Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Apologia Pro Consilia Mea

In the autumn of last year, the SWM column spent some time discussing three overlooked writers of SF. Now I’m at liberty to let you all in on my cunning plan this year.

I’m going to spend a little time each season to focus on four writers whose range includes what I consider epic fantasy. Starting later this month, several posts will look at the work of Martha Wells; in July there’ll be a handful of posts on Kate Elliott; in October, a look at Sherwood Smith’s Inda series; and in December, the fantasy of Tanya Huff.

Provided I can keep to schedule and TPTB keep giving me rope with which to hang myself, of course.

Other things I would like to bring to you this year, time and resources permitting: some focus on SFF debuts by the female-identified since January 2012; perhaps a post or two on single-author short fiction collections, and a month in which I highlight interesting work by Australian/NZ authors that hasn’t achieved widespread international recognition—although that will depend on whether or not I can get reading copies.

Anyway, that’s all in the future. Today, I’m going to indulge in a whimsy brought about by watching (and watching, and then watching some more) this fan trailer for Woman Woman, which I encountered courtesy of Alyssa Rosenberg’s “How To Make A Good Wonder Woman Movie: Acknowledge The Second Half Of Her Name.”

It’s a very clean, stark piece of visual storytelling: low-key, and perfectly pitched as a trailer. The story it implies is immediately graspable: Diana of Themyscira vs. the Nazis. I want the film this trailer implies. I’d even forgive the implausible short-shorts and strapless corset: its elements hit damn near all my kinks in terms of narrative and cinematics.

But what, you ask, has this to do with whimsy? Well, that Wonder Woman film will probably never happen, much though I’d love to see it. Here are some other films that will probably never happen any time soon, but which I’d still love to see.


Adventures from the life of the Chevalier d’Éon:

The chevalier lived the first half of their life as a man, and the latter half as a woman. But particularly interesting is this period from the younger d’Éon’s involvement in international intrigue during the Seven Years’ War. From Wikipedia:

In 1756 d’Éon joined the secret network of spies called Le Secret du Roi which worked for King Louis XV personally, without the knowledge of the government, and sometimes against official policies and treaties. The monarch sent d’Éon on a secret mission to Russia in order to meet Empress Elizabeth and intrigue with the pro-French faction against the Habsburg monarchy. d’Éon disguised himself as a lady Lea de Beaumont to do so, and even became a maid of honour to the Empress. At the time the English would only allow women and children across the border into Russia in an attempt to prevent the French from reaching the Empress, since the French and English were at odds with each other. Given the delicate nature of the spy work, d’Éon had to convince the Russians, the English and even his own France that he was a woman or he would have been executed by the English upon discovery.


Nancy Wake vs. the Nazis

The Gestapo called her the White Mouse, and she was one of the most decorated servicewomen in WWII. (I covet her autobiography, which has been out of print in my part of the world and exorbitantly priced second-hand for many years. Someone please bring out a new edition!) An Australian who ran away to Europe at a young age, she worked in Paris and Vienna as a European correspondent for the Hearst Corporation’s newspapers. When the war began, she acted as a resistance courier and a vital part of an escape network which got downed pilots out through Spain. By 1943, the White Mouse had a five-million-franc price on her head—among the highest. Escaping into Spain after an arrest in Toulouse, when she reached England, she joined the Special Operations Executive and was parachuted right back into France in April 1944.


At one point Wake discovered that her men were protecting a girl who was a German spy. They did not have the heart to kill her in cold blood, but Wake did. She said after that it was war, and she had no regrets about the incident.

From April 1944 until the liberation of France, her 7,000+ maquisards fought 22,000 SS soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties, while taking only 100 themselves. Her French companions, especially Henri Tardivat, praised her fighting spirit, amply demonstrated when she killed an SS sentry with her bare hands to prevent him from raising the alarm during a raid.

After the war, she learned that her husband had died under interrogation by the Gestapo in 1943, having refused to reveal her whereabouts.


Science Fiction Spies: Carnival, by Elizabeth Bear

I would do murder for a good adaptation of this novel. It will never ever happen while I live to see it, perhaps—but it’s my very favourite SF spy thriller of all time.

In Old Earth’s clandestine world of ambassador-spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen were once a starring team. But ever since a disastrous mission, they have been living separate lives in a universe dominated by a ruthless Coalition—one that is about to reunite them.

The pair are dispatched to New Amazonia as diplomatic agents Allegedly, they are to return priceless art. Covertly, they seek to tap its energy supply. But in reality, one has his mind set on treason. And among the extraordinary women of New Amazonia, in a season of festival, betrayal, and disguise, he will find a new ally—and a force beyond any that humans have known….


Fantasy Family Complications: Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff

A pregnant magic-wielding princess whose brother the king promised to have her executed if she threatened the succession. A proud border lord struggling to take care of his people. A polyamorous happy ending.


Alternate History Mystery: Miss Sarah Tolerance, by Madeleine E. Robins

Sarah… is able to float between social layers, unearth secrets, find things that were lost, and lose things too dangerous to be kept. Her stock in trade is her wits, her discretion, and her expertise with the smallsword—for her fencing-master taught her that as well.

She will need all her skills soon, when she is approached by an agent of the Count Verseillon, for a task that seems routine: reclaim an antique fan he once gave to “a lady with brown eyes.” The fan, he tells her, is an heirloom; the lady, his first love. But as Sarah Tolerance unravels the mystery that surrounds the fan, she discovers that she—and the Count—are not the only ones seeking it, and that nothing about this task is what it seems.


These five choices are naturally influenced by my personal preferences. (I’d also love to see a cross-cast version of The Three Musketeers, with the likes of Maggie Q and Lucy Liu, Gina Torres and Viola Davis: Hailee Steinfeld would make a brilliant d’Artagnon. But that’s also something that’ll never happen—although if it did, Idris Elba should play Madame. Although it would have to be Monsieur then. Another thing that will never happen!)

What would you like to see in film that you don’t think we’ll ever seen? (Please keep discussions focused on women- and queer-centred narratives, if you don’t mind.)

Liz Bourke can offer no better apologia for her consilia. Her blog. Her twitter.


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