Paying for Our Passion – Ian McHugh

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Ian McHugh is one of those guys who you can talk to and not get any hint from him of exactly how talented, and successful, a writer he is. He has consistently hit the big overseas markets which is no easy task for an Australian writer–however, that has not stopped him from continuing to give back to the local writing community, both as an editor and as someone always willing to pass on his knowledge.

For all those reasons, and more, I am delighted to welcome the best beard in Aussie spec fic to my blog today.

Landing Jam Side Up

In 2014, I had the chance to take a redundancy from the public service. For someone like me, just past forty and with a couple of decades service, a Commonwealth government redundancy is like winning the lotto: it means a fat lump sum in the bank and my super immediately converted into a pension that almost covers the rent on a three bedroom house in an inner-city suburb.

I could have looked for a new permanent job (or probably walked straight back into the public service as a contractor) and turned the lump sum into a house deposit. But, I’m a writer, and the redundancy opened up another opportunity that I couldn’t pass up: I chose to fund my writing habit instead.

So, to cover that last little bit of rent (and food and clothes and Lego and overpriced soy flat whites) I now work as a sessional university lecturer and tutor, which means I have casual contracts for a term or semester at a time. I also teach short evening courses in fiction writing and occasional one-day writing workshops in Canberra or elsewhere. I have my kids about half the time and the rest of the time they live with their mum. I live in Canberra, but my partner lives in Sydney, so I do a lot of commuting between the two.

Angel Dust

The upside of all this is that I have lots time to write. Ten hours of class contact is considered a full-time teaching load at university. While I was working in the public service, in a permanent, most-of-fulltime office job, I was doing well to produce four new short stories in a year. In 2015, I’ve written eight new short stories and 60-some thousand words of a novel, so somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 new words in all.

That doesn’t mean I’m writing steadily or consistently. My work commitments and weekly routine change every three months (or less). I’m periodically completely derailed by marking assignments and exams, usually for a couple of weeks at a time. The constant chop and change is good, though, because it means the day-to-day never gets samey. The teaching is great, because I’m up and moving and talking to people, which is a perfect balance for the solitary seatedness of writing. I’m rubbish at getting started with writing, but once I do, writing in intensive bursts for a few days or a couple of weeks seems to suit me.

It helps, too, that my partner is also a writer and writing is something that we love to do together. It helps that we’re working at about the same level of “emerging” professionals, with some good short fiction sales under our belts and similar levels of recognition for those, and both plugging away at novels. It also helps that what we write overlaps in genre but diverges wildly from each other in style and content. It means we can usefully critique each other’s writing, and have space to admire what the other does. And it means that we understand the ups and downs that we both go through with our writing, and all the writerly paranoias, insecurities and eccentricities that go with it.

Never Never Land

That my kids’ mum isn’t a writer isn’t why that relationship failed, or why we weren’t able to give each other the emotional support we both needed, and she deserves to be acknowledged for giving me the time and space to write – like letting me go to Clarion West when our daughter was one, or go to Writers of the Future when she was eight months pregnant with our son. These are not small things. At the same time, I would find the stories I’d given her to read covered in dust under her side of the bed, given up on after a couple of pages and forgotten. Having a partner who shares your geekdom, especially when it’s an obsession that’s so personal and creative, is a special thing.

The downside of my current situation is insecurity. Overall, my income including the pension just about covers my budget (or would, if I stuck to my budget). I have money in the bank, but never have paid work guaranteed for more than 14 weeks at a time, and no paid work over summer. The margins are fine enough that selling a short story here and there makes an appreciable difference. (If you know anything about the likelihood and rewards of selling short stories, that’ll give you an idea of the fineness of the margins.)

But even insecurity has an upside. I once heard Jack Dann respond to a question about what motivated him to write, and he said, “Fear”. And he’s right, fear is a great motivator – for me, it’s fear of not making the most of this opportunity, which is probably only sustainable in the short term.

And, too, talking about ‘insecurity’, in my situation, isn’t the same as saying there’s any ‘hardship’. I certainly can’t talk about ‘sacrificing’ for my art. I mean, seriously: I’m working 10 hours (or less) a week to cover the rent on an inner city house and feed and clothe myself and two kids, with money left over for Lego and writerly tour-de-cafes. If my life up until last year was tumbling like a piece of dropped toast, and it kinda was – immediately before I got the redundancy, I was $10,000 in debt, with no assets, and looking at several tens of thousands of dollars more in legal fees to get a final arrangement for care of the kids -, well, it landed jam-side up.

If ‘insecurity’ ever does become ‘hardship’, I have family and friends I can fall back on – and before things ever get to that, if I have to, I can almost certainly just get a real job again. One day in the not too distant future I expect I’ll have to do exactly that, so it comes back to reminding myself that I won the lotto. My life right now is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I need to make the most of it. Right now, the only thing that would really make my situation better (other than getting my uni contracts more than a week before the start of semester) would be if I was making some real money from my writing. The only control I have over that is to keep writing and submitting. Luck is such a huge part of writing. When it falls your way, you’ve got to use it.

Ian

Ian McHugh’s first success as a speculative fiction writer was winning the short story contest at the 2004 Australian national SF convention. Since then he has sold stories to professional and semi-pro magazines, webzines and anthologies in Australia and internationally. His stories have won grand prize in the Writers of the Future contest and been shortlisted five times at Australia’s Aurealis Awards (winning Best Fantasy Short Story in 2010). He graduated from the Clarion West writers’ workshop in 2006. His debut collection of short stories, Angel Dust, was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for Best Collection in 2015.

Paying for Our Passion – Sean Williams

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Sean Williams is one of those people who you can actually say needs no introduction–he is one of Australia’s most successful spec fic writers, carving out a massive career overseas and having played in some of the coolest franchises in the universe. He was also one of the writers who appeared on the “Paying for Our Passion” panel at Conflux. His honesty in sharing his own struggles, and his obvious empathy for others who are struggling, was a reminder of why I not only aspire to emulate his writing success–but also his character. 

I’ve had a fantastic career. That is an undeniable fact. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous and self-serving. I’m exactly where I dreamed of being when I dropped out of university to become a writer twenty-five years ago. Everything I want now can be summed up by one four-letter word: more.

The universe, however, is telling me: less.

Twinmakers

Being prolific has been my undoing. Nobody cranks out six million or so words without consequences, and for me those consequences begin and end with chronic pain, pain that never lets up, day or night. I don’t wake up screaming every morning, but there are times I feel ill to the point of vomiting and emotionally desperate for release. I’ve gone on and off various drugs and had one operation, to no effect. If there’s an end to this, I can’t see it.

It’s got so bad that I’ve considered giving up writing. But that begs the question: what else would I do? Every time I try to take time off, I end up squeezing in a short story because stories, like virtual particles, appear spontaneously in a vacuum and must be written. I’ve always said that I would write music again one day, but that still leaves me at a keyboard, situation unchanged. I’ve considered taking up a hobby, but not being a sporty person, I’ve yet to find one that relieves my hands or interests me much. Reading is great, but even more sedentary than standing at a desk. I’ve taken up Pilates and Tai Chi to get my body moving, but I can’t do them without making other parts of my body creak and twang like a rusty old piano.

Spirit Animals

In short, age sucks. And it’s just going to keep on sucking until we find a cure for it.

I’m not alone in this. Everyone experiences significant pain at some point in their life. Everyone finds ways to deal with it. Once upon a time I’d get together with my writer friends to bitch about money and the market, but now we exchange health tips and coping strategies. Usually we gripe in private because it seems churlish to say that the career of our dreams, which many other people dream of having, is even slightly tarnished. But I think there is value in being open about these things. Not to get sympathy, but to stand as a cautionary example.

Force Unleashed

Don’t ignore the twinges. Be active, even in small ways. Treat your occupational health and safety as seriously as you would expect any other employer. Invest in a robot body the second they become available. (Join the queue.)

However, there are positives as well as negatives.

Stories come from our lived experiences, so if we’re living in pain, then that pain will inevitably inform our creativity. After a bit of a crisis early this year, I’ve recently found myself overflowing with ideas inspired by my condition, ideas that speak back to it in ways that I find both cathartic and creatively fulfilling. My gut tells me that these might be the strongest stories I will ever write . . . but I still have to write them.

The act of writing may be a source of unspeakable pain some days, but on other it is a source of great succour. Focussing on the latter I hope will be the best medicine of all.

Picture credit: James Braund, http://www.jamesbraund.com/.

Picture credit: James Braund, http://www.jamesbraund.com

Sean Williams is an award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over forty novels and one hundred stories, including some set in the Star Wars and Doctor Who universes. His latest is Twinmaker: Fall, the final book in his Twinmaker trilogy. He lives just up the road from the best chocolate factory in Australia with his family and a pet plastic fish.

Fall

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Four

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 4, “How does she do it?”

TEHANI: Please, PLEASE don’t let this turn into a show that is ONLY about boyfriends and girlfriends! I don’t mind it occasionally, but we need to see Kara as more than just a love interest or thwarted love interest or part of a love triangle… She’s freaking Supergirl for goodness sake—there is more to her than boys!

DAVID: I do wonder whether that is something that might be more appealing to the demographic they are targeting, though. I mean, all the relationships stuff isn’t something that really interests me, but I doubt that I would have been invited to their focus groups. So, is it a reasonable thing for them to be doing given the audience they are aiming at?

TEHANI: That’s not an unreasonable assumption, BUT… Why do all teen shows have to focus on the relationships? Can we not expect something more of these shows? Because you know, I reckon there are a whole heap of discerning young viewers who would be MORE THAN HAPPY to see people doing things and interacting without lots of love-triangley stuff getting in the way. You know, like real life…

JamesDAVID: I am curious as to your thoughts on the whole “friendzone” discussion. It’s usually a term applied to men, and often has some unpleasant baggage attached.

TEHANI: Yeah, that made me cringe a bit. I get what they were trying to shorthand it to, but it is a bit off, considering the problematic connotations it has.

I do wish this had been aired in the order it should have been though, because there are some important relationship changes that make more sense having seen this episode prior to “Livewire”.

DAVID: I can certainly understand why they rescheduled it, the climax on the train was more than a little disturbing simply in itself. But, there are a few things that would have shed light on the events of the next episode—especially Lucy and James suddenly being back together, and Kara’s seeming acceptance of it.

DoorTEHANI: This is probably more a personal thing, but I really liked the theme of this episode, which basically was (for me, at least) about women and the myth of “having it all”. Supergirl pointing out that she can’t be in two places at once, Cat thinking she will miss out on collecting her award because she has no one to watch her son, all those things. And as usual, my favourite parts of the episode were Cat Grant speaking truth…

Cat: “How do you juggle it all? You learn, that’s how. You start with two balls before adding another. I figured out how to be brilliant in business and THEN I added being a brilliant mother. Far too many women burn out trying to do too much before they’re ready.”

Kara: “So you can have it all?”

Cat: Of course! Just not all at once and not right away.”

DAVID: I think that Cat perhaps suffers the most from the missing episode. We see a much more sympathetic side to her in this episode, and I wonder how much more forgiving I would have been of her treatment of Livewire if I’d seen this episode first. Is this the most human aspect of Cat we have seen so far?Carter

TEHANI: Carter was also pretty awesome. I liked Cat’s relationship with her son, and I liked the way Kara got him to open up a bit. It was also interesting to see Carter used to make a point about Winn’s character (which helps us realise one of the reasons why Kara probably isn’t interested in him—he’s just a big kid!). Although it was a bit creepy that Kara was fishing for Supergirl compliments from him—even my 10 year old picked up on that and went “ew”!

DAVID: There was lots to like about Carter—but also a lot of pandering to the viewers. As his mother said, nerds can win in the end (and I’d argue that we have when you look at the current state of pop culture). I don’t like preachy TV, but I do like it when shows have a good message and I think that they are providing some good role models in this show. Role model might not be quite the right, but I am sure that plenty of tweens or young teens would identify with Carter and there were some good messages in there.

I think poor old Winn is getting a bit of the rough end of the stick here. As we see, James has far more flaws when it comes to being boyfriend material. Collecting figurines seems pretty mild in comparison to being a superhero groupie!

Perhaps I am too naive, but I didn’t get a creepy vibe from Kara with the fishing for compliments, it was pretty innocent stuff. I think it was more just wanting a bit of egoboo given that she was feeling inadequate in a number of ways, especially when it came to measuring up to Lucy. Plus, you have to remember that, chronologically anyway, it was only last episode that everyone was saying how useless and what a menace Supergirl was, so I am sure she was happy to hear that isn’t a universal opinion.

Win

TEHANI: Fair enough, from that point of view. Also creepy though? Lucy basically saying Jimmy/James was obsessed with Superman and that “This hero wears a skirt. How am I supposed to compete with that?” So she thinks that James is just projecting onto Supergirl and would become involved with her simply because she’s a female version of his hero? Double ew…

DAVID: Yeah, there is a whole lot of wrong there. Of course, Lucy may be wrong about that, but the whole quasi incestuous nature of the relationships is bordering on weird. Basically Kara is chasing the guy who is going out with the sister of her cousin’s romantic interest!

TEHANI: While I would like to say I was surprised by the ending, I don’t think I was at all—Maxwell Lord was a very generic setup for a bad guy… Though I do wonder what has happened to Astra—are we not getting her as the big bad this season?

HankDAVID: There is so much baggage attached to the character due to his history in comics that it is almost impossible to be surprised that he would have sinister motivations. It’s like how in Smallville, no matter how friendly he was, you were always waiting for Lex Luthor to turn. I’s be surprised if we don’t see Astra pop up again, though—perhaps a Zod/Luthor type alliance a la Superman II?

TEHANI: Again, this is me not being familiar with the source material! On the other hand, I’m interested in what’s happening with Henshaw. As you know, David, I also don’t know the canon on this one, and am resolutely not looking it up! But he was prepared to risk his life (and/or exposing himself) to save Alex and all the people at the airport, so I’m coming down on the side of good for him!

DAVID: Pretty cavalier bomb disposal practices though—waving it over his head, and then just dumping it in the lab for Alex to discover it wasn’t a dummy WHILE TAKING IT APART! I want to see where they go with Henshaw too, he certainly isn’t a one dimensional character in the comics. They have a lot to work with there.

TEHANI: Good to know!

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode One, “Pilot”
Episode Two, “Stronger Together”
Episode Three, “Fight or Flight”
Episode Five, “Livewire”

Paying for Our Passion – Felicity Banks

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Today, I am thrilled to welcome Felicity Banks to my blog. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, but as a fellow Satalyte author it’s wonderful to have her here!

Hello. My name is Felicity Banks, and I’m a write-a-holic.

I’ve always thought it was particularly insufferable when people felt the need to say, “I write because I must!” What wankers. It doesn’t help at all that I am one of those people.

On several occasions I’ve made a concerted effort to stop writing, or even just pause for a bit. When I was travelling overseas as an aid worker; when I was starting my dream job as a teacher; when I first became a mother. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but one year I decided to go one year without writing a book. I failed.

So why try to quit something that others think is so wonderful? Because time.

Writing doesn’t cost much if you have a computer, an idea, and an internet connection. (Conferences and research can get expensive, but you don’t need me to tell you that.) But I spend around twenty hours a week writing (including the inevitable minutiae of social media, researching markets, formatting, etc), so where do those hours come from? Here are three typical days – a normal weekday, a daycare weekday, and a weekend.

Tall ShipNormal weekday:

6am. Woken by kids 6am. Question life choices as I get everyone ready.

7:30am. Work (it’s babysitting, so I often take my kids with me). Try not to think about why I spend an hour driving to do one hour of work.

9:30am. Home again; feed kids. Play with kids. Separate kids. Try to explain the difference between Superman and Jesus (again). Feed kids (again).

  1. Beg fate to let kid #2 (age 1) still have a nap. Put TV on for kid #1 (age 3) after threatening to lock her in her room.

If fate is kind, I get somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 glorious hours. I catch up on email and household complexities (what is the family doing for my husband’s great-grandmother’s upcoming birthday? What bills need paying? Has my employer forgotten to pay me this week? What can I give my non-materialistic non-book-loving non-DVD-obsessed father-in-law for his birthday tomorrow? Which drink bottles need new stickers for day care? How long have the kids been wearing the same clothes and will people assume I’ve washed them or not?) If that gets finished I write, or pass out… knowing all the while that I’ll be interrupted by screaming and/or the call “Mumeeeeeeeee!!! I neeeeeeed you!!”

2pm. Go to work for another two hours, with another hour and a half in the car (including picking up and dropping off various family members – my husband works very near my work, which is why the commute is worth it).

6pm. Arrive home with cranky, hungry kids. Feed kid #2 some unrecognisable swill I prepared earlier (probably by cooking something on Saturday and then sticking it in a blender with additional frozen vegies so he gets some kind of nutrition). Defrost leftovers for the rest of us.

7-9pm: Play with kids while sneaking chocolate for myself and begging fate to make them hurry up and get tired enough to go to sleep. If chocolate isn’t enough to keep me sweet-tempered, I leave them to my husband and hide in our room (listening to the kids scream periodically, and folding and unfolding the laptop as they wander in and out) either writing, reading, or just lying down in the dark wishing I didn’t have another migraine.

7:30-9pm: At least one kid is asleep and my husband is dealing with the other one. I can write at last! This is my moment!

9-10pm: My eyesight blurs and I lose the ability to read. Watch TV instead. If it’s live TV (and not ABC), chat to husband in ads. Because a healthy marriage is important and stuff.

10-12pm: Go to bed. Lie awake worrying about the next day and/or get a fabulous writing idea that I simply must write down at once.

Steam LouiseDaycare day:

The same, except that I have a miraculous space between 9:30 and 2:00pm. It’s often either maimed or completely destroyed by medical appointments, crucial errands, kids sent home sick, or household jobs (How long since I cleaned the bathroom? Where are all the socks?). But sometimes I just ignore all my responsibilities and write the whole time. Other times I’m too sick and I go to bed (furious to have lost my writing day).

Daycare costs around $100 per child per day, so those 5.5 hours cost $200. That is subsidised by the government to around $100. Since I have two daycare days a week, my writing costs me $200/week.

TentWeekend day: I usually spend an hour or two with the kids each day, an hour or two happily alone in the house while my husband takes the kids shopping, and the rest of the day writing on and off as kid#2 gleefully discovers my “hiding spot” and kid #1 cries hysterically because I refuse to move to a house with a balcony. On weekends, my husband is “primary parent”. If he gets two hours to himself during the day, he’s doing well. Weekend writing time doesn’t cost physical money, but that doesn’t mean it’s free.

I earn around $200/week from babysitting (after you remove petrol costs), which is my paid job (rather ironically, since I try so hard to get rid of my own children so I can do more writing). That adds up to a bit over $10,000 per year, or pretty much exactly what we spend on day care. Those fifteen babysitting hours a week are the equivalent of a full-time writer producing a successful book every year, so it’s more efficient than writing (even with all the driving) and it’s a job my body is mostly capable of doing.

My first novel, Stormhunter, will be released by Satalyte Press in 2016. As a small press, Satalyte doesn’t offer an advance. From memory, the usual royalty rate is 10% for print books and 70% for digital copies. There will probably be twenty copies printed (a number based on the demand for a new author at a publishing house that doesn’t have the same bookshop presence as, say, Harper Collins), and any other physical copies will be printed on a print-or-demand basis.

I’ve written fifteen novels altogether, averaging a book a year. One is self-published, and has earned less than $50. I’ve “retired” several as my skills grew enough to see they were fatally flawed. Some are really good, and they are sitting on the desks of publishers around Australia. Only five Australian publishers pay an advance. They’re also the ones with excellent distribution (meaning the book would actually be in most shops).

AttackI recently discovered interactive fiction, a digital (and therefore more flexible) form of Choose Your Own Adventure book. A company called choiceofgames.com (with whom I’m not associated or affiliated, although I like them) pays a $5000-$10,000 advance for established writers with an approved outline. I was surprised to find I really enjoyed writing books in an interactive form, and I’ve already had some minor success. So perhaps this is my niche at last.

I like my kids, I like my job, and I like my writing. But we’re only just scraping by. We don’t eat out; we don’t get takeaway; we don’t travel; we don’t buy new clothes; we don’t give good presents; we don’t buy good stuff for ourselves; we have one car; we check the bank balance several times a week to decide what we can afford this fortnight; we often put off buying things on our grocery list. If I was sane enough or healthy enough to do a better job supporting my family and/or looking after my kids, I would.

But maybe THIS time, with interactive fiction, I’ve found something that pays enough to excuse my writing habit. A bit. If I do REALLY well I could write 30 or 40 hours a week, putting the kids in more day care days and quitting babysitting. That would require a writing income of around $20,000/year, and it would need to be reasonably steady. It’s a beautiful, unlikely dream.

It’s strange how many people think they “should” write a book. Following your passion means telling your kids to go watch more TV while you do some writing. It means skipping parties because $50 is far too much to pay for a meal. It means giving crappy presents to people you care about, and carefully manipulating relatives to ameliorate your bills (“Can I have new shoes for Christmas?” “Shall we visit you for dinner?” “Can I borrow your new Garth Nix book?”). It puts serious pressure on any relationship, but especially a marriage. And when you have other issues – in my case, bad health – the weight of those writing hours pulls your whole life towards disaster.

If you have the right kind of support, the sheer joy of creation is worth it.

If not, then your choices become harder.

HatBefore I was married I made some hard choices. I remember one week I had to choose to buy either toilet paper or cat food, but couldn’t buy both. In 2001 I sold my car and lived on a grocery budget of $5/week for four months so I could write full-time (when winter started, I had to stop because I was too malnourished to go on). I went hungry often, and on more than one occasion walked until my feet bled. At one stage, I was developing scurvy. In the months before I married my husband I lived in a granny flat without a working oven or washing machine. That flat had major mould issues and the tap water wasn’t drinkable. The toilet leaked, and the roof was inhabited by a family of possums (the possums were cool, actually).

I was still writing, of course. Can’t stop. But the price is sometimes very high, and I’ve been painfully aware of that cost for my entire adult life.

My interactive steampunk novel, Attack of the Clockwork Army is set in Australia. You can choose to be male or female, gay or straight, an innocent or a liar. You can even choose to fight for the British, or not to fight at all.

The book is available as a Choose Your Own Adventure-style app for your device on Amazon, Apple, Android, and Chrome. You can also buy it directly from the publisher (an easy way to buy and read it on your computer).

The app stores list it as “free, with in-app purchases”. What this actually means is that the beginning is free, and then you pay $5 (once!) to read the rest.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/dl/android?p=org.hostedgames.clockworkarmy&t=choofgam-20&ref=clockworkarmyGame

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/attack-of-the-clockwork-army/id1042824941?mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.hostedgames.clockworkarmy&referrer=utm_medium%3Dweb%26utm_source%3DclockworkarmyGame

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/attack-of-the-clockwork-a/oojmcpcnhdedgiegdocaedonlgfhlpgj

https://www.choiceofgames.com/user-contributed/attack-of-the-clockwork-army/#utm_medium=web&utm_source=ourgames

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Five

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 5, “Livewire”

TEHANI: Well, I’m just going to say it: this episode had my least favourite dialogue of the season so far. Some of it was downright clunky, and a lot of it was disjointed and awfully juvenile. I mean really, would Supergirl say … “You MEAN girl!” in the middle of a battle? It was just a bit naff, and I kind of expect better. And the “coming out” innuendos were cute, but just a touch overdone.

DAVID: I really didn’t know how take those, as nice to see that TV has moved to a point where those references are just part of everyday culture rather than being used as insults, or whether it is appropriating the real experiences of people and using it in a way that cheapens it. I don’t think I am qualified to make that call, but I would be interested to hear from people for whom it has a personal meaning.

TEHANI: I also had some concerns about the mother/daughter dynamics portrayed here. I mean, Kara doesn’t even call Eliza “Mum” (or Mom, whatever…), but Eliza does and apparently consistently has put Kara above Alex. And the kind of non-resolution at the end was very wishy washy. I get what they were aiming for, but it fell a bit flat.

DAVID: I thought that was really weird, and actually kind of toxic! When Winn calls Eliza Kara’s mom, and Kara very clearly and very firmly corrects him with “foster-mom” I saw that as a bit of a warning sign that the relationship had a weird dynamic—even if Kara doesn’t call her mom, you would think in that context she wouldn’t have been so quick to correct it.

FamilyI am also not sure that one Thanksgiving mother/daughter chat is going to make up for decades of psychological trauma on Alex’s behalf. Those sort of things just don’t go away, and it isn’t as if she is all of a sudden not going feel undervalued or under extreme pressure from her mother’s expectations.

Eliza just didn’t come across as a very nice person, or a particularly good mother. I know that’s harsh, but we only go by what we see. Now, that’s an interesting story choice, because the Kents are held up as the gold standard of parenting (and even their relationship with Supergirl is traditionally much better than the one with Eliza shown here). It’s fascinating to see a Supergirl whose family life is a bit more…dysfunctional.

TEHANI: It will definitely be interesting to see if we get more of this. I’m going to make a prediction here – I reckon Alex’s dad, Jeremiah Danvers, isn’t really dead…

I was completely unsurprised to discover (thank you Wikipedia) that this episode was originally slated to air as episode five, with another episode (“How Does She Do It” – scheduled now for next week) supposed to run prior. The sudden jump in James and Lucy’s relationship didn’t make sense, and Cat Grant has mellowed somewhat, rather abruptly it seemed. Sort of feels like something else has gone down with Winn and Kara too. A couple of times while watching I wondered if I’d missed something!

Techie

DAVID: I’d already heard that they had changed it but, yes, there are some bits that seemed to have jumped well ahead. I’ll be interested to see the one that was meant to show.

The James and Lucy thing is a bit odd, too, he is so obviously into Kara that I feel bad for Lucy.

TEHANI: I think we really missed something in the network switching the air dates – hopefully that will be a bit clearer after this next week.

Despite my reservations about the dialogue, there was a lot I liked about the episode. I think it started really strongly, and I continue to adore the relationship between Kara and Alex. It was also lovely to see Helen Slater and Dean Cain getting airtime, although I really hope we don’t fall into the flashback trap that can become a bit tedious in Arrow. And this is a show about Supergirl, so keeping the focus on her is important.

DAVID: That’s very true, but the twist with the history with Henshaw has made things very interesting, and made the flashbacks worthwhile all by itself. I can’t wait to see where that goes, because it has major ramifications not just for Kara, but for Alex.

HankTEHANI: I particularly liked Cat Grant’s shot at Leslie Willis regarding attacking Supergirl about her body and that sort of thing. It was a bit undermined by the idea that Cat was only defending Supergirl because she was trying to build a relationship with her to exploit, but I think that’s a bit of a front. It certainly follows on from other points like this that have been made previously, and is echoed when Cat decided not to publish awful photos of young celebrities the day after Thanksgiving.

DAVID: I think it is good that Cat made a stand on that sort of toxic commentary, but it is weakened by the fact she didn’t do it until it was affecting her plans for Supergirl and her magazine. I am sure that Leslie did the same to other celebrities, so why was Cat only reining her in now. Leslie was quite justified in calling her on her double standards.

But, maybe the photo thing did show that she has had an epiphany?

TEHANI: I wonder if the next episode (which should have come before this) will mean we see this differently? Perhaps there was another lead up event. We’ll have to see!

Look, I know that Marvel and DC riff (rip?) off each other a lot, but seriously, Livewire? Last week a cut-rate Iron Man, this week, a genderbent Electro, for goodness sake!

LivewireDAVID: In fairness, Livewire is a very established DC character (who is also a very fun character), so I am not sure who was first. However, I had never heard of Reactron before and, given Iron Man’s current profile, I think they made a mistake there by not distinguishing the two enough. But, I doubt too many people would be comparing Livewire and Electro in the same way.

TEHANI: Oh, I googled it and Electro was first by a good three decades. AND he was in the relatively recent Amazing Spider-Man movie!

I’m going to put this out there – I think Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl…

DAVID: I wouldn’t be surprised if she does. Maybe she has a plan for that knowledge?

TEHANI: Look forward to finding out!

Big Screen

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode One, “Pilot”
Episode Two, “Stronger Together”
Episode Three, “Fight or Flight”

Paying for Our Passion – Craig Cormick

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

You have probably notice this blog hasn’t been very active of late. I was lucky enough to travel to the United States for–amongst other things–Worldcon, and it has been a struggle getting back in to the swing of real life! I had thought that the series had reached a natural end, but when I got back I went to Conflux where we had been asked to do a panel on the subject. Alongside Tehani and Maureen, who had done posts, it also featured Sean Williams and Craig Cormick.

Everyone had amazing things to say, which made my job as moderator so easy, and it was clear that people were still interested in reading about the topic. So, I rounded up some more contributors, including Craig and Sean, and this will be the first in a relaunch of the series.

First up is Craig who, as well as being a fascinating raconteur and talented writer, had some amazing insights that he shared on the panel. It’s a pleasure to kick off the next stage of the series with a great post from him.

Craig 1: So I have been mulling over all the ways I have had to pay for my passion to have a writing life. All the costs and all the sacrifices that I have made in life for writing – those late nights and early mornings and missed opportunities. Jobs I’ve passed up on. Parties I’ve never gone to and movies I’ve never seen. Even simple things that most of my family do that I’ve never done, like watching any of the Sopranos or Breaking Bad, or hanging out a lot… but then I thought, wait a minute, all those things were voluntary choices that I made in order to have a writing life.

Craig 2: Wait a minute, you’re not going to tell me it’s a good thing to miss all those things in life are you?

Craig 1: I’m just saying that they are decisions you make in life. And you shouldn’t consider things costs that you voluntarily gave up.

Craig 2: Then let me ask you about the things that you haven’t given up. Your day job and family and all those things that suck all your writing time away.

IMG_3281Craig 1: I think even my day job has helped my writing, it takes up a lot of my time, sure, but it has sent me all over the country, and all over the world, meeting all kinds of interesting people – which has given me great inspiration for stories and novels. Have a look at the list of books I’ve published – many of them have sprung from opportunities that arose from my work as a science communicator. Think about it: In Bed with Douglas Mawson – from my trip to Antarctica. The Shadow Master – from that conference in Florence. My Ned Kelly book – a wrote a lot of that when I worked at CSIRO.

Craig 2: But if you weren’t working you might be writing a lot more. There are so many other books you still want to write that are floating around in your head, but you just don’t have the time and opportunity to write them all down.

Craig 1: You think so? I’ve published over twenty-five books and over a hundred stories and have a shelf of awards and commendations – but I know there are other books that are going to get written and I know there are also some books that aren’t going to get written.

Craig 2: How can you call yourself a writer if you’re okay with that?

Craig 1: Well, sometimes I think how awesome it would be to live a life that was just writing 24-7. But when I’ve actually had that opportunity, like when I’ve had an Australia Council Grant or something – I found it a very lonely existence. I think a writer needs social interaction as well as the social isolation time to write. You also need your family to keep you balanced.

Craig 2: But don’t you resent the time they demand? Everybody wants your time. You have a wife and child with disabilities that you have to be a carer for, and you have three grown-up kids who all need time and support too.

craig website grabCraig 1: No. I wouldn’t trade it for quids. It’s a part of the balance in life that makes you a writer. Those things that are difficult in life, and there are quite a few in my life if I’m honest – for my life might look a lot of fun on the outside, but it’s not all laughs up close – well, those things sharpen your soul. They demand you examine them and question them, and many of those things that don’t have easy answers can only be addressed through creatively trying to understand them. They give you a reason to write.

Craig 2: But how many times have you thought about just taking off and living in a caravan down the coast, or a house up in the Blue Mountains and writing the thing you want to write?

Craig 1: Sure, there are times like that. Of course there are. But there are more times when I stand at the door of my son’s bedroom at night and watch him sleeping and think how blessed I am. My books are very important to me – they have been a lot of heart-ache and trouble and greatly rewarding too, but truthfully, my kids and my wife are more important to me. They have all caused me greater heart-ache and trouble but greater rewards too.

Craig 2: And greater interruption to your time to write!

Craig 1: Another choice I have made in life. Let me remind you of that quote I have hanging over my desk for the past 20 years, the German poet Rilke’s advice to a young poet

“… There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

Craig 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the quote well. But I think you haven’t done that. If you had you’d be living on your own in that caravan, or that house in the Blue Mountains, writing all those books and stories you have in you to write – even in your most indifferent hour.

Craig 1: You miss the point. A writing life isn’t just about having time to write. It’s also about having experiences in life to write about. How do you write honestly about love if you haven’t loved? How do you write honestly about loss if you haven’t lost something dear? How do you write about life and death and everything if you are not out there living it and experiencing it?

Craig 2: That’s the great writer’s cop-out, claiming that everything you do that is not writing is actually research for writing.

The Floating CityCraig 1: No. You can write every day all your life and never come close to writing that one heart-wrenching razor-sharp story that cuts open the reader as they read it. But you might spend years and years learning from life and then write that one perfect thing. That’s what I aim for as a writer. Every story has to be a little bit better. A little bit closer to the bone. A little deeper stab into the heart. I write a lot because I’ve ordered my life to enable to me to do so. But as I’ve gotten older I’m more prepared to let some stories just wither on the vine that I don’t think are going to improve on what I’ve already done. And it took me a long time to learn to accept that.

Craig 2: Well I don’t accept it. If you’re a writer you need to be writing. You need to be listening to the voices like me that disagree with your certainty. That question what you’re doing. That demand you come back to the keyboard and write.

Craig 1: And I appreciate that. If you don’t have a voice that questions everything you do you’ll start never knowing those questions.

Craig 2: So you’re saying I’m write?

Craig 1: I’m saying you have to listen to those questions, as you need to question everything you do before you know if it is good.

Craig 2: And what do you do then?

Craig 1: You learn to then ignore that nagging incessant doubting voice in your head.

Craig 2: Hey, you can’t ignore me! I’m a part of your psyche. I’m the little voice in the back of your head that makes you think doubt and then think deeper about everything you’re doing. You need me!

Craig 1: Sorry. Just one of those sacrifices you have to make in life…

Craig Cormick is a Canberra-based author. His most recent-books are The Shadow Master series with Angry Robot Books. He has published over 25 books and his writing awards include the ACT Book of the Year Award and a Queensland Premiers Literary Award. He has been chair of the ACT Writers Centre, has taught creative writing at University and community levels, has been a Writer in Residence at the University of Science in Malaysia and has been an Antarctic Arts Fellow, travelling to all three of Australia’s mainland bases in Antarctica. You can find more things about Craig on his website: www.craigcormick.comMugshot

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Three

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 3, “Fight or Flight”

Reactron

DAVID: Three episodes in and I am still really enjoying Supergirl, but it is clear that they are going the “monster-of-the-week” route which definitely has its weaknesses. I thought the idea of the villain being one who saw Supergirl as a way of getting at Superman was a good one, as was his back story, it’s just a shame that he looked like a cut rate Iron Man. It will be interesting to see where the show goes from here, because there is only so long that this style works before it gets repetitive, but the good news is that lots of shows that have started out like this have matured and developed, and been very successful—Smallville and Buffy are both examples. Hopefully we see more of an emphasis on season long story and character arcs as it goes on.

TEHANI: I don’t really mind the monster-of-the-week just so long as we continue to also get Kara growing into her role as Supergirl, Alex being badass, and lots of lovely team byplay and Cat Grant truisms. Although Reactron really was an Iron Man rip off, you’re definitely right there!

DAVID: We also saw a ramping up of the love triangle and I am definitely Team Winslow—for the simple reason I always go for the underdog, and he is definitely overshadowed by James! However, he hit on the winning strategy of not trying to hold Kara back, but instead supporting her in her decision to do the whole hero thing. I am calling something early, though, I am tipping that we will see Maxwell Lord as another love interest. There was some good development of James with his confession that his calling Superman was about him, not her, and his dependence on the Man of Steel. Superman casts a long shadow.

Team Win

TEHANI: You and I are on different sides of this one—Team James here! And nopeity nope nope to Lord as love interest. Not a chance there, although he and Cat Grant are another story…

DAVID: How about a friendly wager? I think they are setting him up for it, he is too pretty for a start! And, it would be a contrast with the “good” guys in her life—similar to one of the key romantic pairings in Smallville.

TEHANI: I’ll take that bet!

DAVID: Speaking of Cat, her interview raised the interesting point of the difference in questions men and women get. I can’t imagine Superman being asked when he was starting a family. That’s one of the strengths of this show, I think, the way it contrasts the way different genders are treated.

TEHANI: Isn’t the underpinning commentary WONDERFUL? It’s not always subtle, but it does shine a light on so many things. I also like the lovely little pop culture references—sure, they may date, but they make the show feel super modern, which is great for NOW. I do like that there’s some fallout from the interview, in that Kara realises how what she says can be taken out of context.

Cat

DAVID: The were a lot of mentions of Superman in this episode, but I think it makes sense that Kara would constantly be measured against him. He is obviously an established hero in this universe, and the moment she started wearing the “S” people would be comparing them. This is a fairly standard theme in the comics/other spin offs as well, where Supergirl tries to establish herself as a hero in her own right, not just as Superman’s cousin. Even the theme of Superman always wanting to rescue her, or being overprotective, is quite common and a source of tension between them—albeit usually minor. The show is walking a fine line here between acknowledging their relationship and turning this into a show about Superman, and I think they are getting it mostly right. And, I did love the IM conversation!

TEHANI: I’m interested by how they are dealing with the Superman stuff. I’ve read some really great team-up stuff with Superman and Supergirl, and while I don’t think we’ll get that in this show, I do like that he’s a part of Kara’s story. I think it’s important to always keep in mind who the actual audience for the program is—we’re talking about appealing to the teen demographic, mostly. Just as for many of them, life is about figuring out how they work and who they are out from under the shadow of their families, Kara is doing the same thing, except that her family is Superman. Well, it’s Alex and the DEO as well, to a point, but that’s not quite the same.

DOEDAVID: I am not sure why Kara is taking orders from DEO about who she is allowed to take on, and Wynn’s control room should give her some more independence. Anyone familiar with the other versions of the mythos will know where they are going with Hank’s glowing eyes, but it is good to see his and Alex’s working relationship being explored.

TEHANI: I think I get why Kara is listening to the DEO. Partly it’s because of Alex, but I reckon mostly it’s because for all her talk about standing on her own two feet, it’s reassuring for her to have backup. She appreciates the support, even when she feels like it chafes, but you’ll notice how quickly she will take matters into her own hands if she disagrees, even this early on…

I don’t know what the deal is with Hank—bad fan, Tehani! But I have resisted looking it up, because I’m enjoying the not-knowing, so don’t tell me :) Also, I had no idea Lucy Lane was a canon character. I totally want she and Kara to become BFFs and sit around comparing Jimmy stories…

What did you think about James and Kara letting slip to Wynn about Superman’s secret identity? They really are rubbish at keeping secrets!

Competition

DAVID: I have to admit that I actually did laugh at loud at that moment. I mean, it really is terribly bad of them, but it was pretty funny. Not sure Superman would be thrilled, though!

TEHANI: And can I just add how absolutely adorkable the last scene between the sisters was? I was in fits of giggles watching it.

Kara: …I will melt your face.
Alex: I hope you get fat.
Kara: Not on THIS planet…

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”
Episode 2, “Stronger Together”

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Two

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 2 (“Stronger Together”)

TEHANI: Well, I’m going to admit it now, but I was a bit worried that I’d overinflated my hopes for this show in the waiting period since the first episode was “leaked”. I had wondered if it really was going to be as good as I hoped, based on that first amazing and intense 45 minutes, and would the showrunners really and truly commit to the lovely standup “it’s awesome to be a girl” message? So it was with a little trepidation I came to episode two. I need not have worried. “Stronger Together” was just as great to watch, with a whole bunch more of the wonderful, female-centric storytelling the first episode set up. Yay!

“It’s not because you’re a woman, Ms Danvers.” – Director Henshaw

The boys

DAVID: I was relieved that the second episode wasn’t a let down, too! It was a little cheesy in parts, but that is part of what they are going for—this is not the grimdark superhero story we have so much of. They have introduced a promising story arc and some good villains, we are seeing some great character development and, most importantly, there is still such a sense of fun about it. Kara’s powers aren’t a burden on her, she isn’t an unwilling hero. She wants to help people, and she enjoys her powers the way that you’d think most people would. Who wouldn’t love being able to fly and wouldn’t love dodging missiles and stuff? I am a bit over the whole mopey superhero who wishes that they could just be normal thing.

TEHANI: There is so much great critical commentary in this show. The way the media is so fickle, turning quickly on Supergirl when she’s messing things up (and heck, yes she really messes up!) but within DAYS turns around and makes her the media darling again when she’s doing good. On that same topic, I loved the message that it’s actually okay to mess up, and you can do better, without it being hyper harped on. Added to that, the way that a bunch of people around her suggested in different ways that maybe she was taking on a bit too much too soon, but it was the way Cat Grant explained it to her that stuck.

“Every woman worth her salt knows that we have to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good.” – Cat Grant

Cat speaks

DAVID: I found that whole idea that her heroics would not be greeted with universal acclaim, and that her mistakes would be seized upon, very true to life. We only need to look at the polarisation of opinion on media, especially social media, to see how differently different people react to the same story or public figure, and how quickly criticism or praise can spread to see this. Even the idea that the media might try and “manage” or “manufacture” a hero doesn’t seem too far fetched.

The bit I didn’t like was that for all her speeches Cat seemed more willing to tear down a female superhero than build her up. But that is human nature, you’d like to think someone who had had to overcome obstacles would be supportive of someone else trying to do the same, but often you see people can be less forgiving in that scenario if they think the other person is doing it wrong.

Two of those lessons you mention were really good ones, the idea that we can mess up and get better being one of them. But, I did like that whole learning to be willing to work your way up to things and be realistic in your expectations. A lot of “Chosen Ones” in stories mess up because of their arrogance and unwillingness to admit that they aren’t ready for certain things. Kara has a good group of people around her—but also a lack of arrogance that is refreshing.

TEHANI: If I have one criticism, it’s that I’m not sure about the blatant love triangle set up – look, I know it’s a staple of young adult stories but it’s really very tired… And yes, I absolutely believe this show is made primarily for the teen audience, despite the fact lots of adults love it too (of COURSE we do), but this isn’t about me projecting adulting on it, it’s about thinking that our young people are smarter than the overdone love triangle trope implies they are, and wanting media to show them other options for young relationships. Or NOT – I mean, couldn’t Kara have a season when she just discovers who she is, without romance getting in the way?

The boys

DAVID: Haha I thought I was reading one of my comments from a New Who review there for a moment! 😛

I am hoping that they really don’t push the love triangle too much. I think that James makes a better mentor figure through his friendship with Superman, and Winslow doesn’t need to have a romantic interest in Kara for their relationship to work. The idea that men and women can just be friends and still want to support each other in their dreams and passions is not that crazy, is it?

I think they will continue to work the romance angel, because of the type of show it is, but it doesn’t need to be at the forefront to create dramatic tension—as you allude to, the real story here is Kara discovering how to use her powers and become a real hero.

TEHANI: I really liked that Alex Danvers both ended up saving herself and demonstrating her inherent kick-assery at the same time. I adore that we have awesome female characters who are not all the same, but could we please have some more? With a variety of backgrounds? Does Kara not have any other girl friends?

The girls rejoice

DAVID: One of my favourite episodes of The New Batman Adventures (and, in fact, one of my favourite of the Timmverse)  was “Girl’s Night Out” where Supergirl and Batgirl teamed up to take on Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.  The best thing about it was seeing them all just hanging out as friends (the three villainesses as one group, Supergirl and Batgirl as the other). It was a really rare example of seeing female heroes and villains as more than just extensions of the “central” male characters and I would love to see more stuff like that.

TEHANI: Yes! I hope the showrunners give us something like this, rather than fall back on the usual stuff. Let’s find out!

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”

Squeeing over Supergirl: Episode One

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 1 (“Pilot”)Mirror, mirror on the wall

DAVID: The first thing that struck me about Supergirl was how bright and colourful it is! It’s a welcome contrast to the gritty, washed out look that has become the norm of late. It was also reflected in the sense of fun that permeated the show. It wasn’t just that there was a sense of wonder in her discovering her powers, but also just a different feel to the way the characters interacted. It was like everything didn’t have to be brooding or ominous, we got to see them simply being people separate from their other role. It reminded me more of The Flash than something like Daredevil or Arrow.

TEHANI: Agreed! It definitely has a lighter vibe than anything else we’ve seen—for me, that reflected the target demographic the show is being aimed at, but my, so refreshing!

DAVID: However the show that it reminded me of the most was Smallville, which is one of my all time favourite television shows, and still one of the best versions of the Superman mythos that’s been done. So far, like Smallville, Supergirl seems to show an understanding of the core of what Superman/Supergirl is about—and what it really means to be a hero. It certainly has a better handle on it that Man of Steel did! It looks like it is going to follow the Smallville trend of nice little shout outs to the comic and to other versions—we’ve already seen Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl: The Movie) pop up! I loved playing spot the reference in Smallville, and it looks like that will be a feature.

TEHANI: Ahem, so this is where I admit I never really watched Smallville? But it absolutely made me smile with glee to see Dean and Helen!

Mom and PopDAVID: Speaking of casting, I think they have been spot on. When I heard that Melissa Benoist had been cast as Supergirl, I was a little dubious, but she brings an adorable goofiness to the role that suits this version of Supergirl perfectly. It’s great to see Calista Flockhart back in a role that gives her a lot of room to move, and I really enjoy this more imposing version of Jimmy Olsen—a character that has, at times, had very little presence or simply been there for comedic effect (and often as successful at that as Jar Jar Binks). I was interested to see that we have at least three actors who have significant musical backgrounds—Benoist (Glee), Jeremy Jordan (Smash), and Tony Award winning Laura Benanti (Nashville and lots more). Perhaps we will see a musical themed episode!

TEHANI: I love the James Olsen character and the way he’s being played, and I also love Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Kara’s adopted sister, and I LOVE the way Calista Flockhart is playing Cat Grant—it’s brilliant! I think the casting choices are excellent.

DAVID: I am actually really impressed with the decision DC have made about who this series has been aimed at. Rather than the usual demographic of young men, they appear to have realised that girls are interested in superheroes, too! I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but my female friends who are watching this feel that this is something that has been made with them in mind, rather than treating them as an incidental benefit on top the people studios normally cater to. It seems like a no brainer to many of us, but most of the studios have been avoiding a female helmed series or movie as best they can (the closest being Captain America: Winter Soldier which was really a buddy cop movie like Lethal Weapon with Captain America and Black Widow deserving equal billing). Hopefully this is a much needed step in the right direction and, along with shows like Jessica Jones, will herald a sea change in marketing.Jimmy!

TEHANI: Look, it’s crazycakes—us gals are YELLING for content that has at least got SOME women, let alone someone as the lead. I continue to be particularly disappointed in Marvel for the lack of women—we got Agent Carter, and yes, Agents of SHIELD has some excellent female characters, but the films, and shows like Daredevil, despite being excellent in so many ways, are absolutely woeful for gender diversity (among other diversities…). I really hope Jessica Jones gives us more but we’ve most recently been disappointed by Ant-Man, and by the news that the potentially awesome Captain Marvel movie has been pushed back. DC is doing better, with some interesting and engaging female characters in Arrow, Flash and Gotham, but this is the first time (other than iZombie, which isn’t really a superhero show, despite being great!) that we’ve got ourselves a female-led series. And not just that, we’ve got other women who Kara gets to TALK to and everything! So woohoo DC!

And OH MY GOSH do I love the discussion of being a girl!! Kicking butt, Cat Grant. Actually, I just love all of this. I truly hope that the show continues on the way it has begun—the gentle interrogation of certain superhero media tropes, the clever casting, the jump-in-with-both-feet-and-just-get-on-with-it style—it’s brilliant! Can’t wait for the next episode!

Calista

The Cabinet of Oddities is coming!

One of my oldest friends in the spec fic community is the incredibly talented Laura Goodin. Laura has a unique gift when it comes to facilitating collaborations and creating mixed media projects, like the radio play we performed at Conflux.

A few months ago, Laura approached me and asked if I was interested in contributing a story to a new project of hers. She asked for a short piece, and told me that she would then assign a composer to set it to music. I thought this was a fascinating concept and I really can’t wait to hear what sort of musical piece my story might inspire.

More details will be announced soon, but Laura has posted an announcement about it, and I am sharing it here. This is the sort of artistic collaboration that excites me, and I am looking forward to seeing the end result!Cabinet of Oddities