Friday, April 18, 2014

On RETCONS - Retroactive Continuity; And The Foreigner Series

I did a thing on Tumblr a few days ago on C.J Cherryh's Forienger Series, the latest book with it's appendix(epilogue) giving a precis of history (the story) up till now and my personal frustration that the author forgetting various facts, plot points, characters, the time-line, etc - has not only continued, but via this new appendix is being codified.

I thought I had everything to say done; well for the most part; until I sat down to reread and within not the prologue but the first chapter; now I'm not eagerly devouring plot, there's a point early on that makes it all hit me all over again.

Plus, my brain remembered the name of what's going on - RETCON.

Though, is it really a retcon if the author just has trouble keeping things straight, or the author themselves is an unreliable narrator?

Spoilery things ahead for those who've never read the series btw; will note major spoilers for most recent book if/when it comes up.








So there's this: "All of Mospheria lived on the tolerance of the atevi. And the last decade or so, after a period of progress, had been a particularly anxious time — first the unexprcted death of Valasi-aiji, then the rule of the aiiji-regent, Ilisidi, Valasi's mother. Ilisidi had ceased meeting with Wilson-paidhi, who described negotiations with her as like talking to a stone statue."

So what's my problem?

It's been more than a decade. Much more. Closer to 15 years maybe even 17.

Cajeri is 9 (finally), then count the period of his gestation. 10 years. But before he was even BORN, things happened. Major things.

Then include the fact that the story skips ahead a few years in between three book arcs, from the declaration of the need of a space program, to the peak of the space program's manufacturing process.

Granted the last NINE (yes 9) books have all taken place within the past SINGLE YEAR.

And no, I'm not including the two year journey.

Destroyer - Pretender - Deliverer

Conspirator - Deceiver - Betrayer

Intruder - Protector - Peacemaker

All happen in the single year POST two year journey. They all happen in Cajeri's 8th year.

Three, three book arcs. That's a lot.

And yet the preceding 6 books (2 arcs) do actually jump time; for the space program, which includes Jason's time on the planet. And remember that once upon a time a couple of MONTHS would pass IN STORY between the end of one arc and the beginning of another, sometimes even between the end of one BOOK in an arc, and the beginning of another, IN THE SAME ARC.

One upon a time, Bren spent a week or so on Mospheira every couple of months - reporting in and dealing with his family.

Once upon a time, Bren took a damn vacation.

If we're to also include the period of Illsidi's regency, and include the initial assessment of how long Bren had originally been in Tabini-aiji's service BEFORE things in the first book pick-up and change the whole landscape of the Atevi… - That's more than 10 years. WAY more.

If we just include the time period when 'The Foreign Star Returned'; stuff, again happened BEFORE Cajeiri (Jeri-ji from Cajeiri?) was even born. That's still more than 10 yrs.

But put aside the number counting (Ha! If you don't read these books, you so didn't get that).

And there's other things going on; Valasi-aiji's reputation. Ok maybe not quite so important in terms of how the greater public maybe saw him, compared to an inner circle and [spoiler] Geigi was not part of the inner circle in those days. But Aiji popularity has been a political plot point a couple of times.

And what about when the plot hinged on things Phoenix kept secret from everyone? Why muck up the timeline as to when anyone besides Tabini found out about Reunion? And thus how things rippled from there?

Ok, you say, that's not maybe so important if it gets people reminded and caught up to the current moment - in which I give you a look of WTF, because, timing, time-lines, history, politics, ancestry, ancestral politics and ancestral imperative are kind of what DRIVE the plots in the series -so… WHAT?

But ok, we stick another pin in something and put it to the side.

Does anyone remember the Damiri-daja who was an effortless mix of savy and sensual Diane Caroll and challenging if mischievous Katherine Hepburn (or at least her movie career baseline)? Does anyone else remember thinking, post the two year journey and post the 'circumstances that happened therein' - that it seemed subtle writing to show her, just a touch clingy, just a touch shaken in some places, logically jealous of Illsidi, and somewhat lost in what should be familiar times?

Oh by the way; does anyone else realize, that the current set up as is, has Atevi gestating for AT LEAST a full year? From Cajeiri's 8th birthday to his 9th? And I say 'at least', because it was known upon the return and regrouping that Damiri was pregnant. And at a point Tabini admits that it was a heightened situation and they clung to one another and now there was this 'spare' - so to speak, that among Atevi equaled political trouble due to the format of his marriage.

But anyway, I thought a shaken, Damiri, having spent time primarily among Tabini's distant kin, faced with her own kin, both Atageini and Ajuri - suddenly clinging to them, kind of made sense. But then again? I remembered the fact that she'd purposely sent away ALL HER OLD RETAINERS, way before the official marriage, when they were just living together and she was Tabini-aiji's Lady - as a symbol of her confidence in relying on him and his people.

So to me, it was a matter of the difference between people she'd known for years, who'd even helped her through her first pregnancy and the first few years of Cajeiri's life (pre him cycling through relatives) vs all these people who didn't know her as her own person.

And of course there was a need to refill the apartments with servants post massacre.

When the reveal came, a reveal that seemed immediately to be forgotten in the next book - that the servants she currently had, given to her by her father (yet another wtf, since I'd been under the impression in early books that it was her father who'd died and her mother who'd returned to Ajuri, taking her child with her and leaving her Atageini Uncle (Tatiseigi) out in the cold or risk feud - thus his delight when she left THAT family and came to seek him out in her adolescence…)

But when the reveal came that the Ajuri servants were creeping about and spying, even on her child and she said that wonderful line in Intruder: "It seems superfluous to point out that you are not a foreign enemy and I have no need to spy on my son."

Granted, that's not quite true. It's been established that servants spy all the time. It's how information is passed. And that fact is used a lot. But the distinction was made of the difference between a servant in another household as part of a prior mingling of families, and a servant spying within the same house and household - on a child. And not via direction from a parent, but a grandparent who was not of the same house, had no relationship with the child and was instructing ACTIVE spying - going into areas not assigned, rifling through things, etc…

This was such a beautiful wrap up moment to me, of the consequence of Tabini et all losing ALL THEIR HOUSEHOLD and trying to remake it, and everyone around them trying to get a toe in. And the reveal of the insecurities Damiri's family plied in her; given what else she'd been through - her worry as to where her son's manchi lay, her grieving that it didn't seem to be to her and that meaning that the period of time between mother and child was forever gone and that THAT had been important to her - whatever the usual process for the raising of an Aiiji.

And how vulnerable she had to be, whether due to pregnancy hormones or just the exhaustion of having been on the run for months; that she went from having her own quietly respectful relationship with Bren, to utter, utter jealousy that this HUMAN had a relationship with her son and she didn't.

And from an in universe perspective, I was very intrigued and waiting for resolution of potential further insight into aspects of manchi etc - because Cajeiri is an aiji and manchi flows UP. So it was intriguing to understand that for children it doesn't work that way. Cajeiri is expected to have manchi TO certain adults and at some point that will change and he'll only COLLECT it.

And there'd been so much worry that his time primarily among humans may have damaged his ability to do what he'll need to do in future and make that transition. And could he even sense the flow of manchi NOW. And that had it's own resolution in that moment, with his mother's speech and her asking if she should stay married to his father or not.

And them having a discussion as a family that was so unexpected but delightful. His parents having talked but then included him after a point and getting his insights on the situation.

And then the very next book; the fight and effort to get into Cajeiri's room where he holed up after circumstances made him feel unsafe … suddenly transferred to his grandfather trying to get into the whole apartment and making a scene. NOT being denied entrance, all Ajuri servants sent away and Komaji storming down to a formal reception and making a spectacle of himself, accusing Illsidi of corrupting her own great grandson, and of Bren corrupting the next Aiji to be.

It suddenly went from an unsafe situation for Cajeiri, and a growth moment as a family - to Komaji somehow… desperately wanting succor and safe harbour.

Oh, I suppose he could have had servants spying as he tried to determine which way to jump. But that's not how it's presented at all in the retcon. Y'know, the very next book retcon.

But once again Damiri was unsure of her place, as if those moments of conversation with her son and husband had never happened.

Which is why I'm… "Is it really even a retcon if it's like the author FORGOT what just happened?"

I have no idea what it's like to write a book a year, in a single universe. But I do wonder how, if you are writing in the same universe - you forget what just happened?

I'm not even getting into make a bible of how things work in your universe. Everyone works differently. Though yeah, I kind of wish Cherryh had cause - "Where are the Determinists?" And what happened to the Astronomer Emeritus? And how his findings and continued development of such was meant to change the world; surely Geigi would still be in contact with the Emeritus' former students, even if the Emeritus himself had passed away. Though… he was there for that dinner before Cajeiri was kidnapped (post 2 year journey) and no mention again.

Does anyone else remember the Hashrid and Tashrid (I am likely butchering those names - but I cannot right now find the right wiki - the fan wiki created, I believe, to help Cherryh find info and I want my thoughts out); but remember the upper and lower houses that resembled Parliament? With a House of Lords and a House of Peoples and Tatisegi held prominence among the Traditional Lords (Hashrid), while Tabini was popular among the Peoples (Tashrid)? And it was a political coup that had given very much power to the people, away from the Lords in the formation of the government, of the aishidi'tat. Which is how Illsidi ended up a very temporary regent, twice, no thrice denied being named Aiji, because the Tashrid could not trust someone as traditionalist as she seemed to be to NOT favour the Lords over the common people.

Remember that? And what a political plot point it's been? How it focused and molded Illsidi's personal presentation, her plans etc?

And then there was that 'business editor' or whomever, who went all through one book, changing everything; spellings, how people said words in English to denote it wasn't their first language, AND adding 'Conservatives' and 'Liberals' everywhere in what to me seemed very human, and modern and from my perspective, very USian, on a system where it'd been overlapping associations and interests CONSTANTLY.

And now suddenly it's Liberals and Conservatives (capital 1st letter), everywhere; NOT Traditionalists. NOT 'the number-counters', NOT Determinists (whatever happenened to Geigi's faction of Determinists and how they ebbed and flowed within policies and politics?). Suddenly it's a two-party system, where before it'd been factional, if along lines of traditionalist and modernist. Which by the way are two very different things to 'conservative' or not.

Illsidi's eventual support of the space program made her no longer a 'traditionalist', thus her relationship with Tatisegi being so important; politically and personally. He holds the traditionalists to her, as she's now seen as a modernist and that's before her Southern-Eastern + Tribal People's initiatives.

I really enjoyed the political scene in this universe and these last few books it's gotten all very muddled.

There have been times things were mentioned; Bren considered a star spangled on black ribbon as 'Lord of the Heavens' and then that being mentioned as fact later. That's sometime's jarring. But it's far easier to think it was mentioned to the appropriate people and followed through on. It's a blip at most because there was a concrete moment to point to as to where. it. came. from.

But now with this appendix, I'm all; but what about… and… and… and…

And they're not mentioned.

The importance of Taylor's Children? Nope.

Phoenix's hierarchy? Nope.

Why Mospherians had/have the resentments they do re: Phoenix's ruling class/captains or don't give an fig they do? Nope.

How Phoenix's heirarchy works for Phoenix's people AND the Reunioners AND how that affects Caejeiri's human almost ashid? NOPE.

The fact Crescent Island failed? And how that reflects Mospherian government? NOPE.

How dangerous the Heritage faction was, and their collaboration with atevi across the strait? Nope.

And more…

Sometimes it feels like I'm reading a completely different set of books with EACH new release; and no one else when I peruse certain sites, ever seems to mention the inconsistencies. Or maybe they're reading a different book than I'm reading….

Then again, I often don't get the feeling that any of THEM? Are Black. So lots of what they get out of the series is 'exotic' rather than 'familiar' or 'understandable'. The consequences of a 'first contact' where the 'white guys didn't win' doesn't mean the same thing to them.

But yeah a multi-facets Atevi, interacting with multi-faceted humans, as a model for the Kyo had intrigued me. And now it feels like everyone and everything is being simplified.


All that said…

I still enjoy the books - yes, it's all the way here at the bottom. But I do. That's what makes the constant - but how did that happen? When did that happen? So aggravating.

My mind is always spinning at possibilities. Example? The long ago hints that if you presented yourself as unremarkable you could get lost in the shuffle in the Assassin's Guild (and end up marked dead). The original hints as to the importance of Algini (before he apparently gave that up) that STILL haven't born much fruit as to what sort of position that could be. The stress that now the major players are Cenedi and Banichi.

The reveal a few books ago, that the paidhi position was one of mediator between warring/feuding clans and associations.

And then you read that's part of what the Assassin's DO.

And you wonder, or at least I do, all over again at Aligini and Tano's placement, when Bren's position got more public etc… And at how corruption in the Guild ended up with him learning more and more.

And I end up pondering a white ribbon with a black one.

But that's just mah brainz.

And I want to giggle at 'mah brainz' but it gets tricky to conjecture when I'm trying to reconcile what was stated in the last book, with what's stated in the current, with what came before in the early books. And we're now some 15 books in, with the 16th almost done first draft I believe.

Seriously, where are the Determinists? What about the potential rise of the Astronomers? It should mean something politically (though it's no longer mentioned) that Geigi runs the atevi half of the space station.

Also: Geigi is Aiji of half the space station - right? But Bren is Lord of The Heavens. Is it just Bren's brain fart that he thinks he falls UNDER Geigi and not that manchi wouldn't flow UP to him?

See? See? I'd like to ponder actual structural complications vs unintentional retcons.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Originally published on Pop Culture Social Club: On Tuesday, July 31st, 2012. This is the latest draft I could find (having had computer issues in Feb), and PCSC having only half the essay up (as mentioned here). I shall now redirect my links to my full essay on my blog.

_ _ _ *_ _ _

  I was asked to write a review about the show; The Legend Of Korra, a universe sequel to  Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLAB). The problem is, I can't. I can't, because that's not the show I watched. That's not the show that was presented. The show I watched was 'Tales From Republic City'. And it was a very specific type of tale - a traditional kyriarchial, not particularly Asianic tale about the call to adventure for several men. I didn't enjoy it very much.

 Legend of Korra (LoK) was supposed to be about the Avatar; the one elemental master capable of utilizing all four (or depending on your point of view, if you include 'Spirit', all five) of the elements. And yet the title character, the supposed central character is woefully misused. Despite being in mostly every scene, Korra and her related themes didn't have much of a developed role. For a show called LoK, there really wasn't much about Korra, or her actions that was specifically legendary.

 Whether or not the creators, writers, directors et al intended to make the brown, young teenage girl an accessory in a story that bears her name; this is exactly what happened. The domino chain starts with her and it's all downhill - everything associated with her, associated with being the Avatar ALSO becomes an accessory to other tales; other people's stories.

 When you're telling the story of a character, it's them interacting with their worlds; their intimate world and their public one; and their dynamics within these worlds that create rich life.  These interactions reveal the larger universe, reveal the character and help frame the story being spun. The problem with LoK is that the intimate and public worlds revealed have nothing to do with HER, Korra, at all. The story does not make sense if it's supposed to be about HER. If the show is Tales From Republic City, however, it makes perfect sense.

 The Avatar is meant to bring balance to the world; among the people, between people and the spirit world, among the elements and the kingdoms; thus a topic like oppression is very much within the bailiwick of an Avatar's duties. But when Korra is an accessory to other characters, it means oppression, and the themes of oppression, resistance and revolution become accessories as well. They're not fleshed out, they do not reveal the world or the larger universe, they do not have lights shown on them revealing an inner private life (in the case of Korra), or greater depths or complex layers - instead they themselves become tools to explore other characters.

 The tale of Korra, in Tales From Republic City is incredibly shallow. The story of a young brown woman, with a huge political and influential role in an Asianic universe - ends up being shallow. As the universe itself, is shallow,  lacking in depth of culture and broad design.

 Korra is not the only female character who's made peripheral - it happens to ex-girlfriends, current girlfriends or wives, and mothers who were main characters in the first iteration of the universe. It's as if the inability to deal with female characters in great depth in ATLAB is compounded in LoK. Instead of the mystery of Ursala, Zuko's mother, and the lack of any older female elemental masters or White Lotus members; we have Katara sidelined from the start; Police Chief Lin whose personal development is focused through her interactions with Tenzin and his family; Pema whose primary purpose seems to be to be pregnant and married and Asumi Sato of Sato Industries who becomes a plot point for two men.

 On the other hand while some male characters are sidelined, the kyriarchial call to adventure in the ' Tales From Republic City', as I saw it, mainly revolves around Tenzin, Amon, Tarrlock and Mako.

 In 'Tales From Republic City', we learn about Tenzin; Councilman, son of the prior Avatar, and  family man. Tenzin's story seems to strongly be about duty and family with strong themes of prioritizing obligation and honor. I won't claim Tenzin isn't created in a way that shows he loves his children. But there are distinct times family itself comes across as duty and obligation; in his interactions with Lin, his ex-girlfriend with whom he has awkward but very present chemistry and in his interactions with Korra herself. Korra is an accessory to his tale of trying to find balance in a world where his father is reincarnated and he's left trying to pass on his father's wisdom back to him. The end of Season One seems to show Tenzin reveling in the small joys of life, but stuck to duty and obligation, in perhaps a contrast to his brother who's seemingly merged an enthusiastic love of life with career or direction. Tenzin solidly rejects the call to adventure; including the adventure to be had with Korra.

 We did not see Tenzin in relation to Korra from her point of view; what it's like to have him as a master and guardian figure, what it's like to interact with him as the son of her water master (Katara), and as yet another family member of her prior incarnation.

 We did not see Korra interact with Tenzin in an extended fashion when it came to air-bending, to meditation, to finding her center or drawing strength. Tenzin doesn't even tell her stories of Aang - he advises her to meditate and contact him herself.

 I was struck with memories of Aang's playfulness and his fierce joy in competition; memories of Air Bending sports at the Temple, playing with Sokka, trying to ride a water beast etc. But we don't see Korra and Tenzin interacting about her joy of professional bending. There's been much talk about Korra's discipline or what it should have been - but I'm truly struck there wasn't a showing of how she found a way to connect to joy and freedom in all her bending, via the professional sport, and how maybe finding joy in air-bending might have been key. Aang was filled with joy about air-bending; it helped define him. And yet it's not joy that connects her to the form, it's responsibility, and some fear and some deus ex machina.

 Why does the brown girl not get to have joy in air-bending? Why is her enthusiasm for learning other styles of bending touched on once, but not again? How is she rebellious and independent and pugnacious and disobedient and yet the one time we see her truly carefree and enjoying the moment, it's quickly followed by angst and ends in disaster?

 Why does a brown girl in a leadership role not get to show joy?

 Why? Perhaps because it's not her story. It's Tales From Republic City, and it's not about her.

 The story of Amon, touches on power and influence and control. His stage is resistance to oppression. But like a stage, everything behind him is a prop and two dimensional. He is mysterious and motivated, later revealed as complex and pained. He treats Korra as his enemy, and as an obstacle to be overcome. But his interactions with Korra, are all about him; his power, his domination, his schemes, his coordination, his manipulation, his orchestrating her humiliation and helplessness. Korra is as much a prop to him, as are his fellow Equalists, the entire Equalist movement, and the concepts of resistance to oppression; how it starts, develops and becomes a platform. Worse, the end of his story has nothing to do with imbalances in society, but his personal trauma and a very twisted, faulty coping mechanism and world view. Amon's accepts his call to adventure and it leads to false power and ruination.

 Korra doesn't learn anything in her interactions with Amon. He's not a thread in her story,  she's a thread in his.  Nothing happens that leads her to maybe discover why previous Avatars lived among the people and weren't locked in a fortress having sheltered lives. She doesn't learn anything about general non-benders, about why people whom she's responsible for, as their Avatar, would join the Equalist movement.  Resistance and revolution against oppression and class domination become a kind of cult of personality; and her presence is a minor aggravation - after all, it takes outside influence both physical and spiritual before she's able to reverse things with Amon. And even then, she doesn't end his story, Tarrlock does.

 Why does the brown girl in a leadership role, not get to join the fight against the system and win? Why does she maintain the status quo and write off the complaints of others as their manipulation by a charismatic but wrong leader?

 Why? Perhaps because it's not her story. It's Tales From Republic City, and it's not about her.

 Tarrlock's story is depicted very clearly as that of a user. A Northern Water Tribe Council-person, he'll try and use anyone and anything to get what he wants; power, total autonomy and control. He uses Korra several times, but she's hardly his only or even his main stepping stone. He bullies the Council, non-benders, and even tries to manipulate the Chief of Police - both of them.

 Tarrlock accepts his call to adventure and it leads to crumbling weakness and loss. He too faces ruination and false power; which makes a kind of symmetrical sense given how his storyline intertwines with Amon's.

 In Tarrlock's story, Korra is a tool, another instance of her being an accessory. There isn't any reflection on Tarrlock as perhaps who she doesn't want to be, or his wrongheadedness or where power took him, of how he uses people. It's difficult to bear comments about Korra's age being an excuse for her lack of growth during the series when in ATLAB we saw all the young characters grow; Zuko to Ty Lee, Aang to Sokka.

 Why doesn't the brown teenage girl who's meant to be leading the story, reflect on how she needs to be different from an obvious villain? Why doesn't she come to realize what abuse of power, specifically bending power means - why does she try similar bullying tactics right after she saw how they affected not only random strangers; non benders; but her own friends? Why doesn't she mature, reflect, regret, change and grow?

 Why? Perhaps because it's not her story. It's Tales From Republic City, and it's not about her.

 The last main male in 'Tales From Republic City', is Mako. Mako is an orphan, an older brother, once a Triad member or at least part of that life, now a Pro-Bender trying to look to the future. We learn that Mako is about security, about protecting the last of his family, about putting food on the table. His interactions all stress these; when things interfere with his sense of security, with his sense of having some kind of control over his life and environment - we see more of his inner world, more of his breaking points, more of the lines he will cross. Personally, I didn't like what I saw - but it was there to see.

 In his tale, there's lots about balance between responsibility and self wants, self desires. It's a combination of needs taken too far - in this case a need for security; along with very valid wants. He deals with attraction, relationships, with his brother, and in figuring out when it comes to choosing the right girl for him, just exactly what it is he really wants; the sensible choice, or something more organic and perhaps irrational. Maybe it's a touch gender switched, as that's the kind of growing moment choice usually seen with women. But it still leaves Korra peripheral; an accessory.

 Her interactions with Mako revolve around her being a prize he deserves, by value of his existing and knowing her; one of  his two options as a 'good boy'; she's the organic choice, Asumi's sensible security.  Meanwhile Mako is also presented as a kind of protector figure Korra's set up to need. Korra becomes a 'princess' (stereotypical in particular ways); waylaid, unconscious, abducted, kidnapped and accosted and in the midst of it all, despite her own movements, Mako is clearly her champion. Mako answers the call of adventure and wins the prize; the admiration of his enemies and the love of the girl he decides on.

 Why doesn't the brown girl get to be the hero? Why isn't it her exploits that gain the guy's attention, that save him, that leave him swooning and a little bewildered and awed and impressed? It's not as if it's not possible, Bolin does it quite well - with mutual respect being involved from the very start.  Why does the brown girl end up with a Champion instead of being the Champion?

 Why? Perhaps because it's not her story. It's Tales From Republic City, and it's not. about. her.

 This is why I was left with so many questions at the end of the show claiming to be Legend of Korra. Where was Korra's adventure; her call, her struggle, her hero's journey, her hard won answers about herself and the world; as the Avatar, as a teenager, as a Water Tribe girl in the big city?

 I originally thought her becoming a Pro-Bender was a marvelous idea; instant access to the most popular sport, gaining fans, interactions with ordinary people; the chance to show herself as liking similar things, being swept up in enthusiasm just like them. I wondered if the way to get her to recognize privilege and her society's problems was in thinking about her fans - thinking about what their support meant to her in the ring and realizing what it'd mean for them to have the Avatar's support in life.

 Instead Pro-Bending was a way for her to meet Mako, a way for Mako and Asumi to interact and a way for all three to have an extremely unnecessary and plot diminishing love-triangle.

 Mako as a goal wasn't something new. It definitely wasn't the tale I was hoping for a young, brown, heroine. Mako's love as a struggle to be won, is just the romance prize gothic heroines have had for ages; a good/manly husband, along with the adventure of finding, attracting, choosing and keeping him.

 I wanted Legend of Korra. Not Tales From Republic City: Mako's Romance, starring Korra.

 But that didn't happen.

 The Legend of Korra, didn't happen.

 There were lacks and pitfalls,  stereotype after gender stereotype after racial stereotype. And none of this gets into the world being less rich in and of itself; language, writing, architecture, clothing - as if it's somehow impossible to imagine a non western type industrialization era. As if  'Republic City' is some twist on Deadwood or Boardwalk Empire, where the meaty stories are all about men; white men. Though those  shows at least like to claim it's because men had more citizen, political and other power in the times.

 What's LoK's excuse?

 In a universe that was previously shown to be so richly Asian diverse, and to have Katara and Toph and Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors, to have Ty Lee and the female bounty hunter and the newly warrior trained Northern Water Tribe female healers and the newly healer trained Northern Water Tribe male Warriors. Where was all of that?

 Did they show how that universe's Triads are different than our universe's 1920's, 1930's Chicago gangs? No. I mean, Yakone. Al Capone. Surely I wasn't the only one who noticed?

 Did they show that the city Aang and Zuko built had anything within the city honoring the spirits of the land? Were there temples or monuments? No.

 Did they show glimpses of Earth Kingdom culture, or Water Tribes culture, within the city itself? No. The Air Temple was Air Nomadic. The respective Councilors wore appropriate dress, as did Korra. Everyone else seemed to abandon traditional hair styles, jewelry and clothing; as if that's the sort of thing that JUST HAPPENS. As if its happening in the West wasn't forced assimilation and fear of retribution at being different and pressure to become 'American' or 'British'. More-over, cultural dress tends to mean something for important occasions still, despite assimilation. Did they show it? No.

 Did they show something as simple and basic as rickshaws? No. There are rickshaws in various cities in East Asia right now, but there aren't any in Korra's world. There aren't any in Republic City.

 And if the focus is all about industrialization (which was last and perhaps popularly accepted as being best represented by the Fire Nation) then where were even the passing two line conversations about how Fire Nation Imperialism dominates the culture of a city that was meant to be a united city for all the citizens of the world? Lost somewhere as accessories to Amon's story? Lost somewhere in the dropped narrative of privilege, oppression and what it would mean to have an equal society? {Note: I'm not even going
 into Fire Nation Industrial culture somehow equaling Westernization if this is even the case - that'd be another essay}

 So, in the end, I don't know much about Korra or her world. I can't answer tens and probably hundreds of questions. I just know what I saw; which was the ATLAB world, infused with lots of 'Wouldn't it be cool if', including a 'Wouldn't it be cool if the Joker took over Gotham', while drowning in 1920's westernization references, clothing to technology. That's the fifth element of Tales of Republic City; that's the spirit.  It's
 a spirit that made concepts like imperialism, oppression, self-determination and resistance into weak half-used props.

 Meanwhile, I know what's capable in 6 hours of television; if it's focused and organized and truly means to tell the story of a young brown teenage girl heroine.  Whatever they call it, this show wasn't it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing For Other People

About a year ago I wrote an essay for 'Pop Culture Socia lClub'. I wrote about Legend of Korra. I mentioned it here.

I went back to it today, and discovered that my byline has disappeared. It says 'guest'. And that half the essay is missing.

I've contacted via the old email I had for who was in charge of things last year; and I'll wait and see if anyone gets back to me. But I'm thinking, given they redid the site but no one bothered to contact me to get the second half of the essay, noticed the content was missing or even cared to input MY NAME; that 'Pop Culture Social Club' doesn't really care about its guest writers. They'll have other people's content up, without credit; and horribly mangled and it's just a whatever.

So yeah, not a happy experience a year later at all.

By end of Tuesday the 18th of June, 2013; I'm going to repost my essay here, on my own site. And depending on the response I get over there? May ask for my words to be taken down.

ETA: Have heard back fro mthe original person I submitted to. The response was 'Content is still there, just been extremely busy'. Mind that they have current content up; but somehow old content isn't worth much? I have no idea. I remain displeased.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Tumblr sent me  running silently screaming into hermit mode for a few months. With two attempts since to dip my toes in the water and go back; the latest being very recently. It was always a bit...needlessly complicated. But there were solutions. There no longer seem to be solutions, in fact basic things are no longer working.

Basic things.

Thus I'm back again trying to find something that lets me write my bloggy thinky thoughts; easily. Blogger is - a sea of white space. Still. And I haven't found any userstyle that somehow fixes that. So, I'm on the hunt for space/a place again.

Wordpress... did not work for me. Which is sad because I have a few essays up there (hopefully still up there) with responses and conversations I'd enjoyed. I'm not sure I want to go back to a journal style similar to LJ  - in which case it'd be Dreamwidth. It's easy of course. But doesn't feel like it'd fit somehow.

Maybe I just need to find the write desktop program for blogger so I never actually have to touch the site again. Maybe.

That'd be yet another program to hunt down; computer issues in Feb means I'm STILL playing catch-up installing stuff on a new computer. I don't think one was ever meant to USE a new computer and update it with new programs at the same time. At least I'm not; I start using it and then a fw hours later reach for something that's not there, and have to figure out if I need to update the old saved program or find a new one and if I should spend more time adding a few more programs and then move on and the cycle repeats; because wow, I had a lot of programs on the old one.

Anyway, yeah. 2013. Near half over and full of bump bump bump on my end.

Hmm. At least I had Elementary.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Against Prophecy

I think I have a serious peeve, twitch, irk, grating aggravation conception against Prophecy in Fiction. But it's a specific type of prophecy - because I'm sat here thinking that ' I know Duke Crocker from Haven's meant to die at the hands of someone with a particular tattoo and it doesn't bother me'.

So, what's the difference? Well first of all? It's who made the prophecy. I actually know. And when it was made - recently. And why it was made - because this was the seers gift/curse to see how people will die.

Does such a curse/gift make sense? No, not really. But I can take a step back for the sake of the in universe logic. Such an ability exists. And it has foreseen this main character's death.

Which leads to number four. This is a prophecy about how someone will die. It's specific. Most of the time it's 'The prophecized one' and there's some hazy handwavium about greatness against darkness or against the ultimate or some shite like that. Sometimes it's 'this is the one prophezied to end you - great evil mustache twirling baddie'. And there's only one prophecy of such type I actually buy into - the one regarding a certain baby ending the days of a certain King. Ahem. And it's got nothing to do with faith. It's got everything to do with the structure of the story making it seem like fate is sending out wireless signals, and of course this king had a hookup with the right people to try and clone those signals and read the messages. It was not, let's say, a message he was supposed to get - but he was working the angles.

So I guess that's the second kind of 'prophecy' I can handle. When something is on the wings of magic or existence and some folks with the skill to read it (but who shouldn't be reading it), hijack into the future to find out stuff. And then?  I honestly can't remember in this case if it was one item amidst dross, or if they were particularly searching for 'shall our employer be thwarted and leave us all out of jobs'.

I guess, I guess now that I'm writing it out - the thing that's upset me, aggravated me, pissed me off about prophecy in spec fic is that it's mostly a shortcut path to 'This is our chosen one - awwwh!' (cue the choir). The prophecy makes the character special. The prophecy means they were MEANT to do xyz and 123. The prophecy is guiding the tale, guiding their lives, blah blah blankety blah blah.

No one ever knows who gave the phrophecy. No one ever discusses the reliability of the source. No one ever discusses the possibility the information within it might have been warped - given that these shortcuts to greatness tend to be decades upon decades old, sometimes centuries old. Who the heck was trying to hijack the future that far ahead and for what purpose? it's just 'There is a Chosen One w/i this prophecy and that prophecy and this is the one! Awwwh!' (cue the choir again).

There's never a culture set up in these universes of honoring prophets either. Of say, having individuals for whom jacking into fate or the future is their gift/curse, and they have special school/temples/complexes with archives and librarians and they just see EVERYTHING (the poor suckers) and it all gets written down and someone somewhere decides that this prophecy is nothing but The Farm Cycle. And that orphecy is 'OMG The Royal House Shall Fall!!!'

Also, why are there never any consequences involving these prophecies? And no, I'm not meaning just in time for the protaganist to have some conflict. But why hasn't the 'Royal House' which 'Shall Fall' not hidden the prophecy, destroyed it, refuted it, burnt and salted the earth of the place where it came to be. Why isn't there a culture AGAINST seers (as much as there should be one for them)? Why isn't there misinformation purposely spread so this or that noble house could continue to survive, so that someone couldn't attempt to fit the bill of said prophecy in order to defeat their enemies (or maybe just people they didn't like)?

There is one other prophecy I actually liked. From the movie BulletProof Monk. And what I liked about it there is that the SAME prophecy held true for each individual who'd end up being 'special' over the years. That it was like a contract with fate "Once these circumstances happen, these individuals will be primed to be the next xyz." Like a program with a loop. In which case it feels less shortcut and more 'When the time is right, you will begin to know because fate loops this way. These things will always happen'. When you say something will ALWAYS happen - then it gets mystical to me. Then I don't take a step back so much, or at least can take a step forward into the world again, because the same circumstance for each individual through the years? That's actually interesting to me. And in the case of BulletProof Monk (the movie) it's VERY interesting. Because it's very specific. But not just for 'one' chosen, for every chosen. Ever. Forever. And it says nothing about whether said individual will succeed or fail - just that 'when these things happen, pay attention to this individual - it will be important'.

So what do we have, what do I have?

I need to know who made the prophecy. Why they made it. When they made it. How it's lasted so long (if it's been years and years). Is it untampered? What about it gives it the ring of truth? Was it specifically looked for? Is it about a specific situation? A specific circumstance? Was the seer trustworthy? Why does this prophecy matter? Why was the prophecy created ?

What I don't need; what I cannot enjoy reading is 'And the BLAH TITLE BLAH Prohecy has states a chosen one will come, and lo there will be turmoil, and yea verily the ultimate moment of the ultimate struggle shall arise....'

[hah, it looks like somethings just feel as if they belong here - even though, OMGWF is w/ all the white and open space blogger. Oh my EYES. Andwhy are my tags all squished up in a corner? OMG the gurbleick!]

Friday, September 7, 2012

Official Move To Tumblr

Considering that I'm active on there almost daily, as compared to over here which had dropped down to about twice a month, I'm thinking it's time I put it as an 'official move'. If there's a way to combine blogger and tumblr (blogging and tumbling/micro-blogging), I'll update here about it.

But I just did an introspective post on Tumblr (one of many in recent days in fact) that makes it seem likely that Seeking Avalon; Version 3 is over there. And I've changed the name to suit(well, will put in the V3 once I figure out subtitles). It is the new Seeking Avalon, at least as of now.

I have no idea what upkeep of posts will be like here. So, yeah, official announcement, blah blah blah.

Hmm, I wonder if the solution might be a multi-post client....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So I Wrote A Korra Review

Under byline S. Willow, I wrote a Korra review for site: Pop Culture Social Club. It came out today.

I was asked to write a review about the show; The Legend Of Korra, a universe sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLAB). The problem is, I can’t. I can’t, because that’s not the show I watched. That’s not the show that was presented. The show I watched was ‘Tales From Republic City’. And it was a very specific type of tale – a traditional kyriarchial, not particularly Asianic tale about the call to adventure for several men. I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Legend of Korra (LoK) was supposed to be about the Avatar; the one elemental master capable of utilizing all four (or depending on your point of view, if you include ‘Spirit’, all five) of the elements. And yet the title character, the supposed central character is woefully misused. Despite being in mostly every scene, Korra and her related themes didn’t have much of a developed role. For a show called LoK, there really wasn’t much about Korra, or her actions that was specifically legendary.

More of the essay here, at their site.

Friday, July 20, 2012


So I've been messing about on Tumblr after all ( It's got people I've missed talking/interacting with - but it's still nothing but a rolling comment system. I'm wary of my content there, trying not to put too much on, etc.

I think I've missed conversations.

And I could have conversations here, except Blogger's comment system has never been the best for that; I loathe Disqus; and it'd still involve moderation of asshats.

I guess I should figure out crossposting for when I do more than comment on other people's stiff - which hasn't been often. And I should probably transfer the few posts I've made here given I have the original posts written offline.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Strange Interlude

I met a comic book geek today - the exterminator. When he was spraying in my bedroom, he noticed my collection. Said it looked like I was a Marvel Fan. I said, no actually Batman's my favorite, those are all just the ones that I feel like dusting. Anyway, I ended up having a conversation wherein I was face to face with, I think an average guy - a comic book, specifically superhero guy.

And he's excited by the 'New Superman'. And the new Green Lantern. Recced me his favourite local/nearby comic book store.

But he also said somethings. Some things, not just about liking that Superman bleeds now and even loses sometimes and that makes him more relatable - while I stood there thinking about Superman's extended cast being in danger or held hostage or his principles holding him back and wondering if that kind of writing is somehow not 'enjoyable' to the average fan - even one saying he likes that Superman has to try and out think his foes now.

The thing he said was - I'm an average comic book geek and I think girls who like comics are the best of both worlds. It's awesome.

I was able to distract him - unintentionally - from his job (he still had to deal with upstairs) for about a good 15 minutes just talking about comics; talking about learning to read on comics, and having fallen for old school representations of certain characters; growing up on Alan Scott's Green Lantern and The Phantom and Dick Tracy and reading Spiderman and Batman and World's Finest and Huntress as Helena Kyle Wayne.

And it just struck me that he thought I was so uncommon. Either cause I'm black and a woman individually or combined. And I don't think I'm uncommon at all.

And I was just struck in a visceral way on expectations and representation and self-fulfilling prophecy. I may always be that woman he had a conversation about comics with this one time on a job, who talked about her father getting her comics and her father's favourites and her own. And other graphic novels and Watchmen and more. And maybe it'll mean something uncommon to him, that I was talking about old school character history and a 'remember when'.

And maybe it wouldn't be so damn uncommon if the perception courted and perpetuated that 'Girls/Women Don't Read Comics'. If it was accepted that we like a good story as much as anyone, have favourites, are interested in elseworlds, can say things like 'Damien's kind of Jason 2.0'. And 'Dick will never be my Batman' - if we weren't treated as such an oddity.

The last time I felt like such an 'oddity' was back in highschool being quizzed. And it felt that way again, with him watching my face to see if I knew who this person was, or that person, or this arc or that arc. Dropping 'Logan' as if I don't know it's Wolverine. Or Kingdom Come as if I'd have never heard of it (granted I read the novel). Though maybe I shouldn't think of it as a test, maybe he was just being geeky the way I was just being geeky for that 15 minutes; talking about growing disinterested or dropping Marvel or DC or both, and friends who've given up or gotten back in.

But it still felt so weird and oddly upsetting, that it wasn't 'Oh hey, a comic book fan'. But 'OMG! A comic book fan! Really? Are you really?!'

Monday, June 11, 2012

Academagia - 2

ETA: Snippet from response2
"We also desire Portraits of differing ethnicities for the Player, and
perhaps this is something we will be able to do in Year 2. It certainly is
a reasonable request."

Putting this in a separate post, because, wanting representation/ to see myself; having to send an email and point out the lack of representation, having to deal with their excuses of; dragons, magic, floating islands, but having nonwhites just wouldn't quite work, but you're asking for it is a 'reasonable request'....

The expectation that I and me and mine should have to BEG and ASK and POINT OUT we deserve to show up?


No. fucking. more.

I shouldn't even have sent the first damn email. Or pointed out the Moors and the Renaissance aren't mutually exclusive in the second. I sure as hell ain't pointing out that if someone had to email them to ask 'where are the girls?' and be told 'that's a reasonable request, maybe in year 2' - perhaps they might, maybe could see the problem 'clearer' as relates to humanity and representation.

I don't need to give them my money (especially when they don't seem to fucking want it).