawn televisual progeny, and then the market reaches saturation and the public moves on to the next craze.  Thus it was, thus it always will be, so speaketh the voice of experience.

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Review: The Broken Eye (Lightbringer Book 3) by Brent Weeks

 

 

 

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Short Review:

The continuing Epic fantasy saga following a handful of overpowered characters as they scheme and try to survive a civil war.  Slower, and more politically and world-building focused than the initial volumes.  Two of the female characters are raised to central prominence.  A solid step toward the end of the series with lots of minor action sequences but temporarily loses sight of the major conflict.

 

Longer Review:

If you are reading this I am assuming that you have already read Books 1 and 2 (The Black Prism and The Blinding Knife respectively).  This book picks up on the cliffhanger ending of Book 2 with Gavin enslaved on a pirate vessel, Kip held prisoner by his half-brother Zymun, Karris worried about the missing Gavin, and Teia being courted by a secret society of ne’er-do-wells.  You might notice the Liv and the Colour Prince don’t feature on that list… and that is because it seems that Weeks is leaving that storyline to the last book.  While the story checks in on Gavin to keep you updated on his travails, the major focus on this novel is on Karris, Teia, and Kip, and a strong eye on the underhanded politics of the Chromeria.  While the first two books aimed at high adventure and action Epic Fantasy, this book slows all the way down to focus more on the history and detail of the world, and spends time moving pieces around in preparation for the concluding book.  So while it is great to have more character development and world-building, those looking for the civil war storyline to advance, the usual rip-roaring adventure and epic action, may be a little disappointed.

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Review: Legends of Tomorrow (CW, 2016 – )

 

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Review:   Legends of Tomorrow (CW, 2016 – )

 

Short Review:

If you like the other CW superhero shows, this is more of the same.  If you don’t like the other CW superhero shows this is more of the same.  Glossy American superhero action remake of Doctor Who.  Uneven writing, unwieldy ensemble cast with bumpy chemistry and the subtlety of a baseball bat to the face, and without the do-gooding charm of The Flash or the growling angst of Arrow.

 

Longer Review:

Take a group of supporting characters and guest stars from your airing superhero shows (some of whom are surprisingly famous), stick them in a dysfunctional team together, have them led by American Doctor Who-light on a haphazard trip through easy-to-costume historical settings, to fight an implausible bad guy… welcome to Legends of Tomorrow.  The latest DC based superhero property to show up on the CW, LoT features the time travelling rogue Time Master, Rip Hunter, played by Doctor Who alum Arthur Darvill.  Rip has journeyed back in time to assemble a team of misfit heroes and rogues in order to fight the immortal sorcerer and warlord Vandal Savage (Casper Crump).  Unfortunately, while only slightly more implausible than all the other teams of superheroes who fight ridiculous villains, there is a real lack of cohesion of vision to this show.  But for ease of description, think of it as Justice League: The C-listers, or The Diet Avengers.

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Review: Lucifer (Fox, 2016 – )

 

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Review: Lucifer (Fox, 2016 – )

 

Short Review:

A police procedural, buddy cop/odd couple, comics based show with occasional risqué humour and a slowly building but thin supernatural meta-arc.  Very similar to the cancelled Constantine (CW, 2014-2015) but with a slightly more charismatic central character, and slightly less edgy material.

 

Longer Review:

Given the glut of Superhero shows and films currently available, it seems strange that DC and FOX would try to ram yet another one into the mix, however supernatural shows and police procedurals are a staple of cable TV so why not combine the two?  Despite Lucifer’s comics background, it is no superhero show, or at least not the type you might expect.  Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) has given up being the King of Hell and retired to the mortal plane to open a high class decadent night club, Lux, in Los Angeles.  A series of unfortunate events leads to him teaming up with a local homicide detective, Chloe Decker (Lauren German), and proceeding to solve murders on a weekly basis.  The series alludes to a broader supernatural meta-arc as Lucifer is visited by Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), an angel, who warns him to return to his duties in Hell or there will be consequences.  Given that I have only seen the first few episodes at the time of writing this, I have to say that the supernatural meta-arc is thin at best, but that may change as the series develops.

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