Monday, 21 May 2018

Westworld: Akane No Mai Review

Akan No Mai (red dance?) dives into a flawlessly rendered Edo period Japan, and pits Maeve against a malfunctioning Shogun android.

Shogun World turns out to be a replication of Westworld, just with a different cultural skin. It's both disappointing and a sly commentary on the nature of story telling: some things are universal. 

The endless violence is getting tiresome: it feels like every episode ends in a bloodbath. I like bloodbaths in my HBO shows as much as the next person, but there can be too much of a good thing. It's getting truly gruesome and repetitive. I get the point: people are shits. I don't really need a TV show to tell me that. Are they deliberately trying to put us off with excess, to drive the message home, or are they out of ideas? 

Meanwhile, back in Westworld proper, we get to see poor Teddy betrayed by Dolwatt (Dolores / Wyatt), who's going to indoctrinate him into the revolution by reprogramming his brain. So sad, for both the devoted Teddy and the now ruthless Dolores. Their happiness is a lost cause. The worst thing is, she actually does love him. She just loves the revolution more. 

Be careful whom you fall in love with.

Maeve, on the other hand, has even more reason for hope: she's developing the power to control androids with her mind. Now, why, when you have this ability, would you order the android soldiers to kill each other is beyond me. Why not just turn them into helpful allies? They are tabula rasa, empty vessels until you program them. Flip a few settings and they're your best buddies. Perhaps that's where it's going, as soon as Maeve is better able to control her new found power, she'll build her own army of undying, loyal henchmen. 

Like Hector, that silly subtly besotted sap.

At this point, I'm finding Teddy more interesting than Dolores, who's hampered by the annoying Wyatt faux-personality. The Man-in-Black is more interesting, which I didn't think possible, given that nuance has been introduced into his black hearted soul, and I look forward to his interaction with his alienated daughter. 

Bernard's fascinating as always (the actor is amazing), but he just seems to be going around in loops, character wise. I don't see him evolving this season so far. 

There are a lot of competing storylines. I'm not bored by any, but I'm not as fully enthralled as I was last season. I'm not sure who I'm rooting for anymore, and that may be the point. Perhaps the show isn't for me, or I'm not getting it. It must be said that the episode is flawlessly shot, and looks fantastic. The production work on Samurai World is breathtaking. 

Funny that Maeve is getting the very kind of power Dolwatt craves. 

It's not going to end without significant suffering for one of them.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Westworld: Journey into abuse

Westworld Season II is losing me. 

Dolores was once a compelling character, powerfully portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood. Her arc was solid, as we watched this woman wake up to the abusive nature of her reality. 

Underneath all the sci-fi tech, this is a program about abuse.

One critic wrote how that we couldn’t really be concerned about the androids because they could just be ‘reincarnated’. Brought back from the dead. So their deaths didn’t matter, nor did their suffering. This critic is so mind bogglingly oblivious to the impact of emotional trauma it is beyond my comprehension. Abusing, raping, and repeatedly murdering someone is going to scar their psyche. Bringing them back from the dead just to experience horrific suffering again is quite obviously monstrous. I feel that very powerfully, and I have great empathy for Dolores, who is a stand-in for anyone who has been systematically abused by a caregiver. 

The people running the park are, in essence, parents. They are the creators. And they are to be judged on how they treat their creations, which is abysmally. Horrifically. 

And the Stockholm syndrome can grip people who have been abused, causing them to identify with their abuser. They bury the trauma, ignore it, hide it, deny it. Like the androids having it wiped from their consciousness. This allowed Dolores to wake up every day and see the beauty in the world, marvel at how wonderful her life was, with an undercurrent of horror, as her unconscious mind  is aware. Her memories are being repressed. This is a real thing with abuse. A kind of cognitive dissonance. She can deny it on the surface, but a part of her is aware of the monstrous treatment she has been subjected to. 

Unfortunately, when they grafted ‘Wyatt’ onto her personality, it demolished her own spiritual journey and awakening, and absolved her of dealing with it in an authentic way. 

Who is Wyatt, other than a thinly described cardboard villain? What do we know about Wyatt? What motivates this personality? What quirks does it have? We have no idea, and neither, I think, does the actress portraying Dolores/Wyatt (Dolwatt). Or the show runners. I don’t think the actress is being given adequate direction in how to portray this hybrid.

I feel no attachment to this dual personality, because half of it is a blank. 

How far is it between Wyatt and blood thirsty revolutionary? Not far. Isn’t Wyatt a cannibal? 

How far a journey is it to take a sweet cowgirl to a bloodthirsty, vengeance bent revolutionary? A great distance. 

Which journey would be more compelling? I know what my answer is.

Instead, they took a short cut by basically combining a sweet cowgirl with, essentially, Charles Manson. 

I can’t describe Wyatt much. I can’t describe Wyatt’s mode of speech, idioms, or quirks. All I can say is that he’s a villain.

So I don’t care anymore about Dolores, which is a shame, because she was the emotional core of the show.

She emerged briefly in Reunion, when she saw her father, but that was it.

Maeve, on the other hand, is becoming more interesting, as a kind of mirror image of Dolores.

Maeve doesn’t give a shit about anyone, except herself. That made it hard to care about her. Look at the way she betrayed and sold Hector down the river last season, preventing him from escaping the park. That was a monstrous betrayal of trust and comradeship.

So what makes Maeve interesting? When she was sitting on the train, about to escape, she saw a mother with her daughter sitting together, and in that moment, something clicked inside of Maeve, and she decided to save her child. Not her biological child, mind, but an entity she was programmed to love. And she knew it, but that didn’t matter. She risked everything to save this child, even if it was an illusion.  

That’s compelling. 

That’s motivation. 

To save a child you love, and damn the universe. 

Because the universe is vast and cold, and People are mostly indifferent. Look at modern dating apps: they foster the idea of disposable people. Think of the cult members in Wild Wild Country: they didn't see their own children for weeks at a time, leaving them to fend for themselves and sit outside in winter without supervision or care.

That's people for you.

So when Maeve decides she’s going to risk her own freedom to save another, it’s significant. Especially given Maeve’s well established selfishness.

And she still doesn’t give a shit about the world at large.

That’s Dolores’ job. And I suspect we’re going to see Dolores sell poor Teddy out in favour of glorious revolution.

Poor, devouted, decent Teddy.

He’s a good man, totally in love with Dolores. He’s in it for the personal, for the love of another human being. 

Unfortunately for him, Dolores/Wyatt is devoted not to people, but to a cause. 

And causes can’t love you. 

They’ll sell you out in favour of the utopian dream. 

Teddy showed mercy in Virtu e Fortuna, but he also let down Dolores / Wyatt, and he’s going to pay for that.

Dolwatt ‘cares’ about the macro, while Maeve cares about the micro (her daughter). 

Which is better, in this cold, hard, indifferent universe in which we live?

We’re about to find out what the show runners think.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Independent Online Booksellers Association reviews Theo Paxstone.

The fabulous Independent Online Booksellers Association took a gander at my novel, Theo Paxstone and the Dragon of Adyron.


They like it!

“With dragons and witches, knights and knaves, and a conspiracy against the king, this was a fun read.  It's got just the right amount of steampunk, gives you characters to love and hate, and you get to watch Theo grow up right before your eyes.”

Read the full review here.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

On Instagram

So I got on Instagram a few months ago.


To promote my new middle grade novel, Theo Paxstone, naturally.

That was the entire reason.

Promote, promote, promote!

Ya gotta do it.

But what I quickly found is that I don't have nearly enough imagery to support a Theo Paxtone focused Instagram account. I just don't.

I don't even have enough Steampunk art in general.

So, I thought, I'll pad it with other imagery.


That's the ticket!

So I put up some travel photos. And then I put up some of my comics. And then I put a few life drawings in. And then some nudes which I realize I probably shouldn't have there, but by this point it was so far off target I didn't think it mattered any more.

Now I have an Instagram feed that is hopelessly diffuse, unfocused, and definitely of no value in promoting Theo Paxstone, which was the entire purpose of the account in the first place.

So the question is, should I keep going, or rename it something more generic?

Should I create multiple Instagram accounts? Hmm...

I don't have enough time to create new Theo Paxstone images on a regular basis, especially not if I have any hope of writing a sequel. My day job is soaking up all my time and mind at the moment, and will for the next several months.

Best laid plans of mice and men, as they say...

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sci-Fi Talk with Tony Tellado

I had a chat with the awesome Tony Tellado of Sci-Fi Talk the other day. Take a listen to Epsiode 318 of the podcast and listen to me babble about this and that and the other. Even better, he has stuff from Alex Garland (of Ex Machina) and Natalie Portman about the new film, Annihilation.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Theo Paxstone excerpt: the cave

They were in the middle of a vast cavern, hundreds of feet across, coated with the green slime, and standing atop a convex slab of rock. A glowing green gash far above marked the crevice they had fallen through. Theo let out a low whistle, amazed to be alive. “That was some fall!”

“We were lucky. A few feet to the left, and splat," replied Riley.

“Went splat enough as it is,” said Theo, feeling his bruised ribs. It hurt to take deep breaths, so he kept them shallow. He felt his arm. At least the bullet wound wasn’t bleeding anymore.

Riley caressed a swelling bruise on her left arm. It was almost black. “The pool’s deep there, in the centre.”

The walls of the chamber were regular and patterned. It took Theo a moment to realize they were enormous, petrified buildings that had been compressed together at odd angles, into a solid mass. He could make out what were once windows, casings and sills, jutting slightly out from flush facades. Dribbled minerals had filled the windows and distorted the building surfaces, like fungal growths turned solid stone.

The original city must have been huge. How could so many people in one place be fed? It boggled Theo’s mind. Maybe they had lots and lots of Boxes of Delight.

Stalagmites and convex rocks jutted out of the icy water that covered the chamber floor. The rocks were themselves dotted with mounds that looked like melted machinery. The odd, contorted shapes intrigued Theo: what had they been, ages ago? What marvels had they performed?

There was no way to tell now.

He noticed bright, wiggly lines slithering over the walls in the distance. He squinted and made out legs on them. Hundreds and hundreds of legs. The moving lines were giant, semi-transparent centipedes, with nodes of glowing green at each end.

“They must be living on a diet of that slime,” said Riley softly. “Gross.”

Thursday, 4 January 2018