I’m a Luddite at heart. While I enjoy technology, I despise social media and I’ve been resistant to the societal changes it’s brought about. I refused to get a new phone for five years, but recently I had no choice and succumbed. I’m basically an 83-year-old in a 27-year-old’s body.
Doubtless, it would be difficult to make my way as an Indie Author without social media. So I’ve decided to create some pages on Instagram and Twitter, and will be making a Facebook account soon enough. I also frequently post on Reddit, but I don’t really consider that social media. It might be the only platform besides WordPress I don’t use begrudgingly.
That all aside, another aspect of technology I’ve avoided has been Podcasts. Why, might you ask?
I didn’t understand what they were, and I didn’t care to find out;
I didn’t like the name “podcast” (yes, I’m ridiculous);
I thought you had to have an Iphone to get them (continuing on the ridiculous train);
I didn’t know any good ones, and I couldn’t be bothered to look into it (do I need to say it again?);
I hate Apple, and I associated Podcasts with this company for the longest time.
However, my thirst for knowledge overpowered my stubbornness, and I invested some time in researching good podcasts (is the word a proper noun?) for writing. One that came up was the Mythcreants Podcast.
I started listening to it while I was stuck in the filing room. It was a long, boring week at work, and I got relegated there to do someone a favour. During that time, I listened to at least 10 of their shows. The verdict? These guys are fantastic.
Oren and Chris really know their stuff. Both of them are intelligent and knowledgeable when it comes to writing and creating. The topics covered on their podcast include a wide range of subjects, such as “Describing the Environment;” “The Important of Character Likability;” and many other areas of writing I didn’t even think of.
Even if you aren’t writing SciFi or fantasy, check them out, they have a wealth of knowledge to share: https://mythcreants.com/ Seriously, check it out!
So I’m reading Victoria Aveyard’s War Storm right now. I’m four chapters in and my eyes are bleeding. If anyone has picked up the Red Queen series, you’re probably thinking I brought this on myself. You’re right, I did. But I have weakness for Young Adult (YA) novels, and sometimes it is nice to read something mindless, especially when your brain is fried from work. And let’s be real, some YA is really good!
But this series sucks. The first book was alright, but as the story drags onto it’s fourth novel, it’s verging on unreadable. My initial impression was that it was a rip off of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, which is totally is. Truth be told, I could deal with that in the beginning.
However, the series has warped into a convoluted mess of POV (Point of View) chapters in a strange attempt to make it a GOT-level epic (GOT = Game of Thrones), for which the author lacks the skill to pull off. It also doesn’t help that the foundation of this novel is built on the well-worn trope of a female protagonist in a post-apocalyptic society, fighting to save the enslaved while plagued by tugging love interests (a set of Princes and a childhood best friend). Gag.
I think that if you have skills and talent, you can pull of a trope or two. But Aveyard doesn’t. Why?
For one, her writing is riddled with adverbs and one-sentence paragraphs. I know I said the occasional adverb is not the devil, and I stand by that. But it feels like every goddamn sentence has one. I chuckled darkly. He said sadly. I moved slightly…She wrote poorly. They make the writing cheap and lazy. And the one-sentence paragraphs are melodramatic and annoying. They do not make her writing impactful, because there are so many. SO MANY. They are irritating and relentless.
Her POVs also lack distinction. I feel like I’m reading the same boring person’s voice over and over, just with different opinions and settings. I agree now with the advice that it’s hard to pull of multiple POVs, and you have to really know what you are doing if you want to be successful. Aveyard is a good example of how not to do multiple POVs, if you want one.
The characters themselves are cliche and the volume of people being introduced is overwhelming. The A Song of Ice and Fire series has a lot of characters, as well, and its a testament to GRRM’s skill that he can pull this off without making his readers bored or confused (debatable by book five, but in the beginning it wasn’t the case). Aveyard cannot do this. The side characters she introduces are one dimensional, and quite frankly, lame. They lack anything robust and only serve as fodder to her plot. There are too many dicks on the dance floor, as I (plus Brett and Jermaine) like to say.
Aveyard also isn’t that great at describing people, places, battles or settings. One example that stands out is when she highlights one of her characters as “smiling like a cat.” I don’t understand why she used this comparison, especially given that her plot takes place in a society that is 1000 years into the future and probably has no inkling of Alice in Wonderland. Because without Chester, when would you think of a smiling cat? Cat’s never fucking smile. They yawn, hiss, growl, bear their teeth, but when do they smile? Ugh. And what’s worse is this character smiling like a cat is supposed to make the readers question him. Is he devious because of this cat-like smile? What are his real motivations? What is he really thinking? CAN WE TRUST HIM?!!! It’s fucking terrible. I’m sorry, but it is.
The plot really isn’t that great, either. In fact, the basis of the story (newbloods) is one giant dues-ex machina waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of time before “the most powerful newblood of all” swoops in and saves Mare and her friends from total annihilation (and side note – what kind of fucking name is Mare?). It sucks. Period.
The sad thing is some of the concepts aren’t that bad, and if the writing wasn’t awful, Aveyard could probably pull it off. I’m gonna reference my number one homeboy Steven King here, in that I can see how reading terrible books can be motivating. After reading the Red Queen series (which apparently is a fucking hit??), I know I can do better and I want to do better. So thanks, Aveyard, for giving me that, and showing me what not to do.
I’m referring to the new series that came out on Netflix recently: Requiem. Major spoilers ahead!
I love horror, but I don’t like being scared (yeah). So I always have to make a trade-off when I indulge in the genre. I’m not a fan of movies like Saw, but I enjoy series that have fantasy elements blended with psychological undertones. So Requiem was a good choice for me – it had psychological aspects (albeit transparent), and managed to scare me but not too much.
The first thing I want to talk about is the music. It was great. Dominik Scherrer composed the soundtrack, and as I write this, I’m listening to it on Spotify. It’s haunting, creepy, and somehow still entrancing. It suited the themes of the show, and added to the fear I felt watching it. I also think that because the main character is a cellist, Scherrer mixed in classical elements to the score. The piece names all appear to be in Welsh, as well.
Which brings me to my next point! The series is based in Wales. I like Wales. I’ve been there once, and I loved it. The history of Wales is fascinating, too. In a UK history course I took in university, my professor frequently brought up the 13th century conquest of Wales. He mentioned the poem the Bards of Wales, whichdetails the story of the legendary suicide of the last bard of Wales. The bard curses the Edward I and his family line for the burning of 500 Welsh bards before he jumps off a cliff (I believe?). My professor stated he believed this “curse” was real in that the final member of the Edwardian royal family line, Richard III, died in a brutal way. Moreover, until recently, Richard III was regarded as the boogeyman thanks to Tudor propaganda. Pretty awful way to be remembered, so perhaps the curse worked?
In Requiem, the idea that Wales is a powerful place, specifically Penllynith, ties nicely into the supernatural undertones of Welsh history and the themes of the show. Personally, I was excited to see Wales in the show and hear people speak Welsh. Maybe there’s a bit of bias own my part, but I thought it was really cool (people from the UK rolling their eyes at me for being a North American fangirl buying into the stereotype, but roll away, guys. Wales is awesome!).
The visuals of the show were great, too. The choice of Lydia Wilson to play Matilda Grey was smart. Her silvery blond hair, pale skin and large, dark eyes stand out against the grim backdrops of the old mansion, the grey skies, and the comparatively plain villagers. It made me think “yeah, there is something otherworldly about this girl.” Additionally, the bright green hills and the forests of Wales were surreal, demonstrating the power of the area. The colours, the music, and the idea of Wales sucked me in, even if the story was weak at times.
So what made the story weak? In my opinion, it isn’t all terrible. It just had some growing pains. I like British television, in that it doesn’t scream stuff in your face like “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT DOING THAT WILL LEAD TO X, Y AND Z WHICH WILL CAUSE THE WORLD TO END?” It isn’t obvious and there generally isn’t any hand holding. A lot of times, you have to infer things and use your own judgment to discern the plot.
I did, however, find that there was a bit more telling rather than showing in Requiem. Hal and Nick (two male characters) do Matilda’s bidding without question, and if you aren’t able to deduce that it’s because she’s beautiful, the other characters will tell you that. Oh, and Trudy telling Hal and Matilda over and over that everyone hates them in the village when it’s pretty clear that they do … Nick manipulating Matilda and acting strange, but constantly letting you know he has money problems. Why not just show him being shady and reveal at the end that he was forced into things, and let the viewers try to make up their mind for themselves? Meh, maybe I’m just nitpicking, but I love the grey elements of British television and I found they weren’t as strong as they usually are in this show (not to say that they weren’t there at all).
It was also easy (for me) to figure out that Matilda wasn’t crazy. I love plots that make you question the character’s sanity. The OA did this well – by the end, you aren’t really sure if she was telling the truth or not. Requiem made it way too clear that Matilda wasn’t nuts. She was falling apart and perhaps a bit mad, but she wasn’t insane for pursuing what she thought was the truth (and it turned out to be that, too). She looked unhinged to other people, but there were too many obvious hints that she wasn’t. Again, telling and not showing.
In addition to this, the concept of a cult being behind the madness is a bit overplayed. I wish that it wasn’t an “archangel” that was being summoned, either. This made me cringe and I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s cliche? I also think my bias is coming out, in that I really don’t like Tara Fitzgerald. Not gonna lie, her being the ringleader of it all made me roll my eyes a bit.
She’s coming to get you with her bad hair extensions and crystals!
All in all, I liked the show’s construction, but the story needed a bit of work. The ending was good, and I enjoyed the brief snippet of Matilda killing the people who tormented and betrayed her (revenge, yes!). The visual aspect of her possession was also creepy and beautiful, so well done. I hope they produce a second season because I’m curious to see where it all goes.
SPOILERS SPRAYED ALL OVER THIS POST SO DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.
Saturday morning rant time!
Honestly, Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors and The Passage were amazing. The creepy ways in which the Twelve operated and enveloped their victims was haunting. Cronin’s version of the world falling apart was far too realistic for my comfort. And his character Fanning’s backstory? To me, that was the most powerful part of the whole series. Cronin did a great job of showing us how someone like Fanning was driven to create the destruction he did. It really moved me (I ugly-cried).
I’m pretty shocked that I haven’t come across an angry article about the use of rape in The Twelve and how it affects two out of three of his main female protagonists (actually, see here – Pamela says exactly what I’m thinking). For those of you who haven’t read it, Sara, Alicia and Amy are the main female characters throughout the trilogy, with the introduction of Lila in The Twelve. Sara is captured by and taken to some sick colony where she is abused and raped regularly. Alicia is a bad ass; probably one of my favourite characters. She goes into the colony to rescue her friends (or something like that, I can’t remember all the details) and gets captured and, shocker, raped. I’ll handle both of the rapes separately, because Sara and Alicia are two very different characters in terms of personality.
Sara, who is eventually saved, gets her family back and carries on like it never happened. She is “strong” in that she moves on from the horrors of her past, focuses on her family and becomes a successful doctor. She only mentions the rape to another person once, a child who is also a victim of sexual exploitation. Otherwise, Sara is just happy she has her family and is strong woman because she pushes aside her trauma and carries on.
You could argue in a post-apocalyptic society, you don’t really have much of a choice but to bury your trauma and carry on. You could also argue that Sara chose to see the good in her life after months/year of torture. Her near-death experience was so powerful that it made her appreciate what she had, and this was enough to heal her (gag). But to me, this just seems like a failed effort to create a female character who isn’t physically powerful, but strong in an emotional sense (a way which conveniently allows her not to let her rape affect her or anyone else around her). It makes me wonder what Cronin’s idea of a tough woman is? One who casts aside her trauma like a bag of dirty laundry and uses the love of her family to make everything OK? Yeah, suffice to say this pissed me off. Why couldn’t Sara’s strength be that she acknowledged what happened to her, spoke about it with others, suffered emotionally but eventually used this to motivate and push her further? Nope, she had to bury her trauma deep down, never talk about it, and that’s STRONG.
Alicia. She’s a bad ass, she can use swords and fight really well, and saves the male character’s asses quite a few times. She’s also a pretty redhead. You know, the usual female character men write and fantasize about. That aside, Cronin did an interesting job creating a woman who, after being traumatized as a child, suffers from a lack of emotions and uses this to make her a better fighter. But then she gets raped. And low and behold, this breaks Alicia. She wanders off, gives birth to a dead baby named (second gag) Rose, and ends up succumbing to the darkness inside of her and doing Fanning’s bidding for a bit.
Of all the things that could have made Alicia break and go to Fanning, Cronin chose rape and a dead baby. Why not make it that she accidentally kills someone she cares about? Or she gets a taste of the power Fanning can give her, and wants more? Nope, it has to be about rape and a dead baby. Because that’s what would drive her to breaking point. I guess in a way, it was a juxtaposition to Sara who is much physically weaker than Alicia. Sara, who is strong,doesn’t let the rape break her, even if she can’t cut through virals with a sword. But even though Alicia is almost unbeatable in battle, big bad ol’ rape gets her. My eyes are rolling so far off into my skull I might not be able to see after writing this.
You can probably tell that I found both of these rapes highly unnecessary. To me, it’s a cheap way to push female characters and to demonstrate “strength” or even “weakness” (which really, why is Alicia being destroyed by that weak?). I’d like to see a novel where a female character is broken not by the actions of a man, but by her own mistakes or lust for power. Or, if rape absolutely has to be part of the novel, the female character doesn’t just brush it aside because that’s strong but acknowledges it, suffers through it, and gets better in doing so. Because to me, that’s real strength: facing your problems (not burying them), talking about them, and getting through them. Cronin, while his trilogy is still amazing, disappointed me in his failure to do either of these things with Alicia and Sara.