Unordered List

Friday, 31 January 2014

Hugo Award nomination!

In ridiculously flattering and amazing news, last week I found out that I've been nominated for a Hugo Award as Best Fan Writer! I hadn't even considered the concept of being nominated for a Hugo, otherwise I at least might have mentioned earlier that I'm eligible. Apparently you need about 50 nominations to be shortlisted in the Fan Writer category, which doesn't seem enormously likely for something as obscure as a costume design/movie review blog. But it doesn't hurt to mention it just in case, right?

Re: eligibility, any of my amateur/unpaid writing counts, whether it's on this blog or on Tumblr or elsewhere. You can check out my masterlist here, but it's a little out of date so here are some of my sci-fi and fantasy posts!
I read up on the Fan Writer category the other day, and the list of previous shortlisted writers is kinda daunting. Most of them are either professional sci-fi authors or people who edit or write traditional fanzines. One author/fanzine editor was shortlisted in the Fan Writer category 31 years in a row, and has won 28 Hugo Awards total in various categories.  

Apparently there's been some kerfuffle over whether it's impolite or unfair for writers to self-publicise during awards season, partly because of the way women are discouraged from talking about their own achievements. Amal El-Mohtar wrote a really good post about this, highlighting the way female writers are often overlooked because they don't feel able to mention that they're eligible for awards. This spurred me on to actually let people know that I'd been nominated, rather than just quietly going "OMG" to myself.

Here's how Hugo nominations work:
  • Only members of the World Science Fiction Society can submit nominations.
  • This means either people who bought tickets for WorldCon 2013, 2014 or 2015, or people who have a supporting membership to the Society. A supporting membership is £25 and you get copies of all the books and short stories that are nominated this year.
  • In order to nominate, you HAVE to buy a WorldCon ticket or supporting membership by the end of January 31st! Which is, uh, today. But you have until March 31st to actually turn in your Hugo nominations ballot!
  • You sign up and nominate people at the website for this year's World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held in London. There's another explainer post here.
I have no idea if any of you guys are Worldcon attendees/supporting members, but if you are, please consider me on your nomination ballot! :) Either way, I'm incredibly grateful to the people who have nominated me already. And for everyone else: my next post will most likely be about Supernatural, because I'm currently in the process of catching up with the last three seasons, and it's proving to be very interesting viewing.

Monday, 27 January 2014

I watched the Dungeons & Dragons movie so you don't have to.

Oh Jeremy Irons, you multifaceted enigma. Sometimes you're a critically acclaimed Shakespearean actor. Other times you do weird interviews where you imply that marrying your son for tax purposes is the same as legalising gay marriage. And every couple of years, you don some kind of luxious, shimmering robe for yet another role as Classic B-Movie Supervillain.
In 2000, that movie was Dungeons & Dragons. I've never played D&D, and the only reason I watched this movie is because last night I couldn't find my Alien box set, and my friend Alex sadistically recommended that I watch D&D instead. The fact that it was terrible wasn't really a surprise, but the sheer level of terribleness was so remarkable that I ended up being kind of fascinated. I mean, I've seen Krull, Zardoz, and any number of dire straight-to-DVD apocalypse movies. Surely a relatively high-profile idea like a Dungeons & Dragons adaptation couldn't possibly be as grody and cheap-looking as it seemed from the trailer... right?
No. It was definitely worse. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Postscript to "His Last Vow": How things might have turned out.

Previously: Sherlock, "His Last Vow."

In my review of "His Last Vow," I talked about the way Sherlock never seems to suffer any consequences for his actions, and how the quality of the show suffers as a result. It's kind of a balancing act, because ultimately even I don't want Sherlock to face completely realistic consequences. Much of his appeal as a character is down to the fact that he says and does things that no normal person would ever dare to do, so the show wouldn't be the same if he was realistically bound by the legal system, or even by social niceties. But when your protagonist finds himself facing even less pushback than Hugh Laurie in House, MD (who regularly bullied his patients and forced his underlings to commit burglary), then you have a problem.
A couple of readers mentioned to me last week that technically, Sherlock was "punished" for Magnussen's murder, in that his assignment in Eastern Europe was implied to be a death sentence. But the fact is that this potential storyline is erased within minutes. Sherlock may accept Mycroft's legally ambiguous banishment, but it's immediately cut short. The narrative saves him from having to go through any kind of real personal difficulty, which effectively removes most of the power of Magnussen's inevitable demise. It could have been a classic story: Sherlock commits to killing Magnussen because he knows it's the only way to defeat him, but he also knows that by killing Magnussen, he has to make a sacrifice. Specifically, the sacrifice of his freedom and reputation, which he only just got back. The result of removing that sacrifice from the equation is that the act of killing Magnussen comes across as just another example of Sherlock's arrogance.
I've been thinking about the kind of storylines Sherlock could have included this season, if they'd decided to follow events through to their natural end. Obviously these aren't serious suggestions, because Sherlock is never going to disrupt its internal universe to this extent. Like most crime shows, the central characters can perform seemingly world-changing (or at least life-changing) feats, but reality somehow just seems to reset itself afterwards. The inner circle of Sherlock's personal relationships may develop and change as the series progresses, but the world around him basically stays the same, even when he takes on a case that could have a major influence on British politics.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Menswear, Fall 2014: Belstaff, Agi & Sam, Alexander McQueen, Berluti, Balmain, and Alexander Wang

Glad to see that Belstaff has moved on from designing motorcycle jackets and Sherlock's swishy coat and has now adopted "hipster Nazgul" as a style theme.
All photos via
Agi & Sam
This season seems to be dominated by the monochrome palette, which was an unusual choice for the ordinarily colourful Agi & Sam. I'm not as wild about Agi & Sam as some people (they're kind of the darlings of young British menswear right now), but I prefer their earlier work to this particular collection, which relied too much on grey and white checks and the kind of loose tailoring that makes most people look awkwardly gangly. I was interested to read up on their influences though, with many of this season's prints turning out to be inspired by Masai clothing.

Monday, 13 January 2014

"His Last Vow," Part 3: No consequences, no impact, no regrets.

Previously: Part 2

My eventual reaction to the final scene of this episode was pretty simple:
I love Moriarty, and I'll be psyched to see more of him next season. But his presence is indicative of one of Moffat's worst flaws as a writer: his complete inability to allow serious actions to have serious consequences. Sherlock coming back from the dead is a given, but Moriarty recovering from a gunshot to the mouth? Although, I suppose, he may not actually be "alive" next season. Perhaps he's committing crimes from beyond the grave. Luckily for the purposes of this review, there's another extremely obvious example of the total lack of consequences in this show: Sherlock's near-instant return from "exile" at the end of the episode.
My immediate assumption after Sherlock shot Magnussen was that next season, we'd be in for some kind of Hannibal-style crimesolving scenario where Sherlock is incarcerated but is occasionally sprung from jail to help solve the puzzle of the week. This would be an interesting development both for Sherlock as a character and for the show, because the reason why everything seems like such a hot mess right now is because there are no restrictions on anything. Sherlock has too much freedom, the writers have too much power, and everyone would benefit from cooling their heels in narrative prison for a while.

"His Last Vow," Part 2: Women, eh?

Previously: Part 1

The role of female characters in this episode was, well... holy shit. To break it down, we have six women: Mary, Molly, Janine, Mrs Hudson, Sherlock's mother, and Lady Smallwood. Lady Smallwood's role was essentially that of a typical crime show guest actor, and Mrs Hudson and Sherlock's mother both had pleasant, relatively unimportant maternal roles. The three recurring female characters who were actually important to the plot were all linked by two traits. Firstly, they're all romantically linked to one of the two male leads, and secondly, the events of this episode transformed each of them from being independent humans to acting like orbiting satellites, helpless to the gravitational pull of Sherlock's personal storyline.
Tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of words have been written by Sherlock and Doctor Who fans, attempting to decode Steven Moffat's unsettling attitude to women. Considering the kinds of things he's said during official publicity interviews, it's difficult to argue that he isn't something of a misogynist. And this regularly shines through in his writing, partly thanks to his repeated use of a very specific fantasy formula when it comes to writing central female characters. This season of Sherlock provided some very interesting examples in this regard, because while Moffat and Gatiss certainly collaborate on their scripts, His Last Vow was the only episode that had Moffat as the primary writer. In other words, the main plot points and characterisation details in the first two episodes were not governed by Moffat's headcanon. Gatiss and Thompson's job was to set up Mary and Janine as characters we would find engaging and likeable, in preparation for Moffat's plan to tear them down and ~reveal their true natures~ in episode three.

Now, obviously this was all planned from the beginning, but I still find it telling that the series overview basically boiled down to this: "We need to introduce two new awesome female characters and then utterly screw them over and make sure their existence revolves around John and Sherlock."

Sherlock: "His Last Vow" (Part 1)

Previously: "The Sign of Three"

My mind is blown. WHAT WAS GOING ON HERE. WHAT.

My initial reaction to this episode was to vomit ectoplasm at the ceiling, but since I am A Lady, I forced myself to look at the situation in a calm and rational manner. First of all, would I still think this episode was a hilarious seafood gumbo of nonsense if it had been written by someone other than Steven Moffat? Am I biased, as a result of his track record as a renowned misogynist and writer of nonsense television? Would His Last Vow survive a blind taste test? So, looking back on it, I asked myself: would this episode still be a warped tangle of plot-noodles if I thought it had been written by Mark Gatiss, Steve Thompson, or J.K. Rowling?

Well, yes. Yes it would.
This season's big finale hinged on one of the show's most embarrassingly overused concepts, the Mind Palace. The sonic screwdriver of BBC Sherlock. One Mind Palace aficionado was enough, but two stretches credulity to the limit. Plus, having Magnusson admit that his records are all stored in his head is just plain bad writing. Not only is it kind of implausible (seriously, not even Sherlock has that level of detail in his Mind Palace), but it's also tantamount to inviting someone to shoot you in the head. If not Sherlock, then certainly John, who Magnusson would surely know is a gun owner. Unless Moffat was deliberately going for a Bond villainesque "I've brought you here so I may as well tell you my evil plan!" scene. In which case... that pretty much negates Sherlock Holmes' power as a hero who relies on deductive reasoning to defeat his enemies. The denouement was the villain literally explaining his Achilles Heel, and then Sherlock murdering him to get rid of the problem. Not very impressive, when you think about it.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Sherlock: "The Sign of Three"

Previously: "The Empty Hearse"

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying that I didn't think this episode was necessarily... "bad"...? But it was definitely weird as hell. It was a pile of butts. It was a hysterical LOLfest. It was a Richard Curtis movie written by sadists. Was it "good television"? Well, I personally found it quite entertaining (in between my agonised shrieking at the supreme awkwardness of Sherlock's speech), but I suspect that more serious Sherlock fans will have a bone to pick with the extremely uneven characterisation. If I was a more serious critic, I would also point out its odd story structure, its bizarre lunges between slapstick comedy and sentimentality, and its apparent abandonment of the show's core purpose as a crime drama. It's really no surprise that this episode was so divisive between fandom viewers and the show's more mainstream audience.
The reason why I'm hesitant to label this episode a "bad" is because I've seen Bad Sherlock, and its name is the Blind Banker. That episode was a common-or-garden example of shitty television, with a side order of blatant racism. But The Sign of Three? Was just plain weird. I think what we've learned here is that if they do indeed end up making a fourth season, Steve Thompson's episode will be the wild card. Just think about it: he went from worst ever episode (Blind Banker) to the heartwrenching thriller that is Reichenbach, to this. Meanwhile, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss remain reasonably predictable in that Moffat is excellent at writing individual scenes and snappy dialogue, but will pepper his episodes with offensive garbage and OTT grandstanding... and Gatiss is a horror nerd fanboy who takes the show way less seriously and is entirely happy to take the piss.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Sherlock: "The Empty Hearse"


I saw this episode at a preview screening a couple of weeks ago, which undoubtedly coloured my feelings somewhat. Basically, watching anything it for the first time in a cinema of hyped-up fans makes everything seem Very Very Exciting. It's the difference between watching a Marvel movie at home on DVD, and showing up to a midnight screening full of people who applaud and scream in the middle of the big fight scenes.

My own feelings on Sherlock are somewhat ambivalent because I love ~Sherlock Holmes~ in general, but I tend to feel that the whole Sherlock phenomenon is a little overrated. In the plus column, the casting is fantastic, the dialogue is frequently excellent, and the writers get to play around with a 90-minute thriller format rather than a typical 40-minute episodic crime TV structure. On the more negative side, two of the six current episodes are kinda bad (or straight-up offensive), and the rest of the good episodes are sprinkled with moments of Steven Moffat's trademarked sexism, which I find offputing. Two years of watching Steven Moffat's increasingly awful Doctor Who had made me somewhat trepidatious about the new Sherlock, so I was happy to discover that The Empty Hearse is, in fact, brilliant.
The best thing about this episode was its lack of predictability. Obviously there's always going to be a certain amount of Chekhov's Gun with Sherlock, but as ever, most of the the crime storyline was ridiculous enough to be unguessable -- which has always been the strength of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, really. Also, the story deviated A LOT from its supposed inspiration The Empty House, particularly when it came to the way the main characters and relationships developed in Sherlock's absence.

Anderson is the biggest surprise, switching over from being an avowed Sherlock hater to being his biggest fan. But in terms of sheer performance, Martin Freeman was my favourite because of JOHN WATSON: RAGE MACHINE. The whole basis for the John-Sherlock relationship in this adaptation is that John is attracted to Sherlock's bizarre personality and lifestyle, and Sherlock recognises that John is nowhere near as normal as he appears to be. This means that John is always at his most interesting when he's acting outside of his "normal guy" persona, ie being stupidly brave or incandescently angry, or just abandoning societal convention altogether. John Watson being exasperated at Sherlock's ~antics is entertaining enough in small doses, but it's not anything we haven't seen before in a million other odd-couple buddy cop TV shows. As in any Holmes adaptation, the more Watson is allowed to shine, the better the story is as a whole.