Daughter of Necessity October 1, 2014 Daughter of Necessity Marie Brennan Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious heroine... Midway Relics and Dying Breeds September 24, 2014 Midway Relics and Dying Breeds Seanan McGuire Between the roots and the sky. The Golden Apple of Shangri-La September 23, 2014 The Golden Apple of Shangri-La David Barnett A Gideon Smith story. Selfies September 17, 2014 Selfies Lavie Tidhar Smile for the camera.
From The Blog
September 29, 2014
Powerful Words:The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Anton Strout
September 29, 2014
Slarom, the Backward Morals of Fairytales
Jack Heckel
September 25, 2014
After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride
Jo Walton
September 23, 2014
It’s All About the Benjamins in Sleepy Hollow: “This is War”
Leah Schnelbach
September 23, 2014
The Death of Adulthood in American Culture: Nerd Culture Edition
Lindsay Ellis
Showing posts by: Alyx Dellamonica click to see Alyx Dellamonica's profile
Fri
Sep 19 2014 9:00am

Angels and Ending: Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven

Jay Lake Last Plane to Heaven The title story in Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection is about a girl who falls from the sky... and into the hands of those who see her, first and foremost, as a possible military asset. To that end, a team of mercenaries in the South Gobi desert is tasked with (really, blackmailed into) assessing her combat-readiness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this doesn’t end well for Team Free World.

“Last Plane to Heaven: A Love Story” is something of a tough love opener: it’s not without flashes of sweetness, but the mercenary at its core is rough-edged, unpleasant and at the end of his proverbial rope. The bleak backdrop of Outer Mongolia, vividly evoked in Lake’s always-precise prose, adds to the sense of menace in this piece. As an entry point into the book, it makes a definitive statement: these tales wind a path through places of shadow and fire.

[Read more...]

Tue
Aug 26 2014 1:30pm

Echopraxia: The Latest Attempt by Peter Watts to Stomp Your Assumptions to Death

Peter Watts Echopraxia review Scientist Daniel Brüks is what everyone sneeringly calls a baseline, a human being with so few augments that even the drugs he uses to make himself smarter (drugs required so he can qualify for tenure at his university job) are taken in pill form rather than via the clever synthesizer and pump arrangement all the cool kids use. He accesses the Internet much as we do, looking at displays rather than dumping the information right into his brain.

This outmoded and retro approach to technology gets him branded ‘old school’ by people who really mean technophobic, wimpy, and downright eccentric. But Dan has bigger PR problems than mere Luddism. Some of his research has been used to kill people, and guilt has driven him out to the desert. There he camps, hides, and commits research, sampling the local wildlife to see whether any of them might be baselines in their own right, or if all of their DNA has been overridden by humanity’s various runaway biotech projects.

[Can’t a fellow even enjoy a good sulk without the zombies showing up?]

Thu
Aug 7 2014 10:00am

That Was Awesome: Starfish by Peter Watts

Starfish Peter Watts Rifters Peter Watts didn’t become my favorite hard-SF author right away.

Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot that I loved about Starfish from the get-go. The science was cutting edge, and as a practicing biologist, Watts was in an excellent position to write about his source material with both authority and panache. The book was indisputably inventive: a sort of bastard cousin of a first contact novel, one where the aliens are unknowable but the humans are, in their way, even more intricate and mysterious. It is laden with wonders and terrors, residents of a deep-sea setting that appeals to me on an almost visceral basis.

[But!]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 9:00am

Everything I Learned from the Buffy Rewatch

Buffy rewatch wrap up

Once upon a time, a girl was chosen for a singular destiny, a life of solitary combat, ending, inevitably, in a premature but possibly noble death. She wasn’t the first, and nobody expected her to be the last. She was a dutiful soul, and went to war with the forces of evil, just as fate seemed to require. Then she expanded the fight, redefining her destiny by putting together a group of committed and powerful allies. In the end, she and these followers remade the world.

Vast oversimplification, right?

[Read more...]

Wed
Jun 18 2014 4:00pm

Attack of the Logical Positivists! James Morrow’s The Madonna and the Starship

The Madonna and the Starship review James Morrow A pair of fresh-faced young writers working in the brand new medium of television face off against homicidal lobster-like aliens in James Morrow’s The Madonna and the Starship, a light romp which celebrates Golden Age SF, logical positivism, and the undisputed value of keeping an open mind.

The heart of the story is Kurt Jastrow, an aspiring science fiction writer. Kurt has all but fallen into a job as the do-it-all creative force behind an inexpensive gee-whiz TV show called Brock Barton. This is exactly what it sounds like: Brock heads up a plucky ship’s crew and they bounce about having adventures. In space! Which always looks like the studio back lot!

[Read More...]

Mon
Mar 31 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: In which it is, after all, about power.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chosen

“Chosen,” by Joss Whedon

Kissing! As an appetizer for the very last televised episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer we jump right in with a taste of BuffAngel. It’s all nostalgia, you know, a bone thrown to those who long for the good old days when Buffy’s biggest problems centered around whether getting sweaty and intimate with her certain special someone would make that person evil, and/or ruin her birthday.

In time, she comes up for air—he doesn’t breathe, remember—and thinks to ask why he’s come back to Sunnydale. But before they can properly discuss the First and what it’s been up to lately, we find out that Caleb’s not as dead as previously supposed.

[Read more...]

Mon
Mar 24 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Then there were two...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, End of Days

“End of Days,” by Douglas Petrie and Jane Espenson

We ended last week with Faith and the Slayettes, going toe to toe with a big honking bomb. There’s just enough time for Faith to shout a warning as it counts down single digits. And then it all blows up in face: kaboom!

As the dust settles on that fiasco, we check in on the mad bomber himself, down in his favorite ancient wine cellar. Buffy, having shed the need to watch out for anyone else’s survival as she tries once again to clean Caleb’s clock, is seeing a bit of success. She has found herself a shiny scythe-shaped object. It’s a gift, clearly, so perhaps its name is Death. Maybe she’ll call it Katie. Either way, Caleb boasts that he’s going to seriously murder her long before she can pry it out of all that rock.

Except—pop!—it wants to come. Later, Buffy will refer to this as King Arthuring it out of the stone. I do love the way Team Joss tends to verb.

Once and future king references aside, this completely foreseeable development unsettles Caleb. He remains game to take her on. The First turns up, though, and says to desist. Firstie also mentions Faith and the bomb. Caleb obediently backs down and Buffy sprints off.

[Neither of them told her where the Slayettes were...] 

Mon
Mar 17 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Counting down from three... two... one...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched

“Touched” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner  

The wind-up of the last TV season of BtVS has truly begun by the time we get to “Touched,” which opens with an immense meeting that is all Scoob and no Slay. Everyone’s gathered except Buffy, Spike, and Andrew. Buffy, of course, got the boot last week, and Spike would have made the Scooby uprising far more difficult, what with his enormous powers of guilt-tripping. Andrew’s absence is simply a bonus.

The topic of this meeting, mostly, isn’t who do they fight or how do they win so much as it is who’s in charge, and how do they decide things? I hate this kind of thing in real life, and am practically getting hives just watching it now. Mercifully, Faith points out that they’re all exhausted and scared and should maybe adjourn to bed. Great idea! Except then the power goes out, creating a new bubble of panic. 

The good news is the sudden onset darkness isn’t a prelude to an attack. The bad news is that the power company has given up on electrifying Sunnydale.

Elsewhere, Buffy is telling a gun-toting homeowner to get the heck out of Dodge while she takes over his house.

[Attack of the cool kids...]

Mon
Mar 10 2014 1:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Tell anyone we had this conversation and I’ll bite you.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Empty Places, Clem

“Empty Places,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

Sunnydale is emptying out as fast as humanly—and demonly—possible. Buffy’s strolling through the traffic-jammed streets, watching the exodus. The extent of the fear is underlined when she runs into, of all unpeople, Clem. He’s fleeing, too. He tries to express confidence in the Slayer’s ability to save the town, if not the world from the First. Sadly, he’s less than convincing.

It’s different this time, he says. But, you know. Good luck and all!

Then he zooms away.

[Rumblings of discontent...]

Mon
Mar 3 2014 2:40pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: “Am I The Good Slayer Now?”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dirty Girls

“Dirty Girls,” by Drew Goddard

A young woman is fleeing the Bringers and she flags down a knight in shining pick-up truck, as portrayed by Nathan Fillion. You’d think this would be a good thing, even if he is dressed as a preacher with unfortunate hair.  He gives her a gentle talking-to about being out at night, and for a time everything seems obnoxiously wholesome.

They establish that he’s named Caleb and she’s named Shannon, and everything seems to be going supergreat until he asks if the Bringers were after her because she’s a whore. 

Wha?

[It’s all downhill from there...]

Mon
Feb 24 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: A trigger, a soul and a chip walk into the high school

Buffy the Vmpire Slayer, Lies My Parents Told Me, Nikki Wood

“Lies My Parents Told Me,” by David Fury and Drew Goddard

New York, 1977:  Nikki Wood whales on Spike, and vice versa, while wee tiny Robin watches from behind a park bench. It’s hard to say which of the three is the most adorable. Nikki is looking as though she might get bit when Robin distracts Spike. Who decides that since he’s gone to all the trouble of stalking another Slayer—he knows her name, and has come looking for her just for the joy of it—he should drag out the hunt. Also, he loves her coat.

Having covered his otherwise sketchy motives for giving up on a fight he’s essentially won, Spike bails and Nikki gives Robin a big dose of tender loving care. She explains that she loves him but she also was born to Slay, and thus he must go be babysat by a Watcher who surely adores being put on childcare duty. Giles doesn’t know how good he has it. Oh, wait—Giles is now running a school for wayward young ladies.

[Cut to the present...]

Mon
Feb 17 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Home Movies hit Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Storyteller, Andrew

“Storyteller,” by Jane Espenson

Previously on BtVS, we have tended to start our episodes in one of Sunnydale’s abundant graveyards, at the Bronze, or, until they blew it the heck up, Sunnydale High Mark One. But today we get one of the most unconventional opens, possibly the most unconventional in a tie with “Once More with Feeling,” when the start of “Storyteller” unfolds more like an episode of Masterpiece

We find ourselves watching Andrew, of all people, as he reads an (imaginary) book by an (imaginary) fire whilst rhapsodizing about how awesome it is to get lost in a good narrative.  He invites us, his gentle (imaginary... wait! are we real?) viewers, to come hear a Buffy story.

Okay, now we get a shot of Buffy on the Slay... in a local cemetary. All’s right with our world again. She shoots a vamp with a crossbow as Andrew narrates—referring to them as VampEERs—and then gets into a round of martial arts with a second. The action’s getting intense when a rapping at the door reveals Andrew in his true surroundings. He’s in the bathroom at the Summers house, weaseling into a camcorder. When he tells Anya he’s “entertaining and informing,” she demands: “Why can’t you just masturbate like the rest of us?

Which is why, dear Anyanka, we heart you!

[Get your steaming Andrew here...]

Mon
Feb 10 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Drop the bone already!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Get It Done

“Get It Done,” by Douglas Petrie

Buffy wanders through her own darkened house, dressed casually and taking in the camping Slayettes all over her floor. Her general vibe is den mothery. There are a lot of girls now. One, Chloe, is crying in a corner. Before Buffy can ask what’s wrong, the First Slayer knocks her down the stairs and tells her: “It’s not enough.”

At this point I’d be wishing I could have prophecy dreams set in Tahiti. I mean, she can roam through the Potential-infested house when she’s awake.

[Read more...]

Mon
Feb 3 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Try our new Spike, now without chips!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, First Date, Giles

“First Date,” by Jane Espenson

Flashback to Giles getting an ax swung at his head, by a Bringer, while he talks to a half-slain Watcher named Robson. It turns out the Bringer had squeaky shoes, and thank goodness for that. Giles, though, plays up his own excellence and razor-sharp instincts in sharing this little vignette with the Potential Slayers. He and they and Buffy are in a graveyard, training in a pack, and as he continues to expound about his honed state of combat alertness, Spike tackles him from out of nowhere. 

Spike hadn’t heard that Giles wasn’t the First, see, and as they climb to their feet there’s a bit of Brit on Brit head-butting. Giles calls Spike a berk (a term I have only ever heard Giles use) and demands to know why the Initiative chip didn’t jolt everyone’s favorite leashed vampire straight into Painesville for attacking him.

[Gambling with a lot of lives...]

Mon
Jan 27 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Conversations with Live People. Mostly.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Killer in Me, Willow

“The Killer in Me,” by Drew Z. Greenberg

This episode begins with Giles preparing to head out somewhere, all the while expressing concerns about whether the group will be okay in his absence. It turns out he’s taking the Potentials off to spirit quest with the First Slayer.

The point of it all, mostly, is that Giles is conspicuously not touching things—he has Dawn run a notebook out to Vi, while the Slayettes fight over who gets to drive the car. (Apparently Rupert’s California driver’s license is defunct.) He’s been not touching anything for awhile now, and when you’ve already seen this season once, it’s pretty obvious. If you haven’t, it’s been pretty elegantly done. As story elements go, it’s been noticeable, but not screaming in your face. (The style of this misdirection brings The Sixth Sense to mind, in my opinion).

[Read more...]

Mon
Jan 20 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Wouldn’t you like to be a Slayer too?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Potential, Amanda

“Potential,” by Rebecca Rand Kirshner

Rona and Vi are out in a graveyard, looking scared and for good reason: something in here is hunting them.

Oh, wait, it’s Spike. He knocks Rona aside and takes a juicy bite out of Felicia Day...

...then it turns out, naturally enough, to be a training exercise. Buffy and the other Slayettes are on hand to debrief on why the two got killed. Rona whines about how it’s not a fair fight, since she and the others don’t have Buffy powers. (She could be whining about why she’s been ruled “dead” when all Spike did was give her a push, but that doesn’t occur to her.)

Buffy tells them all that that they have potential that ordinary girls lack—vampire-fighting instincts, basically— and talks a bit about learning to make the fight their own, even if what their finely tuned instincts are saying is “Run for the hills, wimp!” She and Spike get into a little demonstrative sparring, which turns into a tender gravestone-side moment where she’s worried she’s hurt him. And all but petting his manly bruises.

[Come on guys, not in front of the kids...]

Mon
Jan 13 2014 2:45pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: This is Slayerdome

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Showtime, Kennedy

“Showtime,” by David Fury

Night in oh-so-safe Sunnydale, California. A cute young Potential named Rona gets off the bus. A bunch of Bringers are waiting to meet her, but fortunately Buffy is there too. Soon enough she’s stepping past the bodies to pick her latest recruit/dependant/apprentice off the tarmac, and from there leading her homeward.

Back at the Summers house, Kennedy is trying to lure Willow—who is on the floor in a sleeping bag—into easy cuddling range. Willow isn’t having any, and so instead they talk about the ever-growing number of Slayettes and the looming shortage of bathrooms. This in turn leads to some chatter about Kennedy’s wealthy upbringing, her many childhood homes and their many wings. It doesn’t lead to any kind of suggestion that maybe she should have her parents send a truckload of food and toilet paper, or the deeds to the house across the street. It’s sad, in its way, that Anya isn’t in the room. She’d get them to ante up.

[Read more...]

Mon
Jan 6 2014 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Looking for Blood in All the Wrong Places

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Never Leave Me, Bring It On

“Never Leave Me” by Drew Goddard and “Bring on the Night” by Marti Noxon and Douglas Petrie

This phase of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh season is moving at breakneck speed: once again, with this episode, we pick up directly after what passed the week before. XandAnya, Willow and Dawn are trying to repair the damage from the First’s recent spooktacular visit to the Summers home. Instead of whistling while they work, Anya and Dawn are being vocal about their misgivings about Buffy’s “Let’s bring Spike home and not kill him immediately,” plan.

Elsewhere, the First is using Andrew as a reluctant agent, egging him on by appearing to be Warren and urging him to... well, at this point we aren’t sure precisely what the goal may be.

One of the things we do learn about the First, in case we all hadn’t processed it earlier, is that it can’t can’t take solid form. Andrew and Fake Warren compare this situation to its media antecedents, bringing up Obi-Wan Kenobi and Patrick Swayze in Ghost. They entirely leave out Al from Quantum Leap, so I am officially miffed.

[Oh boy!]

Mon
Dec 30 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: My Sire Can Beat Up Your Sire

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sleeper, Spike, First

“Sleeper,” by David Fury and Jane Espenson

You know it isn’t a good thing when your friendly neighborhood slayer comes rapping on your door at way too early on a workday. It’s five point two seconds after Buffy’s convo with Webs the Dead Person ended. Now she’s looking for Spike, who isn’t home. Where is he? Well, he’s found a new basement hang-out, one that’s a little less shabby than the high school, and he’s burying the blonde from last week there. He looks sane, as such things are reckoned, as well as remorseless. Plus he’s humming what we in Canada think of as the Friendly Giant theme song.

From there we go to England, and a Watcher with a Potential named Nora. Oh, never mind. She’s dead and he’s stabbed.

[Back to Sunnydale...]

Mon
Dec 23 2013 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Evil rephrased—it eats you, starting with your bottom

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conversations With Dead People

“Conversations with Dead People,” by Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard

Angie Hart is singing at at the Bronze, providing moody background music as we check in with a few—but not all—of the Scoobies. Mere meters from the emo-music, at the bar, Spike nurses a beer. Elsewhere, Buffy hunts vampires in a cemetery, Willow studies in a library (showing an unusual lack of zest for what was formerly one of her all-time favorite activities) and Dawn arrives home to a “sorry we’re gone, don’t eat pizza,” note. Affixed to which is pizza money.

As the montage wraps up, Buffy finds a fresh grave. A hand claws at the air: someone’s trying to get out. “Here we go,” she says.

[From beneath you, it psychoanalyzes...]