Mar. 7th, 2011 01:06 pm
azn_jack_fiend: (technoviking)
I'm finally watching Spartacus. Some of the sillier things:

- The splooshy oversaturated blood effect. It's like all the people on the show have hyperactive ketchup running through their veins.
- How the single most significant item and plot device on the show is... a garter belt.
- The chunky necklace plus Ugg boots plus banana hammock ensembles all the gladiators wear. And everything has a bunch of strings hanging off it.
- Kneecapitation! In slow motion!
- Everything! In slow motion!
- Wretched dialogue. And the characters are always insulting each other, but they never get much more imaginative than "you smell like poop." 

I did really like Lucy Lawless and her character and her awesome wigs. The show improved substantially as soon as she came on screen.

I can't help comparing Spartacus to Rome in very unfavorable ways. However, I'm going to keep on watching.

One reason I waited so long to watch Spartacus was that I find gladiator-themed stuff horribly, horribly grim, and I didn't know if I could take a whole show that's basically torture porn if we translated it to modern terms. But the violence on Spartacus is so cartoonish that it doesn't affect me emotionally, so that won't be a concern. I don't know if that's good or bad, really!

My last critique is that for a show that's so centered on combat, the combat sequences struck me as pointless. In the best martial arts movies, and in exciting MMA or boxing matches, you get a sense of the different fighting styles of the opponents.  In Spartacus, all the combat scenes are cut music video style; it looks slick and utterly generic. Because I don't have a sense of how the combatants are differently matched, the fights have no internal logic and are transparently predictable based on whatever the plot seems to be calling for. There's no suspense at all, especially in any fight involving Spartacus, since obviously the title character isn't going to get killed off.

I'll report back in when I finish watching Blood and Sand. I trust [ profile] heddychaa's assurances that the drama will improve. Plus, the guys are hot.

azn_jack_fiend: (Dagon)
Warning: this is a very long post. I think [ profile] alt_universe_me  is going to BUG OUT when she reads both the fic and my analysis of it. Other than that, I have no idea whether or not this will be of interest to anyone. But it sure is to me! I really got inspired.

So a few months ago, I signed up as a cultural beta for Chromatic Yuletide. I wrote a post explaining the concept here. I ended up getting a beta request for Mexican-American and US POC issues in general. I'm not Latina, so I made sure to specify I wasn't a primary source. I just have some decent Spanish, plus I've studied a lot of Latin-American history and culture, including a summer I spent at the UNAM in Mexico City. I figured I could beta the basics of Mexican-American stuff, and I'd pass on anything that I didn't feel comfortable giving opinions on as a non-Latina.

Anyway, it turns out the source canon was quite familiar to me.  In fact, it'll be familiar to anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes listening to a classic rock/AOR ration station.  It's... wait for it...

HOTEL CALIFORNIA!!!  BY THE EAGLES!!! That mystic and vaguely Satanic drug-freak yacht-rock anthem!

The author wrote a brilliant, almost 10k fic exploring the Latino/Chicano roots of Hotel California. A 19th century man (I would guess the date as very early, perhaps 1800) by the name of Gerardo de la Cruz sets out on his horse for a new life in Alta California. Up ahead in the distance, he saw a shimmering light, his head grew heavy and his sight grew dim, he had to stop for the night...

Siempre Cambiando, Nunca Cambiando. Go read it!

rest of my post contains some spoilers for the fic as well as a ton of geeking out about race, language, translation and fiction )
azn_jack_fiend: (smirk)
These two fics made my night the other night.

A Minute of Your Time, Captain - The third of [ profile] heddychaa's Advent fic-a-day posts, this one was based on one of my prompts. I loved the character of Zach in The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit episodes. He had a great character arc in miniature and was damn good-looking too. For my Jack/Zack (any) prompt I was expecting some sort of interesting "they meet in a bar" type thing, but [ profile] heddychaa went above and beyond and served up a stylish slice of a rich, multi-layered relationship set against the backdrop of 42nd-century media relations.

Left Behind - I don't have much to say on this one, since I read it on canaana's rec. I'll just echo the rec, and add that this is the Jack and Rose in Pete's World story I've always wanted to read. It made me feel so very, very happy.

azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
I didn't write anything at all this weekend. Instead, I just chilled out when I wasn't having family time. 

Spoilers for some Torchwood novels )
azn_jack_fiend: (snarl)
I had a dream a few nights ago about quitting my job. It felt sooo good. My dreams are often very surreal and vivid but this one was dirt simple. I called my boss, gave a two-week notice and then a few friendly pointers on who could take over my stuff.  I've been doing this job for ten years and I'm heartily sick of it.

I'd have to have a new job before I quit this one, though, and I'm just not in the right mental space for prepping and searching. I want to get to that space, so I'm going to give it some serious thought by the end of the year.
Tommy Lee Edwards art from Captain Jack and the Selkie
I bought Torchwood Comics 1-3 this weekend. I might make a more detailed review later. Basically, the stories were all crap, and most of the art, except the Tommy Lee Edwards and Pia Guerra art.  The stories... the less said, the better. One of them was called "Stakes on a Plane".  There was one about a burn victim from the future that was halfway decent, but like all the other ones, it suffers from horrendous wooden dialogue. Is it too much to ask for that different characters speak as if they were actually different human beings? Or that jokes actually be funny?

But good art makes up for a lot, and I'll keep buying the things, very happily if there's any more Tommy Lee Edwards doing Jack.  I can't help but dream how awesome a Torchwood comic would be with a real comic book writer... Brian K. Vaughan comes to mind.  Or Garth Ennis. Hoo boy.
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
I've been on a big YMO kick lately. Holy fuck this video is so avant-garde!!!

In more breathless recommendations, this time fanfic, OMG this is some balls-to-the-wall healing cock!!!! I hadn't read it before [ profile] canaana recced it at [ profile] calufrax. It's an awesome, super-intense Nine/Jack story from several years ago. I don't mind fanfiction cliches at all when they're done this well. For other re-recs from her stint this week, Consanguinitas also was new to me, and kicked ass. I shouldn't even have to mention Well, You Know because I think I reread it at least every other week, then rave about it.

And a big thank you to [ profile] canaana for reccing my own The Battle of Songhu! It wouldn't have been as good without your betaing, too :D
azn_jack_fiend: (Dagon)
I was originally going to turn this into a really long post about afterlife fics in general, but my internet situation is so irritating that I had to shorten my plans.

I remember other fics in which Jack "goes somewhere" when he dies, so I'm sure the concept has been kicking around the collective fandom subconscious for a while now.  But it's a rich idea with tons of potential, especially since Torchwood is such a terrible tease when it comes to death.  There's nothing.  Oh wait, there's something (moving in the darkness). And there's Eugene!  Who the hell knows?

As usual, the show wants to have it both ways, taking a surface atheist-materialist approach while drawing massively on semi-religious symbolism in order to either horrify or inspire. 

[ profile] epithetta's WIAD-following fic Indemnity uses a train station to stand in for the afterlife, to fantastic effect.  The story is incredibly tight and good.  To sum up the beginning without giving away the end, Jack goes to a platform at the train station whenever he dies, and sees Ianto there. But train stations mean eventual departures...

[ profile] heddychaa's chilling [ profile] retconbookwrite fic, Locked Groove/Blue Plate Special, swirls around confusingly (and I love the disorienting effect) before focusing in on Jack's promise to remember Ianto for a thousand years.  And perhaps this isn't such a good thing, being remembered...

What I love about both fics is that they go way beyond wish fulfillment, and they mess around with the religious idea that yes, there are rules, there is a system, we know what happens. Instead, yes there's a system, but it doesn't make sense, and there's as much mystery left at the end of the story as there was at the beginning.  epithetta's story uses the mystery of the afterlife more to inspire -- it's about love and yearning -- and heddychaa's story uses it to horrify, although there's still a bit of love near the end too.

Fic Recs

Aug. 13th, 2010 10:27 am
azn_jack_fiend: (Asia the Invincible (armor))
This gives me a chance to show off a spiffy new Asia the Invincible icon.  My favorite psychotic supernatural dictator!

I still don't have the right tagging or bookmarking system set up, but here are some of my favorite fics from the last several weeks, plus one older one.  These are just the ones I have in mind that I feel like saying something about... there were a lot of other good ones too.

First up, [ profile] roachpatrol retitled and published "Wardrobe Malfunction", the short fic I already raved about from [ profile] whoverse_las.  The new title is "Now Go, Cat, Go".  I haven't reread it yet because I don't have tissues handy, and damn, it makes me cry like a bitch.

Another contest entry is [ profile] rm's WIAD entry, "From the Underground Kingdoms". It's a wonderful, moody Jack backstory piece set in Torchwood 1939.  I loved the atmosphere of dreamlike inevitability, the vulnerability of the narrator and the sense that history itself was one of the characters.

When it comes to longer fic, I really enjoyed this story by [ profile] joking, "Mad Girl's Love Song". It's a Nine/Jack/Rose AU with a female Ninth Doctor.  The concept is awesome and all the implications are thoughtfully and gracefully considered.  No, it doesn't go NC-17 but we do get a very nice naked!Jack moment. 

And now for something completely different... [ profile] madder_rose  has produced a casting-call-and-rumor-based Torchwood S4 fic called "I Believe You've Got the Wrong Emotion".  You'll also need a tissue for this fic, so you can wipe up the tears of laughter and clean the spittle spray from your monitor. 

With a mighty roar, I leave behind new fic to recommend this one from a few months ago by [ profile] heddychaa: "Three Times Ianto Jones Met James Bond, Including One Time He Remembered It".  I keep wanting to mention this story in my meta on action scenes in fanfic, but it's taking so long I thought I'd just go ahead and say it now.  It's a fun, intricate story with an absolutely fantastic action scene in the middle.  Like The Monkey says, action without suspense is worthless.  And the action-suspense in the scene is based on a character moment where we really want to know, "how far will they go?"  It's very hard, especially in fanfic, to set up a realistic scenario in which the life of the protagonist is in serious danger.  When "will they live or die?" isn't a serious question, the next most suspenseful question is generally "how far will they go?" There are a lot of possibilities to that approach, so read the fic to find out.

In terms of printed matter, last night I started reading over some short stories in my anthologies. I ran across one of my old favorites, Bruce Sterling's "The Blemmye's Strategem." It's a surreal fable about Christian/Muslim relations during the crusades.  The opening is here and I own it in this anthology.  It has an intriguing start, and as you read it, you wonder where the hell it could go, and why it's even science fiction.  Then every few pages it ramps up and goes to another level of bizarreness and sheer WTF, all the while keeping the same wistful, tragic-sarcastic, ironic-Orientalist tone of the opening.  It's one of the most fascinating and original stories I've ever read.
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
First of all, I want to congratulate... MYSELF! Hahahaha.  Because I correctly guessed the New Who winner: [ profile] roachpatrol.  Until yesterday, I was guessing someone else.  Then, I recced roachpatrol's classic "Well, You Know" and realized some similarities to the contest entry "Wardrobe Malfunction," which was also the one I voted to win.  So I thought it might be them.  I like to do these votes primarily on technical merits, and I believe it was clearly the best on technical merits.  The concept was original, not a single word was wasted, the construction was perfect, the imagery was brilliant.  I'm a huge 9/Jack/Rose lover, but even if I wasn't, I think I still would have had to vote for it.  Since I am, it made me cry, and cry, and cry, damn it.

I did NOT guess who the Torchwood winner was.  Congratulations [ profile] _lullabelle_!  I voted for you guessing you were someone else, actually... I didn't even know you were in the contest.  "This Mess is a Place" was awesome and visceral. I loved it.

I voted for the two winners but my two losers didn't lose. Oh well.  In the layer of fics I considered to be the top 10%, there were a lot of WTF moments.  [ profile] heddychaa 's story -- "Are Those Astronaut Pants?" -- should have had a much higher score than some other entries.  The way she established mood was just beautiful.  The [ profile] epithetta  "Four Times" story should not have had a negative score.  That's nuts.  Perhaps the lack of beta-ing hurt it (it hurt many other participants too) but otherwise, it was awesome. And that shower scene at the end was SMOKING HOT.

I'm scared to do constructive criticism publicly unless people actually ask for it... so if anyone I didn't mention is a contestant and is interested in feedback for theirs, let me know and I could do it privately. 

azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
So far there are 29 stories at the Challenge including my own, and it took a while, but I read them all.  It was a fascinating experience. I decided I'd do a top three rec post but I ended up changing it to top six.  This list doesn't have any pretension of objectivity. Many of the fandoms are unfamiliar to me, and so if I didn't get the references, it was too hard for me to decide how much I appreciated the piece.  It's also very imbalanced because my own leanings are sci-fi, fantasy and historical... for example, none of the modern-day crime show fics made it into my personal top six, even though they might be quite good.  Here they are in no particular order.

Moses among the Bulrushes by toujours_nigel - Harry Potter
All I know about Harry Potter is snatches of the movies, but it's enough for me to enjoy this very short piece.  The language is rich, the racism is sharp and strikes me as terrifyingly convincing, and the ending is still sunny.

Sometimes I wish I could fly, Like a bird up in the sky by fresne - Superman
Stylistically and in terms of content, this is brilliant, gorgeous and awe-inspiring. Transracial adoption in the Superman story is a buried subtext, and this fic digs it out and shakes the bones around.  The first chapter reminded me strongly of the memoir Jesus Land, and the way the setting was painted sent chills down my spine.  The second chapter is just as good with imagery.  I had no idea I would like this piece as much as I did, but it blew me away.

Don't Go to Strangers by mjules - The Little Mermaid
I can't stand Disney, but I love variants of the Little Mermaid story (absolute favorite: Oscar Wilde's "The Fisherman and His Soul").  This fic is short, straightforward, and clearly brings out the issues of choice and sacrifice that lie at the center of all the versions.  I also tended to like the fics in this collection with sort-of-happy endings, and this was one of them.

Trembling on with steady aim by gloss - Captain America
This one was VERY hard for me to read because it was so emotionally disturbing.  It reimagines Bucky as a Nisei. I'm very familiar with Golden Age Marvel comics -- the pre-Comics Code ones are actually much darker and more violent than Silver Age -- and this one really brought out the darkness. I thought some parts of it set in Asia were too heavy-handed, but most of it felt true to history. Just given my connection to the topic I find it easier to watch/handle slightly more positive and patriotic depictions, like Lane Nishikawa's movie Only the Brave, but something as grim as this is also called for.

Five Things People Might Have Read On The Psychic Paper (If Things Were Slightly Different) by Grey_Bard - Doctor Who
The other DW story! It's short, sweet, sad and funny. I didn't want to take this particular tack because I figured other people would be doing it, and I'm sooo glad someone did do it for Doctor Who, and did it perfectly, with just the right tone and fantastic dialogue.  The bit about the bowtie... it's absolute GENIUS.

By Sun and Candlelight by Destar - Sherlock Holmes
I enjoyed the style of this piece and the tangled sentences.  It's a nicely simple concept, very accessible, and it's got a happy ending with slashy sex forthcoming.

I enjoyed many more of the pieces than I listed here, however.  The variety of fandoms and subjects were so awesome.  Congratulations to all the participants and the organizers.
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
This Torchwood book is a collection of five short stories.  Story by story, there were way more misses than hits. 

this review contains just one spoiler for the stupid evil alien baby story but is otherwise safe )
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
The virtual series is over.  Bravo! I read along from the beginning, and had a fantastic time.  I liked some episodes more than others, of course, but the overall quality was incredibly impressive and the series as a whole came together beautifully at the end.

Somewhat spoilerish comments below... )
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
I'm a genius! Why? Because I knew [ profile] heddychaa's Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations: A Field Manual was going to get recced at [info]torchwood_house .  I just didn't know it would be this soon. 

I feel privileged to have had [ profile] heddychaa ask me for feedback on it.  It was already pretty much perfect at that point; I just had a few terminology suggestions.

The pacing of the story and the level of craft that went into constructing Edmonds' point of view are both outstanding.  But more than that, I appreciated how the story was both intensely literary (in the sense that I couldn't imagine it being filmed, or told in any other format) as well as visual.  It made me think about the cinematography and set design of the death scene in CoE Day Four in a deeper way.  It called up the feeling of seeing a famous painting or artwork or vista for the second time, after having learned more about it, and being even more stunned.  It's a complicated, powerful, heart-wrenching story.

Here are some of my other favorites from the last week or so.  I know I'm missing some, because I wanted to go back and look at the comments I left, but I'm only able to see the last ten, so if I'm going to do this on a regular basis I need to come up with a new system.

Defender of the Faith by [ profile] sam_storyteller is a great Jack/Gwen/Ianto story.  They visit the Queen. Honestly, if I hadn't seen who the writer was, I would never have read this story, because I'm very much an anti-royalist and positive portrayals of royalty in the modern day tend to irritate me.  I was raised that way, with my dad telling me insulting stories about the Japanese emperor when I was growing up (and if anyone thinks that English don't like their royalty being insulted, they're actually more thick-skinned than the average Japanese on the same topic).  My dad was especially angry that Hirohito was regarded as a serious marine biologist in his later years, claiming he was really an incompetent dabbler and would never have had any species named after him if he wasn't the Emperor.  Anyway, enough rambling, I'm glad I read the story, because it's touching to see all three of them interacting in a non-life-threatening, non-angst-ridden type of situation.  I had a big smile on my face through most of it.

When I read Dirigo by [ profile] _lullabelle_ , my mouth dropped open about halfway through, and stayed there until the end, when I started laughing hysterically.  It's fast, hot and funny.  What happens is right at the edge of believability.  The fact that it would even be remotely believable is a testament to... something, I don't know what.  But I loved it.

Moving into [ profile] betterwiththree  territory, I'm excited about the new [ profile] wendymr AU Nine/Jack/Rose Then Shall I Know story, which is just getting started (1/6).  And of course my week would not be complete without a new installment from [ profile] canaana 's awesome BDSM epic, This, Too Is Love (4/9 so far).  

A couple shorter pieces I read recently stand out.  Oil/Vinegar by [ profile] cyus is an Owen story that has a neat trick ending, emotionally satisfying, that I absolutely did not expect.  Cracking by [ profile] prochytes is a post-CoE piece that established an incredibly ominous, chilling mood... and I haven't even seen any Season 5 Doctor Who yet, though I know the development in the story is based on that.

[ profile] remuslives23 and [ profile] ebineez01 are both pumping out an impressive amount of porn (Jack/Ianto and Jack/Gwen or Jack/John respectively). It's very fun stuff!

Again, I know I read more pieces I wanted to mention, but I need to start noting them down a bit better. 
azn_jack_fiend: (gun2)
Rambling book reviews below the cut: Slow Decay (Torchwood novel), Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson and The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson.

Read more... )
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
I was disappointed with Consequences overall (I'll do something on it later, going story by story) but surprised to find myself liking The House That Jack Built.

At first, it seemed like it was going to start off according to the cookie-cutter formula for all the post-season two books.  A character gets introduced.  A creepy setting is established. We're given enough information on the character to supposedly care about them. Then they die horribly and the plot creaks into action.  It's a structure ripped off from a gazillion slasher movies.

What I liked about the beginning of this book is that the initial death isn't just a mechanical trigger.  The author goes into the details of the Torchwood investigation, the police interaction, the retconning, the emotional impact on everyone involved... the death was actually meaningful.  That really impressed me.

The original characters were fantastic. They compare favorably to Into the Silence, in which there was a lot of time given to original characters, but there was a sort of mean-spirited attitude towards them, as if their lives didn't matter.

It was a Jack-focused book, which was a huge plus for me, obviously. I liked the characterization and the chance to get into backstory.  Jack didn't always live in the Hub.  His lifestyle must have been quite different before he took control of Torchwood, so where did he live for all those years in Cardiff? The book answers that question in what I thought was an interesting and satisfying way.

Gwen's characterization was also good.  There was a little detail about her waiting in the car that I especially enjoyed and thought was quite insightful.  She's competent, quick-thinking and adaptable throughout, and Jack backs her up at an important point in the story.

The major flaw in the book was Ianto's characterization.  He doesn't do much in the story. The author concentrated on making him sarcastic, but failed. Instead, he comes off as bitter, depressed and insecure.  The innuendo between Jack and Ianto feels flat and forced.  Most of the dialogue in the book is nice and snappy, so it's a strange failure, and it makes it seem like the author doesn't have any idea on how to handle the relationship.

Two out of three for characterization still beats almost everything else I've read.  For example, in Another Life, Owen is so out-of-character that he's basically a random dumb-ass who just happens to have the same name.  In other books, the characterization is so generic that the whole team might as well be replaced with cartoons from IKEA instruction sheets.

The plot didn't make much sense (really though, nothing involving time travel ever does, so I'm getting used to that!) but it was paced well, and it wasn't predictable.  Because the original characters were so well done, I actually got invested in caring about which ones would live or die.
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
I put in an order for another batch of Torchwood books, plus a Doctor Who book: Consequences, The House That Jack Built and The Stealers of Dreams. That last one is a Nine + Rose + Jack book, the only one I could find among the Doctor Whos.

I'm probably going to be disappointed with them, although I've got the highest hopes for Consequences.

I had a sort-of-random thought while scanning fanfic summaries today. "Contains mpreg" is a nice warning and I always pay attention to it, which is why I don't think I've ever read any mpreg stories (I don't count stuff where it's mentioned in passing).  I so don't understand the appeal.  I'm not interested in reading about dramatized fictional pregnancies, male or female.  If I want to read about pregnancy, I'd really prefer to do it somewhere like  

Then I remembered one of my favorite books ever, Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, actually starts off with an extended male impregnation sequence! It's told from a point of view that at first seems schizophrenic, because the main narrator (and impregnator) has something like 18 separate personalities in his mind all giving him advice and reacting to the events.  It's confusing at first, and the typography is quite jarring.  The sensory overload style calms down a bit later on, but it transforms into a major plot point and theme, because we're in a utopian far future society where people cultivate multiple personalities in order to multitask more efficiently.  

One of the most original things about Aristoi is that it reverses a common science fiction trope: that is, human cultural evolution becomes stagnant because of an evil, authoritarian empire, and a few scrappy rebels representing a more dynamic future of humanity fight back against the empire.  After the first third of Aristoi, we realize that this particular empire is awesome.  People are mostly happy, they're free to make most choices (including being miserable if that's what they really want) and the political structure is basically meritocratic.  No exciting wars or struggles or heroic stuff going on, but there's hardly any sickness or violence or repression either.  The bad guys in this book are actually the scrappy rebels, and the hero represents the established civilized order.  I can think of a couple books written after Aristoi (published in 1992) that follow this reversed structure, but I can't recall any from before.

I can't say enough good things about Walter Jon Williams. I own almost every single one of his books.  He's had a ton of Hugo and Nebula nominations and won the Nebula a bunch of times.  He's very flexible and writes in all sorts of sub-genres. He even did a near-future quasi-mainstream thriller told from the point of view of a sheriff of a small town in Utah who belongs to a non-polygamous Mormon fundamentalist splinter group (Days of Atonement).  It sounds sort of bizarre and boring at the same time, but it was actually incredible.  But he does far future/space opera like no one else.  It's always fun and cerebral and stunningly original.

I went through a stage last year where I was reading almost nothing but New Space Opera, mostly from UK writers (Walter Jon Williams is American by the way).  I really enjoyed the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter Hamilton.  I've lost my taste for his more recent stuff, however.  Night's Dawn kept up a fantastic, rollercoaster pace, but when he slows things down in his later books, the societies and characters he creates are kind of boring and pedestrian. For example, in the Commonwealth/Dreaming Void series, you could sort of sum it up like this: economy, capitalistic; culture, Eurocentric; sexuality... well, it might as well be OLD space opera.  But the Night's Dawn series was a fantastic read, much more innovative, and where it wasn't innovative, it was so action-packed that I didn't really care.  It's also funny.  One of the major characters, and one of my favorites, is an undead version of Al Capone, who happens to be saner than the rest of the undead (yes, it's science fiction plus zombies, and it works) because he died of advanced syphilis and he was so brain-damaged that being dead didn't bother him as much.  

And that brings me back to Torchwood for a second... the explanation for the zombies at the end of Bay of the Dead was fucking atrocious.  The author shouldn't even have bothered.  I won't give it away, I'll let anyone who reads the book be disappointed on their own.

I think I'll write about this some more later, but another UK writer I love, Richard K. Morgan, also does great far future work that really explores the social and emotional issues that would be involved in body-switching technology. Politically, his stuff is some of the most sophisticated I've ever seen in science fiction.  It's also very dark and violent.  I'll say only one bad thing about him: for some reason, despite supernatural talent in all other areas, he cannot write a sex scene that's even remotely sexual.  God, I wish he would stop trying to write sex scenes in his books... they go on for pages and pages sometimes, and they're terrifying.  

He got very famous very quickly after Altered Carbon (deservedly so) and I have to give him a lot of props for not just pumping out more Takeshi Kovacs post-cyberpunk stuff to meet demand.  Instead, he's changed course radically, and has started a sort of avant-garde politically complicated high fantasy series with a gay hero.  The gay fantasy sex passages are just as awful as his earlier hetero sci-fi sex passages, but otherwise, I loved it.  It's called The Steel Remains. The second book in the series is coming out this year.
azn_jack_fiend: (Default)
Lots of family drama these last few weeks. I've been really tired.

I read an incredible new PWP -- "Goodbye Dolly" -- by [ profile] angstslashhope.  It sort of has a plot, though. Here's my favorite line, which sounds really surreal but is so natural when read in context: "it’s been half-hard since he took his pants off somewhere around Damascus". 

I'm now following [ profile] heddychaa's "Doppelganger", a long story which is starting to get really interesting.  I'm looking forward to some action (in all senses) and shoot-em-up scenes.

When it comes to older fiction, I've been going through [ profile] paperclipbitch's back catalog. It took me a while to get around to it, because there's a lot of Ianto/Owen in it, and I wanted to tip-toe around that. I can read Ianto/Owen, but I have to put my hands over my eyes and peek through my fingers when I do it.

I love the way she writes dialogue. The lines are so snappy they hurt. Here's an example:

“Uncalled for,” he announces, puts down his coffee mug, and fixes Ianto with a firm blue-eyed stare. “The thing is, Ianto, I might be slightly in love with you.”

“Oh,” Ianto says. “Um. Are you sure you don’t just want to shag me, sir?”

Jack looks at him thoughtfully.

“Well,” he says finally, “I do want to shag you, but I sort of wanna hold you and stroke your hair for a while afterwards.”

“That isn’t love,” Ianto feels compelled to point out.

“It’s close enough,” Jack shrugs. “So? What do you say?”

Some of my other favorite pieces include a cerebral post-Cyberwoman story (Your Girlfriend No Longer Runs on Solar Power) and a horrifying, over-the-top John/Jack time-loop story that's reminiscent of William Burroughs.

Speaking of stuff that has a really evocative, distinctive style, I ran across an amazing Jack/Ianto pre-Cyberwoman story by [ profile] tavven , via a [ profile] torchwood_house  rec. It's from a while ago, pre-Fragments so it doesn't comply with canon anymore, and the writer hardly has anything else written for Torchwood. The story absolutely blew me away and I've read it at least three times. What I love about it is how it unfolds from the perspective of someone normal, who lives in a really normal world, falling deeper and deeper into a different nightmare/dreamscape world, attracted but terrified at the same time. That's the plot of most Neil Gaiman stories, and the sense of humor mixed with melancholy is really reminiscent of Neil Gaiman. Plus, the sex is hot. I really hope the writer will one day produce more in the same style.

I haven't been watching the new Doctor Who. I'd like to save them until I finish filling in all the gaps from the older seasons. Right now I'm at the end of Season Two.

I saw the first episode of Desperate Housewives last month, and I'm looking forward to watching the next John Barrowman/Patrick Logan episode sometime this week. This is a show I've never seen before this year, and Barrowman-less, I will never see it again. It's so stupid!

I'll mini-review three of the audio-only Torchwood books I've heard so far: In The Shadows, The Sin Eaters and Everyone Says Hello. They were a mixed bag. In the Shadows was great for about three quarters of its length. I love Eve Myles' voice. The horror elements were genuinely scary. There's a scene in the interrogation room that was quite suspenseful... I won't give it away, but I thought it was brilliantly done. I didn't buy the ending, though. It was just too sentimental and implausible.

The Sin Eaters was the most enjoyable overall, although there wasn't any one part that particularly stood out. There's a lot of Jack and Ianto driving around in cars and boats, acting all jaunty, which was cool. The plot and the pacing were both  satisfying.  Gareth David-Lloyd did a fantastic job reading the different character voices.

Everyone Says Hello was so boring it almost put me to sleep, and since I listen to these things while driving to work in insane traffic, that means it was really, really boring. There's one particularly bad section where the world's slowest car chase is described in agonizing detail. Seriously, the Torchwood team is in a car driving away at a crawl trying desperately to escape... a guy. A normal, non-super-human-strength guy, jogging after the car. It was established they didn't have guns, but presumably, they could have all just gotten out of the car and kicked his ass. The whole thing felt like pointless filler.

Finally, I just realized that Livejournal Memories = bookmarks, so I'm going to start adding my favorite stories to Memories and organizing them here.
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I was really looking forward to Almost Perfect. It seems to be a favorite among online fans. The plot elements -- Ianto turns into a woman, aliens infiltrate gay nightclubs -- sounded over the top in an appealing way.

It started off well. I liked the way the author mixed up voices and times, thus escaping the typical pattern among these books: something happened then something else happened then the next thing happened blah blah blah. It was the most technically ambitious of any of the Torchwood books. There were some funny jokes and innuendo.

When Ianto turned into a woman I started rolling my eyes. That was the part that ruined it for me. I'm not opposed to the idea at all. In fact, I found an awesome piece of fanfiction based on Almost Perfect (it's called Playing on My Mind) and I think I've read it three times so far. It's really hot! However, I do understand that the books are not supposed to contain porn, so there are obvious limitations when it comes to the descriptions of sex. My problem is the way the sexy part of the sex change is handled in the book; it's really offensive and tiresome.

First off, page 15, when Gwen first sees female Ianto and doesn't know who he is: "Bitch, thought Gwen. She'd clearly missed a memo. First Martha, now this. Replacing Owen with some ice queen, no personality, great hair and bloody amazing shoes." That's such a funny reaction, because every time I see a woman who might be more attractive than myself, I think "BITCH" at her, based on nothing but physical appearance, because I'm a woman and that's what we do because we're just that shallow! Wow. Ugh. At this point in the book I squirmed, but I made excuses and assumed it was going to get better. After all, shallowness was going to be the major theme of the book.

It didn't get any better. The worst part was the way the author kept coming up with excuses in order to get Ianto to wear miniskirts and high heels and run around Cardiff being humiliated in a sexy kind of way. It was so silly. If a man instantly and accidentally changed into a woman, here are three potential ways they could handle the clothing issue:

- wear their own male clothes and just turn up the cuffs or something.
- buy some understated, vaguely unisex clothing (e.g. sweatpants and sweatshirt, pantsuit)
- seize an opportunity to wear miniskirts and high heels... because they happen to get off on it for whatever reason.

Instead, the author establishes that Ianto doesn't want to wear sexy clothes and lipstick, but he's somehow forced to wear them by a succession of increasingly ridiculous reasons. For example, that Ianto has been hanging on to Lisa's old clothes, which is more implausible than it is disturbing. Or that high heels make him walk funny and hurt his feet (being a woman is always humiliating, of course) but he has to wear them because flat shoes just don't feel right.

I can sort of see how this dynamic is supposed to be sexy, but for me, it was too irritating to be sexy. I got tired of reading passages like "Ianto sighed" and "Ianto looked miserable" and "Ianto looked sheepish" and "Ianto panicked". After a while, I felt like talking back and telling him, "Ianto, stop being such a pussy!" Then I realized how sexist it was for me to think that. The stupid book was corrupting me!

The second book the author wrote for Torchwood, Risk Assessment, was even worse in this respect. It had all the flaws of Almost Perfect and none of the good stuff. It was liberally sprinkled with phrases like "Ianto moaned", "Ianto wailed" and even "Ianto fainted." James Goss obviously has a fetish for turning Ianto into a pretty princess. Unlike responsible fanfiction, this fetish is not indicated by a proper warning at the beginning of the work.
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I've really wanted to post and comment more on LJ these past two weeks, but I've been insanely busy with work, traveling and family.  I love my Friends page feature. It keeps feeding me fun stuff to read.

[ profile] neifile7 has a recs post.  I've read them and they're all great.  She also wrote a short, nasty, nasty piece called Hunting Song.  It's terrifyingly well done.

In a different vein, [ profile] sam_storyteller wrote a post-Cyberwoman story with a much nicer Jack.  Every character strikes me as more sympathetic than usual, but that doesn't mean it's simplistic at all; it's full of emotional intricacy.  He's been posting lots of other awesome stories these last few weeks.

[ profile] rootesie has another entry in a Season One "between the episodes" fic series. It's really fun. I never get tired of reading these kinds of stories.

This fictional version of the Torchwood April Fools press release made me laugh hysterically at the Oliver Twist part.

My copy of the book Bay of the Dead came in the mail a few days ago. I read it in one night. Like most of these books, it starts off well, then dissolves into a puddle of awfulness.  I especially hated the way the writer kept using the exact same adjective-noun pair to refer to characters. For example, any time Jack was mentioned, it was always "the handsome man" this and "the handsome man" that.  I still haven't read anything that beats Trace Memory.

I'm making very slow progress on my Torchwood evangelizing campaign.  I mailed two friends of mine who seemed likely candidates some DVD samplers, but they've both been just as insanely busy as me.  My mother started watching again, though, and she's almost halfway through season two.
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