Star Trek: Discovery, Episode 4 FTW!

9 Oct

Threat ganglia!

Black alerts!

Women of colour passing the bechdel test!

I have so many (only slightly spoilerish) thoughts about the fourth episode of Star Trek: Discovery that I almost don’t know where to begin. Sceptics, begone! Surely this is the episode to show us that the new show can be everything we want it to be?

Words have been written elsewhere about the choice of perspective, with our sole viewpoint character being Burnham, rather than the full ensemble of a senior crew. It is indeed refreshing to be introduced to a Starfleet vessel from the lackey’s perspective, but it also serves to highlight an important thematic point: the crew of the Discovery, and perhaps Starfleet itself, have lost their way. While Burnham alone continues to want to seek out new life, in the form of Ripper, everyone else is focused only on “weaponising” it, or seeing it as a threat. She alone treats it as a possibly sentient being, and she alone embodies Starfleet’s ideals. I love the affinity she has with it, and the parallels between the way she views it and the way others view her. Burnham’s eyes swim as she describes it as just wanting to defend itself, and as, ultimately, peaceful and misunderstood. If the rest of her is Vulcan, Burnham’s eyes are still human- all her emotion is there, and Sonequa Martin-Green is brilliant. During the six months of Burnham’s incarceration, the galaxy seems to have gone mad, and we share her disorientation as we adjust to this version of the Federation.

I know some people wonder why this had to be another prequel (especially to TOS), and feel that this restricts the show. Usually I’m the first to bemoan such decisions, and when I first heard about the new Trek I too was hoping we’d get something post-Voyager. But this episode has won me over, because of the existence of the spores. Something is going to go wrong; hideously wrong. That’s why we don’t have this method of travel in TOS or beyond. Now the threat of what will happen hangs constantly over our heads, and I am sure that the usage of the spores will increase, as will Starfleet’s reliance upon them, and as the stakes rise, so does the tension, and tension (not context- sorry, Episode 3) is king. I was reminded painfully of the usage of Star Whales in this episode of Doctor Who, and I just hope that poor Ripper isn’t put through too much… I don’t think my heart can take it. 

I love a good antihero, and I already love Voq. So. Much. Pathos. And again, more parallels- both he and Burnham are outcasts, despised by their peers. Both have lost their beloved mentors, and each has the other to blame for this. I can’t wait for them to meet. The show ended with Voq contemplating Burnham’s image, as the architect of his downfall, and with Burnham receiving a poignant reminder of what Voq has taken from her. I look forward to Voq becoming the crazed Klingon despot he is surely destined to be. 

More, please!

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I want to talk about Borne

22 Jun

This book! I find all of Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction deeply affecting, and I’m still trying to process his latest novel, Borne. It simultaneously broke my heart and lifted me up. I can’t think of another book I’ve found so moving and disturbing and yet also so beautiful and, eventually, positive. Warning: this splurge of thoughts may contain spoilerage. 

All of the stuff I love about Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction is here: corrupted nature; body horror; a decaying metropolis. Explorations of power and who wields it permeate (is it the Magician, who sells lies like a priestess sells religion- to comfort but also to control? Or Mord who, king-like, terrorises to rule? Or the Company, who ingest and spew out, a faceless, thoughtless consumerist nightmare that, unchecked, will destroy worlds?) And monsters! Such monsters, in every sense of the word. What makes a monster and what makes the opposite, a “person” – as Borne is so fond of saying and is so desperate to be – is another question that lurks behind much of the story. 

I loved Borne’s upbringing with Rachel. What parent hasn’t heard many of Borne’s myriad, impossible-to-answer questions from their own offspring? And the way in which Rachel questions herself, doubts herself, blames herself… Well, I have definitely been there as a parent, many a time. Ultimately, it’s nature, not nurture, that wins out for Borne – or is it? Rachel comments, more than once, that Borne appeared to her the way he thought she wanted him to be. And Rachel surely wanted nothing so much as a weapon with which to rid the city of the blight of Mord. 

There was a lot in this novel that for me echoed other fiction by VanderMeer, and not just the environmental themes or the beautiful, haunting descriptions of nature twisted. A big reveal towards the end, in particular, is reminiscent of a similar big reveal at the end of Finch. Rachel is a delightfully and self-consciously unreliable narrator, although not quite in the category of the narrators of Shriek: An Afterword, another of my favourites. 

I loved the cyclical nature of much of what happened. Rachel salvaged Borne, Wick had once salvaged Rachel, Rachel salvaged Borne again. I felt it most strongly through the cycles of creation and destruction we see. The Company creates monstrosities, destroying worlds in the process, but ultimately these creations will remake the world. The magician (and Wick) create memories, but the magician destroys children to do so. The magician, and Rachel in her way, create monsters, as did Wick, and Wick and Rachel’s creations destroy each other, and in so doing, create a new world. Even Mord, who destroys so much, creates his proxies (who then go on to destroy.) Have I tied myself in enough of a knot yet?

I should probably stop here. I just loved loved loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough. Oh, and I want a swimming pool just like Wick’s. 

The Power by Naomi Alderman… READ IT!

20 Mar

A friend told me that I had to read The Power by Naomi Alderman. It wasn’t really on my radar until that point but man oh man am I glad I read it. (And I’m suddenly self-conscious about my choice of phrase there.) It’s one of those books that stays with you long after you stop reading. I think I read something that said it “will change the way you look at everything.” This isn’t hyperbole, although I’d probably describe it as bringing everything into sharp (and terrible) focus. More than once had to stop reading on the Tube because I realised I had started crying. That’s power, that is. 

Here’s a description of the book from the author’s website. In short, women suddenly acquire the ability to be physically dominant over men, and this changes the power dynamics between the sexes in ways that highlight the awful things we take for granted in our own patriarchal society. 

I rode the wave of the writing. I found the style taut and urgent and perfect for the story being told. I felt the book had as much to say about the societal pressures on men as it has to say about the way women are treated, and as well as being about gender, it is definitely also about power itself and the subtle way in which it is expressed (and the way in which the presence or absence of it permeates everything.) One character, a politician, ceases to give a shit about or be intimidated by a rival once she knows she has the ability to hurt him physically (even though he doesn’t know.) It reminded me of when I started to practise martial arts as a child: up until that point, I got picked on, and got into quite a lot of fights trying to defend myself. After a few months, I didn’t have any more fights, and I’m sure it was just down to the way I carried myself: I just wasn’t scared of getting hit any more.

I particularly liked the exchanges between Kristen and Tom (and later Matt), and the creeping way they were integrated into the main text, just as such frothy, reductive journalism does seem to creep into everything at the moment. I also loved the framing exchanges between the fictional author and his mentor, thousands of years in the future. I’d say it’s implied, rather than stated, that religion lies at the root of our own existing patriarchies, just as religion is wielded as a conscious weapon for control by Mother Eve in this book. I found the description of male genital mutilation, and of women as being naturally aggressive because they “have babies to protect” particularly thought-provoking. 

One might be tempted to think the book is suggesting that it is inevitable that those in power will abuse it. However, I think that’s missing the point of the story. The point is to shine a light on aspects of our existing cultures by completely reversing the balance of gender power. It is deliberately shocking (haha, no pun intended) but never sensationalist, and it deliberately takes things to their most extreme conclusion, but none of it is worse than what is happening to women right now.

Anyway: read it. Everyone should. 

[And now the weather on the ones… Sorry, couldn’t resist!]

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Just Reminding Myself

14 Nov

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O.M.G. Black. Mirror.

11 Nov

How timely that I have just discovered this amazing, amazing show. I’m slowly working my way through all the episodes (I’m about to start Season 3) and really could not have discovered it at a better time. I mean, totally this, this week:

I’ve seen a few things likening the above Season 2 episode The Waldo Moment to the current political situation in America (and, really, elsewhere.) The episode is scarily prescient, not to mention terrifying, and is probably my favourite so far, along with Fifteen Million Merits.

It’s not just the relevance of the stories that makes it so worth watching. It’s unusual and refreshing to find a new show with an anthology format, and the discreteness of each episode is a good lesson in complete story construction. Though I have heard people compare the show to The Twilight Zone, among other things, it also reminds me of a series called The Outer Limits, which I felt was really underrated at the time (over twenty years ago, and itself a remake of an earlier series…. Ye gods, I’m getting old!)

Anyway… More Black Mirror for me. Far less terrifying, and far more sensible, than the real world right now.

Lucid Dreaming: King of Dreams

1 Oct

I loved this radio piece on lucid dreaming. I’ve been a lucid dreamer since about age 8, although I will sometimes go for months without being able to properly control my dreams. 

Like others mentioned in this, I used to suffer with terrible nightmares. I sucked my thumb until I was at least <mumble mumble> years old, and so when I went to sleep I’d tell myself over and over that if I had a nightmare, all I’d have to do is bite down and the pain would wake me up. So my first experience of lucid dreaming was desperately biting down while zombies chased me across my school playground. (Zombies… It was always zombies. This is also possibly where my love of zombies comes from.)

I’m often aware I’m dreaming, but am not always able to control the dreams, in a fully lucid sense. And I have learned to wake myself up out of a dream at will. All of which means I now rarely have nightmares. 

Just Putting This Out There…

27 Feb

Personal anecdote: when I was six, Ancient Egypt was one of our class topics, and we were going to put on a play. I was desperate to be Cleopatra. I was the only black or mixed race kid in my class (at that point), one of only a handful in the school, and I wore my hair in braids with beads on the ends. One of our activities was making wigs… Braids with beads on the ends. 

I was gutted when I wasn’t chosen for Cleopatra: casual racism was an everyday thing at my school and I remember feeling entitled to that part because it was the first time we had touched on a topic that involved Africa in any direct way. Of course in a perfect world, any child would get to play Cleopatra, and skin colour would be no more relevant than eye or hair colour. But none of us is operating in a vacuum. It’s ignorant at best and insulting at worst not to acknowledge privilege and history. In my school, children were openly racist, and teachers openly ignorant (the teacher of that class once told me the person I was drawing should be a “nice fleshy colour”, and not the brown I had chosen, so she gave me the peach pen), and brown people were in the minority.

I felt bitterly upset that I, the one black girl, who had the *actual* hairstyle being replicated – a hairstyle that was frequently mocked and was nothing like the hairstyles of any of the other girls or any girls’ toys readily available- could not be given this one chance to show being black in a positive light.

Some (Spoiler-ish) Thoughts on The Force Awakens

21 Dec

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed this film. Also… Female Jedi! Asian Admirals! Stormtroopers of colour!

There were so many lovely moments of homage to the original trilogy, and some delightful mirroring. And the whole thing was a lot more understated than the prequels (which unlike most, I didn’t hate. But then I’m one of those weirdos whose favourite Star Wars film is Return of the Jedi.) 

Rey made a great heroine. She had rescued herself by the time Finn arrived to help in their first scene together. And as she asserted several times, she did not need her hand held when escaping- a great reference to the many hand-holding scenes involving Leia in the original trilogy. As she turned the tables on Finn, charging towards him and the audience, she made sure we knew she would be no damsel in distress. I also loved the pathos of Finn’s character, and his journey as he tried to decide who he was.

It would be great* if, when we finally get to see Supreme Leader Snoke in person, he turns out to be really really tiny. Which brings to mind an entirely different character…

We went to a baby-friendly screening with our newborn. She chose her own outfit – honest:

 

[* Ok, maybe not “great.” But funny. It’d be funny. For about five seconds.]

Back

20 Nov

I’m back. 

It’s been a while.

I’ll try not to be gone so longer ever again. Promise. 

I’ll be right back…

24 Apr

For various reasons, I’ve archived my blog. At some point, I’ll resurrect it. But not right now. Right now, I’m off to write some fiction…