So the BBC have made the, completely unsurprising, decision to axe Being Human. I say not surprising as the show had, pretty much, run its course. None of the original characters remained and, whilst the new folk were likeable and interesting, it was the chemistry between George, Mitchell and Annie that made the show work. Take any one of them away and the show was destined to start losing viewers. This was one of the reasons that I was so narked that the BBC decided against picking up The Fades for a second season in favour of Being Human.
The Fades was a clever, extremely well acted, and genuinely interesting dark paranormal horror/fantasy. It was innovative and really seemed to break new ground in British genre telly. The BBC missed an opportunity to actually make some cutting edge genre television in order to order another season of a show that was clearly on its way out. British genre telly used to be cracking. Shows like Cold Lazarus, Quatermass, Children of the Stone, The Last Train, and so on. What have we produced over the last decade or so that is can compare to works of imagination like these? Instead Aunty churns out I’m A Celebrity Kill Me Quick clones left right and centre whilst original genre drama is ignored. All the genre telly that I can think of has been either pap or ruined by the Beeb. Dr Who is enjoyable but it’s pap. Outcasts had potential but was ruined by the Beeb a) messing with its scheduling and b) trying to turn it into a kitchen sink drama. Misfits is funny but doesn’t exactly ask any big questions.
I don’t need all my SF telly to be intelligent and philosophical. I love the shows I describe as pap. I just want, now and again, to get some great telly from this country. We have a wealth of SF talent here. This tiny wee island has more than its fair share of talented SF writers if you ask me. We’ve got Iain M Banks, Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Hal Duncan, Stephen Baxter, Peter F Hamilton and many more. That’s without even touching on all the great people writing Fantasy and Horror, New Weird and Steampunk. So why does our ‘national broadcaster’ manage to either screw up decent, intelligent genre fiction or simply churn out pap? They have either a low estimation of SF fans or a low estimation of their wider audience. Probably both.
Google+ has been aflame today with the story of Games Workshop, the popular games design company, forcing the withdrawal of a self published author’s novel from Amazon because it had the words “Space Marine” in the title. A term that they claim to have protected by trademark due to their popular game Warhammer 40k which pits legions of Space Marines against foes such as Orks, Eldar and other space faring nasties. Seeing as the term has been in use within science fiction literature for around 80 years my initial reaction was something like this.
But then I remembered that this is the real world and large corporations have a responsibility to their share holders to act like douche bags as often as possible. Their douchery here is in great evidence. Not only are they using a European/UK trademark to try and enforce their trademark in the USA(despite what you may think Games Workshop, we aren’t actually a part of the USA) but they are doing so on exceptionally flimsy grounds even then. The UK trademark refers to printed materials(as well as other forms of media relevant to the game) which may make some small amount of sense if this book was printed materials. It is, however, an ebook. It is available as a proper book in the USA but the US trademark has no mention of printed materials or ebooks.
That Games Workshop haven’t attempted to get any of the other myriad of other people who are impinging on ‘their trademark’ to remove their work from sale speaks volumes. To do so they would have to go after large publishing houses such as Hodder who publish the works of Robert Heinlein or Earache Records who carry the works of metal band Bolt Thrower, who’s name comes directly from their games. Instead they go after a self published author who is unlikely to have the resources to take on a company like Games Workshop.
I understand that they have to protect their work, they have in the past been blatantly ripped off by Blizzard Entertainment with their Starcraft and Warcraft games(notice the lack of action against the enormous computer games company…), but to try and claim a blanket trademark for a term that has been in general use for half a century longer than their company has existed is taking the piss.
If you want to get in touch with Games Workshop to point out that alienating the SF community is probably a bad idea their legal department can be reached via email@example.com and their customer service department via firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently discovered ABC’s Once Upon a Time thanks to Netflix, which will one day – I hope – be as good as Netflix USA, and am completely hooked. Which is surprising given that I watched the first episode when it aired back in 2011 and wasn’t that impressed. However having a couple of days free and not a lot to do I decided to give it another whirl. SPOILERS
For those who don’t know the premise of the show is that there is a small town in Maine called Storybrooke which is populated entirely by characters from story books exiled by the Evil Queen, Regina, and condemned to never remember their past lives in the Enchanted Forest. Before the Queen’s curse exiled them the rulers of the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Prince Charming, manage to send their daughter to the ‘real world’ via a magic cabinet made by Gippetto. This daughter, Emma, is destined to break Regina’s curse when she reaches 28.
The story begins with Emma, now 28, working as a Bail Bondsman. Returning home from a job, she prepares to celebrate her birthday by herself when she is disturbed by a young boy knocking at her door claiming to be her son who she gave up for adoption years ago. She takes him home to Storybrooke where we discover that his adopted mother is none other than the Evil Queen, Regina, and that Henry has figured out the curse thanks to reading a story book given to him by his teacher Mary-Margaret(Snow White). Hijinks therefore ensue.
The series has been lauded for, amongst other things, showing strong female characters doing there fair share of rescuing the heroic males. This is a nice change to the majority of fantasy shows which are dominated by strong male heroes(see, here, here, and here). There are, of course exceptions(such as here, here, and here) but that they are exceptions does prove the rule somewhat. If this wasn’t the case then people wouldn’t comment every time there is a female character who is more than window dressing. It’s always nice to see genre tropes turned on their heads and to see the traditional damsel in distress, such as Snow White, kicking arse and saving the hero. Something this show has in spades. It isn’t this though that has made the show especially interesting to me.
What has piqued my attention has been the way that as the show progresses the less sympathetic I am to the good guys and the more I am favouring the bad guys, the Evil Queen Regina and Rumplestiltskin. Whilst the fact that Regina is smoking hot may have something to do with my sympathy for her but,
looking at Rumplestiltskin, I don’t really think this is the case.
What is the reason for this deterioration in my sympathy for Snow White and Prince Charming? As the story unfolds throughout season one we see each character in both Fairy Land and the real world displaying a different personality in each. In the real world May Margaret(Snow) and David(Charming) are both perfectly likeable characters, each with their own flaws and strengths which develop over the series. Their on again/off again romance is genuinely touching and completely devoid of fairy tale happy ever afters. It’s a normal romance with ups and downs and passion and pain. Something that the viewer can identify with. This is nicely counterpoised with the romance of Snow and Charming in Fairy Land which, despite being quite different from the regular fairy tale is of course full of happy ever afters and True LoveTM. So we get the high romance of the fairy tale relationship underpinning the real world messy love affair.
This is all well and good and thoroughly enjoyable. My problems with these characters begin when the curse is finally broken at the end of season one. After this happens the personalities of Mary Margaret and David(and all the other Storybrooke characters) are subsumed by their Fairy Land personalities. So the identifiable characters with their flaws and foibles disappear and are replaced by characters who are just as flawed, just in a manner that is far less sympathetic. They are proud and arrogant and idealistic. Not that being idealistic is always a flaw, just when it’s coupled with arrogance and pride. Flaws that amount to hubris in a real world setting where they are no longer prince and princess with special powers backed up by True LoveTM. This makes them, on the whole, far less sympathetic. Not that this detracts from the story at all. It is amusing to watch them trying to adjust to the real world, especially when the real world comes to Storybrooke.
Now to the bad guys. The Evil Queen Regina and the all powerful Rumplestiltskin. In the first season we see the characters, and their real world counterparts Mayor Mills(Regina) and Mr Gold(Rumplestiltskin), as quite straight forward fairy tale villains and all round bad eggs. Regina and Gold both vie for power in the town and scheme both with and against one another in an entertainingly villainous fashion. We get hints throughout the first season of some worng being done to them, especially Regina whom Snow has wronged, which has driven them in the direction that has brought them to where they are now.
As we move into season two we are treated to more and more flashbacks that show us the lives that Regina and Rumplestiltskin lived before they started down their paths to darkness. We see Rumplestiltskin pilloried and mocked as a coward by his community for refusing to fight in the war against the trolls. His reason for not wanting to fight is so that he can be with his wife and child, for this he is branded a coward. His wife leaves him over his cowardice and flees with a pirate captain leaving him to raise their son by himself, something that he does and seems to do well. For his humanity, and for being a good father(refusing to fight the pirate captain for his wife’s return, a fight he would surely lose leaving his son an orphan) he is ridiculed and reviled. It is little wonder then that he takes the first chance he gets to seize some power for himself. Starting him down the path to darkness. Incidentally he also ends the war with the trolls with this power, a war that was seeing children drafted for the front lines.
We see Rumplestiltskin become darker and darker, we see him fall in love, experience tragedy. All these things add levels of depth to his character that are lacking in both Snow and Charming. This depth makes him a much more believable character and, therefore, much more sympathetic. We may see that he’s a bad guy in his actions but we can understand how he came to act in this manner. Even if we disapprove.
With Regina we see a similar amount of character development. As a youth we see her as someone who is every bit as good and kind as Snow White, who is in love and who is excited about the possibilities of life, possibilities that are hampered by her witch mother who will not approve of the boy she has fallen in love with. Classic fairy tale but without the happy ending. Through the machinations of her mother, and the unwitting betrayal of an 8 year old Snow White, all that she loves is taken from her. Hers is a tragic story and, whilst her persistent drive for revenge on Snow White is ever so slightly OTT, it is one that we can, again, identify with. I mean, who has ever experienced that sort of perfect One True LoveTM of Snow and Charming? For most people love is a messy process of fits and starts and everyone has loved and lost. Making Regina’s story a much more familiar one. Even if, for most of us, it doesn’t involve scheming upwardly mobile evil witches.
This has to be a first for me in a TV series. In the past I have seen shows where I have wished pain and torment upon the protagonists(hello Revolution and Arrow) but I can’t think of another time where I have wound up actively rooting for the bad guys.
I really wish I had kept with this when it first came out. Still, at least I’ve rediscovered it now and am looking forward to the next episode on the 10th where we will see a return of the giant that slew Jack.
ZOMG, it’s the Glasgow Film Festival this month and I totally forgot about it! Which is why I don’t have a ticket to Much Ado About Nothing the new Joss Whedon film. Gutted doesn’t even come close. There are still loads of really cool looking things on that tickle my geeky bits in just the right manner.
Tonight we have Dead Man’s Waltz featuring Glasgow’s own Hal Duncan. I won’t be able to make this as I’ve work in the morning and hangovers suck… I will hopefully be able to make it to a few things at least over the next couple of weeks.
On the 15th and 16th they are showing John Dies at the End. I was hoping to have read the book by the time I’ve seen the film but I don’t know if I’ll have finished Charles Stross‘ Apocalypse Codex in enough time to get it read. I still can’t wait to see it on the big screen, check the trailer out and tell me it doesn’t look like a trippy joy to behold.
On the 17th and 18th there’s Cloud Atlas. A film that has received mixed reviews from its run in the USA. It did seem to me that the negative reviews tended to come from people who hadn’t read the book so I’m being open minded and assuming that the Wakowskis have done a good job. I can see how the story may be unfathomable to people who haven’t read it first. Also, a lot of these film critics were the same people who said that Inception was a complex film, puhlease!
On the 18th we have Aliens being shown on 70mm. *excite* and on the 19th Mark Millar talks about Kick Ass II.
One of the more surreal events is, also on the 19th, a ‘geek’ evening with Alex Salmond the First Minister. This confuses the hell out of me and I may go along out of sheer curiosity. What could Eck be hoping to gain from this?
On the 20th and 21st Comiccon IV: A Fan’s Hope will be shown, this is a must see and it will fan any geek’s desire to go the mecca that Comiccon has become over the years. It also has an amazing moment of squeeeeeee during a Kevin Smith panel. Watch it and see.
On the 21st there is an evening of Dark Fantasy with a discussion of the game Dark Souls and a screening of Jonah Hex. Which could be fun but I’m not a fan of Dark Souls tbh. Jonah Hex has been on my ‘to watch’ list for a while now though.
Also on the 21st, and the event that wins out over the evening of Dark Fantasy for me, is the Game of Thrones panel. This will feature a showing of the epic episode ‘Blackwater’ from season two of the show and a panel discussion with cast and crew. Can’t wait!
Finally, on the 24th, we have Robot & Frank. A touching indie film about one man, his robot, and a heist.
There are other geeky events over the festival but these are the ones that tickled my fancy. You can find the full listing for the festival, and details of how to get tickets, here.