Move and update

I’ve decided to move my dear old blog to my own domain. All the old posts are moved over, so all that remains is to let you all know. I’m now over at AKA The Rhubosphere. If you follow me over here, I’d be grateful if you could follow me over there. I gather my email subscribers can be taken across by WordPress, but all other followers will be lost. Much like my stats! (Which I am very sad about.)

I’m semi-decided on the name change. ‘In Search of the Happiness Max’ was a name I used to use on my personal blog (where it made a lot more sense), and Serenity Womble was a name I chose because ‘Rhube’ was unavailable. It’s also a bit of a LARPing in-joke that tickles me, but few people get (and most people seem to associate with the Wombles of Wimbledon, which I like, but not enough to name myself after). On the other hand, I’ve been blogging under those names for years, now, and I don’t want to confuse people further. I dunno.

What do you think?

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Nominate me, baby! 2014 Hugos

Jennifer Lawrence thanking us all for her Oscar.<— This could be me!

OK, maybe not really. Maybe not quite. I mean, pink really isn’t my colour. But the point is, it’s awards season, not just for exciting Hollywood types, but for us lot wot are into science fiction and fantasy and stuff. In particular: nominations are open for the 2014 Hugos! If you’re ‘an attending or supporting member of Loncon 3 (the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention) and/or… you are an attending or supporting member of Sasquan (the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention), and/or… you were an attending or supporting member of LoneStarCon 3 (the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention)‘ then you’re eligible to nominate for the Hugos! Wow! It’s like you have superpowers!

Most extra-specially important, you can nominate for the Best Related Work category, and… guess what? Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays, and Commentary is eligible for nomination for Best Related Work. Even more rockingly awesome? My post on ‘Remembering Margaret Cavendish‘ is one of the essays published therein. This means that I am effectively eligible to be nominated for 1/50th of a Hugo! SO EXCITE.

But before people can vote on whether I, and my fellow online essayists, are deserving of this honour, Speculative Fiction 2012 needs to get nominated. And that’s where you come in.

Join me and we can rule the Hugos as Blogger and Readers!

I’m pretty sure that’s how this works, anyway.

You know what’s even better, though? You don’t just have to nominate based on how much you love me and my specific post. This weekend, the whole book is available for free (electronically) from Amazon. Go! Go get it! You have nothing to lose – it’s free! FREE LITERARY CRITICISM IN THE SPECULATIVE FICTION GENRE – what could go wrong?

So, yeah, I’m not being subtle about this. I’m not the sort of person who wins awards, and I’d kinda only be winning a little part of one, but I’m pretty excited, and you could help make my dream come true! You could help make me a sort of Hugo Award Winner!

Also, I’m psyched for my little essay, and, quite frankly, for Margaret freakin’ Cavendish. I’ve only become more passionate about how we need to right the wrong of Margaret Cavendish’s being forgotten and ignored by a male dominated literary canon that seeks to ignore the achievements of women. Because this wonderful, courageous, passionate woman wrote things like this about why women like her have been ignored:

[P]oor education, exclusion from public institutions, political subordination within the home, physiological dictates of childbirth, and society’s pervasive vision of women as incompetent, irresponsible, unintelligent, and irrational.
Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1655)
[W]e are shut out of all power and authority, by reason we are never employed either in civil or martial affairs, our counsels are despised, and laughed at, the best of our actions are trodden down with scorn, by the over-weening conceit, men have of themselves, and through a despisement of us.
Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1655)

And of that great woman, Virginia Woolf wrote:

“ . . . All I desire is fame”, wrote Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. And while she lived her wish was granted. Garish in her dress, eccentric in her habits, chaste in her conduct, coarse in her speech, she succeeded during her lifetime in drawing upon herself the ridicule of the great and the applause of the learned. But the last echoes of that clamour have now all died away; she lives only in the few splendid phrases that Lamb scattered upon her tomb; her poems, her plays, her philosophies, her orations, her discourses — all those folios and quartos in which, she protested, her real life was shrined — moulder in the gloom of public libraries, or are decanted into tiny thimbles which hold six drops of their profusion. Even the curious student, inspired by the words of Lamb, quails before the mass of her mausoleum, peers in, looks about him, and hurries out again, shutting the door.

‘The Duchess of Newcastle’, The Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf

And I kind of really do think that it’s important to right the wrong of Margaret Cavendish being forgotten. And if my essay on why she should be remembered as the inventor of science fiction can be not only published, but in a book that wins one of the most coveted awards of the beloved genre that she began for us… then I feel like it would be some kind of vindication for her.  A real step towards righting the wrong of another great woman having been written out of history.

A woman who, after my own heart, was only after fame. ;-p

There’s been a lot of noise this year about how people shouldn’t ‘campaign’ for nomination – that the work should speak for itself – but I’m with Amal El-Mohtar:

You cannot with one breath say that you wish more women were recognized for their work, and then say in the next that you think less of people who make others aware of their work.

Of Awards Eligibility Lists and Unbearable Smugness‘, by Amal El-Mohtar

I used to be the kind of woman who wouldn’t shut up about her achievements. Eventually, I realised I was annoying people, so I stopped. But, the thing is, we live in a culture that is disproportionately annoyed with women who speak up as opposed to men who do. Where Sandra Bullock is a bigger box office draw than George Clooney, but he was given equal billing in a film where she was the lead, because presenting a woman as a lead is considered ‘off-putting’ for an action film. Where literary reviews can devote only 6% of their space to works by women, and still be under the impression that women are dominating their column space; and where, if a woman is speaking more than 30% of the time she is perceived as domineering. Where 50% of online gamers are female, but 83% say that they would rather not talk to other players whilst gaming because of the harassment they receive. Where teachers who actually achieve gender equality in the attention they give to students report feeling as thought they are giving 90% to the girls. As Janet Holmes writes: ‘The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence‘.

So… I’m speaking up. This is my little thing what I did, and I’m proud of it. And it’s part of a bigger thing that other people contributed some really awesome stuff to – people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the genre we all love – and I think they deserve recognition to. Margaret Cavendish was never shy about asking for attention when she was alive – it’s after she died that we let her down. So, I don’t wanna guilt ya, but if you could help give my little paper, about giving her more recognition, a little recognition, I would be totes grateful.

Rhube out.

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Out with the old, in with something else

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It feels kinda sad posting this. I have two incomplete posts that I wrote since The Serene Wombles, but I’ve been going through massive amounts of change up in Womble Towers, and I just couldn’t give my blog all the attention it deserves, so it’s been pretty quiet around here since October.

The summary is that my job was getting beyond busy, so in late November handed in my notice to focus on finishing my PhD, on which I am staggeringly behind, and live off proofreading (and a little help from my family). Which is all pretty massively scary. The last few weeks at my job were beyond intense as I worked to pass on seven years’ accumulated knowledge whilst helping to finish off a major project that needed to be done by Christmas. Then there was Christmas. Then I was ill, probably in part because I’d run myself into the ground again. And now I’m heading into the New Year and a new life. A life where I work from home, proofreading and copy editing, and in which I work intensely to find my feet again in my benighted PhD in a rush to finish.

I’m feeling pretty good about the working from home, thing. Not so good about how much work I have to do for the PhD. Pretty worried about failing after devoting what’s going to end up being about 8 years of my life to it. Feeling strongly that one’s early 20s are a bad time to make major life commitments, and yet, sadly, that the way our society works is to push us very hard to do so.

But I’m here, and the next six months have to be devoted to finishing the blasted thing off – because I’m damned if I’m going to have been through all this for nothing.

On the plus side, I’m feeling pretty good about my writing and my contributions to blogging and activism. Which has been building for a while, but sort of cemented in the way that one of my posts on Tumblr took off over the Christmas period. I say ‘took off’ – it has about 300 notes, whereas a successful post on Tumblr can expect anything from tens of thousands, to millions of notes. (That’s ‘likes’ and ‘rebloggings’ for those who don’t Tumbl.) But it’s good for me. The post was a rewrite of Star Wars from Princess Leia’s perspective, highlighting the fact that Leia is consistently the most competent of any of the Star Wars characters, that the story of the rebellion can be told with virtually no reference to Luke, and that a choice to tell the story from Leia’s perspective (the tough, skilled, intelligent, idealistic young politician turned uncompromising freedom fighter) could in many ways make the tale more interesting. Which is not to diss Star Wars. I love Luke’s tale, and I think a lot of credit is due to George Lucas for writing such a complex, interesting, and capable female character – one which is still lightyears ahead of most of what’s permitted to reach the screens today. I kinda feel like Katniss (from The Hunger Games) is Leia’s daughter from another Galaxy, you know?

Anyway, the point is, I wrote this – like many things I write on Tumblr: because it was the fusion of a lot of things I’d been thinking about for a long time, because I was angry with how the world is, and because I still see hope for how it can be different – I wrote it expecting it to be another shot off into the darkness that’s reblogged anything from zero to a dozen times, and then forgotten. But it’s still going. Every day I find someone new has reblogged it and set off a fluttering of new likes and reblogs in response. (Much thanks to Nick J Barlow, who seems to be the nexus of a lot of the reblogs. He’s a pretty awesome dude if you want to follow him on Tumblr or Twitter.) And more than just liking or reblogging it, people say things like:



Dammit, now I wanna see this.


I would watch/read this. Hundreds of times.


All of which is not only really sweet and flattering, but made me feel like I really do have a perspective that other people want to hear – that other people want to hear stories told from. There’s been a change in the water, this past year, about diversity and the sort of roles we give to women, and people of colour, and people who do not fit neatly into heteronormative and CIS-normative naratives, and I want to be a part of that. I think I could be a good force within that, and I want to do that. I wrote more about my thoughts on this matter here. I’m not saying that that post is all that’s behind that feeling. More like it marked a point of cumulation of impetus.

But damned if I’m gonna give up on this PhD without a fight. A lot of the time it feels like I’m the only person who really thinks I can do it. But I do think that. So. First things first. I have to finish my thesis.

What this means for this blog is that updates will probably continue to be rather sporadic for the next six or seven months. But after that… watch this space. There’s a change in the wind, and I want to be a part of it.

Posted in Me, Not-writing, writing, Year End Review | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Third Annual Serene Wombles

Sorry this is so late. I had, like, three significant life crises happen all at once, and I only had this half finished by 3rd October, which was my blog’s birthday. I really wanted to get this out on the day itself, but that’s life. Let the post begin!

Wow, we survived a whole ‘nother year, and for some reason you lot are still interested in what I have to say about various forms of speculative media and other awesome shit. Weirdos.

For the n00bs: The Serene Wombles are the awards I give once a year, on my blog’s birthday, for the stuff I liked best of all the things I have reviewed. The skinny:

Eligibility for a Serene Womble is conferred by being the subject of a review on In Search of the Happiness Max in the past year. There may have been better or more worthy things that came out this year, but if I didn’t find them relevant to my interests, or if I simply didn’t have the time to review them, they won’t be eligible for a Serene Womble. I make no pretense that these awards are significant or important in any way, but I enjoy having the opportunity to praise and draw attention to things I have loved.

The Serene Wombles are divided into two categories, those that apply to recent releases, and special Time Travelling Wombles for the most awesome things in my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts. The division between the former and the latter may at times seem arbitrary – why should a film that came out in 2009 count as a recent release, whilst a TV Show that ended in 2009 requires a time machine? It’ll always be a judgement call, and the call is mine. At the end of the day, these are not the Oscars, they’re the highlights from a blog, and are therefore subject to my whim.

Due to illness and stress and stuff the pickings have been a little thinner this year than I would like. Nevertheless, there have been some really awesome and creative things out there, and I still want to praise them.

The Serene Womble for Best Film

Poster for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Poster for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Elligible films: Looper, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Star Trek: Into Darkness.

So… guess who hasn’t been to the cinema a lot this year?  There are a whole bunch of films that I wanted to go see this year  – summer of bloody superheroes indeed! – but illness and lack of funds have prevented me. As a consequence, this was basically no contest. Looper made me angry. Star Trek: Into Darkness was tiresome and disappointing. And I enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a very great deal. I said when I watched it at Christmas that it would be the one to beat, and, alas, nothing rose to the challenge.

This was an exceedingly pretty film that I found well-paced and which realised the story very well. I didn’t mind the extra stuff added in, and actually like that Peter Jackson took this once-in-a-generation-or-two opportunity to explore Tolkien’s world more fully. Bags of fun!

The Serene Womble for Best TV Show: Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove PosterEligible TV Shows: Hemlock Grove, Doctor Who, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, America’s Next Top Model, Sleepy Hollow.

For the first year, Game of Thrones is not the winner of this category! I still enjoyed it, and it had some of my favourite moments of the whole series, but the pacing was rocky, and for consistently good value there was some significant competition.

Hemlock Grove was original, genre bending, narratatively interesting, conceptually challenging, and thoroughly addictive. It wasn’t quite like anything I had seen before, in a good way.

Hannibal deserves an honourable mention, but although it was addictive, entertaining, and well-acted, I can’t say it was anything especially new or original, just very well done. House of Cards was well-acted and reasonably well-written, but fairly unoriginal and tiresomely another privileged white man plotting petty revenges that it’s hard to care for when he’s not really received any very great slights. Doctor Who is… Doctor Who. This really isn’t going to be a contender until Moffat leaves. If an episode doesn’t leave me wanting to scream, it’s a good sign. I thought there were a couple of somewhat interesting episodes this year, but that’s all. America’s Next Top Model, much as I am in the business of defending it, is not remotely in the same league. Sleepy Hollow snuck in as a last minute entry. I enjoyed the one episode I’d seen at time of review, but it’s basically entertaining fluff.

So, it’s a hearty congrats to Hemlock Grove. You seriously impressed me and I hope I can spread the love to my readers.

The Serene Womble for Best Novel – Null

There was precisely one entrant in this category: A Dance with Dragons. Given that this is just a couple of chapters from the longer Read Along with Rhube chapter by chapter review that I have been doing for the last year (two years?). It feels a bit cheaty to give it a free pass to a Serene Womble by default of multiple entries and the fact that I just haven’t reviewed any other (current) novels. Plus, it just isn’t that good. Entertaining, interesting enough for the time and attention I have devoted to it? Yeah, I guess. But it’s also deeply problematic and I doubt it would win against any competition it might have had in another year. (It did not win last year, for example.)

Fair? Unfair? It’s my blog, I get to choose.

The Serene Womble for Best Blog – Escher Girls

Escher Girls avatarEligible blogs: Myths Retold, Academic Men Explain Things to Me, Escher Girls

Oh man, this was a really hard one. I want to give the award to all of them and actually changed my mind a couple of times. One of the difficulties is that Myths Retold is a very different kind of blog to the other two, which are in turn very similar to each other in both content and impact. I considered making a separate category for ‘Best Fiction Blog’, so that I could honour Myths Retold as well, but then I couldn’t think of any other fiction blogs and it seemed like that would be getting needlessly specific. Basically, I’m saying that all three of these are very good and worth your attention.

I’ve picked Escher Girls for the win for the scope of its impact. Escher Girls is the creation of Ami Angelwings, an awesome Canadian woman who started the blog to ‘archive and showcase the prevalence of certain ways women are depicted in illustrated pop media’, namely: women are contorted into physically impossible poses for the pleasure of the male gaze. The blog functions as a demonstration that the way women are drawn in comics and other illustrated media is dramatically different to the ways that men are drawn, that we are sexualised to extremes and that this sexualisation is commonplace, and in ways that do not compare to the male power fantasies of ripped muscles in skin-tight costumes which are so often held up to minimise women’s claims of unfair treatment. The volume of examples that Ami has collected (both personally and from submissions) is staggering, and the comfort this provides to women (who have long been told that their experience of alienation by sexualisation in mainstream comics is a mere subjective impression) is extensive and powerful.

Academic Men Explain Things to Me serves a similar function, in providing a platform for women to voice their frustrations with the phenomenon of ‘mansplaining’, in which women frequently find that men explain very basic things to them, often in areas for which the woman is herself an expert and the man a novice. Again, this is an area in which women have often been told that they are imagining being treated in an overly patronising manner, that there are ‘know it alls’ of both genders, and that our subjective experiences are not as valid as men’s (who, of course, are privileged by a default supposition of objectivity that does not exist). By creating a venue to archive these experiences in detail and volume, Academic Men Explain Things to Me has provided a powerful vindication of women’s experiences – one which I genuinely believe is helping men to rethink their behaviour, as well as providing women with a sense of justification long denied.

In the end, I chose Escher Girls for its breadth of impact. I feel that there has been a palpable shift in comic and visual culture over the past year, where the misogyny in mainstream comics has come under increasing scrutiny from more mainstream critiques and fans. I don’t think Escher Girls have been the sole cause of this. Blogs such as DC Women Kicking Ass have also provided a sustained critique and made significant contributions, as have prominent critiques from individual women, such as Kelly Turnbull and Kyrax2. But to concede that a leading light is a part of a movement need not minimise the specific contribution. I think the impact of Escher Girls can be seen in the fact that it was able to spin off other projects, such as The Hawkeye Initiative, which highlights the discrepancies in treatment of men and women in comics by showcasing redrawings of sexualised female images with the male character, Hawkeye, in an identical pose.

Moreover, Ami’s blog is impressively organised in a way that facilitates citation and comparison from multiple angles – the tags page not only collates posts by trope, but also by artist, company, character, series, and Genre/Medium. And the blog integrates a Disqus commenting feature, allowing for debate and discussion of issues in a way that usually isn’t possible on Tumblr style blogs, and which Ami manages with great sensitivity.

It’s hard to compare a project like this with an artistic endeavour, like Myths Retold, which is not aiming at the kind of social change Escher Girls enables. Myths Retold demonstrates an artistry and poetic sophistication that simply doesn’t apply in assessing the other two blogs. All I can say is that whilst I recommend all three blogs to you, I felt that in this year, Escher Girls seemed most significant to me.

The Serene Womble for Best Webseries: Welcome to Night Vale

Night Vale logoEligible webseries: TableTop, Vlog Brothers, Welcome to Night Vale

I admit to using the term ‘webseries’ loosely. I reviewed quite a lot of things this year that don’t fit neatly into large categories, and although I might call TableTop a webseries, Vlog Brothers a vlog, and Night Vale a podcast, having each win a category for which it was the only entrant, I don’t think that’s a good use of my time and attention or yours. In any case, there is no question in my mind that Welcome to Night Vale outshines the other two, and I do not have the qualms I had for the previous category, in that I feel these compare fairly well, for regularly web-distributed entertainment.

TableTop is a nice idea, and if I were really into game mechanics I might find more value in it, but ultimately it fell flat for me. It’s basically just like watching other people play fun games. The games look fun, and maybe you like the people, but you can’t help but feeling that the whole thing would be more enjoyable if you were actually playing, too.

Vlog Brothers is entertaining, amusing, thoughtful, and informative. I recommend it. But it can’t hold a candle to Night Vale.

Welcome to Night Vale is one of the best, most enjoyable, most original shows I have had the pleasure to stumble across in a long time. The idea of using the podcast format as though it were a radio station for a fictional town is not one I had come across before, and it has been put to good purpose. Funny, strange, and more than a little bit dark, Night Vale is like a ray of sunlight that never fails to make me smile or to delight me with its unexpected changes in direction. It’s also surprisingly durable in terms of being something I can listen to over and over and still find new things to enjoy. I’ve had a hard year, especially the last few months, and being able to tune in to Night Vale any time I would otherwise have been alone with my thoughts has been remarkably soothing. It comforts me to know that wonderful, joyful, eccentric people are making such wonderful, joyful, eccentric works of art.

Not to mention that it manages to be progressive in terms of representation of gender, race, and sexuality without ever being po-faced. I can’t not give this an award.

The Serene Womble for Best Music: Stephanie Mabey

Album cover for Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie MabeyEligible musicians: Garfunkel and Oates and Stephanie Mabey

Garfunkel and Oates are witty and entertaining, but occasionally problematic. By contrast, Stephanie Mabey’s music is pure joy. I’ve listened to her album, Wake Up Dreaming, again and again, often on loop, since downloading it, and I’m not sick of it yet. Her music is delightful, witty, and often beautiful – a real must for the geek music lover. I can’t recommend her work enough.

The Serene Womble for Best Webcomic: City of the Dead

City of the Dead, panel oneEligible webcomics: City of the Dead

OK, this one was the only entry in its category – I haven’t been reading as many webcomics this year, focussing, as I have been, on trying out different new media instead. Nevertheless, this comic is dynamic, atmospheric, and fun, making full use of the online medium to present a fast-paced and cohesively presented story. It’s no Romantically Apocalyptic (the winner from last year), but it’s certainly a cut above the average, and worthy of your time.

The Time Traveling Wombles

The Time Travelling Womble for Best Novel: The Count of Monte Cristo

Cover Art: The Count of Monte CristoEligible novels: The Count of Monte Cristo.

A consequence of the sparse nature of this year is that the categories for the Time Traveling Wombles each has only one entry, but as each are stellar examples of exemplary works, this should not count against them.

I had no idea that The Count of Monte Cristo would be either such a rip-roaring adventure, or that it would be so progressive for its time (I ship Eugenie/Louise forever). Some classics are classics because they are fun as well as intelligent, and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Non-Fiction Book: Wild Swans

Wild Swans - cover artEligible non-fiction books: Wild Swans.

In my original article on this I wrote that this is one of the books I would say everyone should read before they die, so it should be no surprise that I honour it here, also. Wild Swans is a biographical and autobiographical work of heart-rending and exquisite expression of three women’s lives across turbulent twentieth century China. The tale is worthwhile and breath-taking in itself, but for people living outside of China – people for whom the ‘Cultural Revolution’ is just a term – this intimate, detailed, and thorough history is an absolutely essential piece of reading that will change your perspective in the world.

Time Traveling Womble for Best Blog – Inexplicable Objects

A cupcake with a festive plane-on-a-stick in it.Eligible blogs: Inexplicable Objects.

Dating from a time before there was any such thing as a ‘blogging platform’ (the first was launched in October 1998), one can’t help but feel that Inexplicable Objects, which updated weekly from April 1998 to June 2001, would have made a phenomenally successful Tumblr. The archive is still active, more than ten years since it stopped updating, and it’s still one of my very favourite things in the world. Chocked full of delightfully strange objects, coloured by the witty commentary of Bill Young, this little website is a welcome piece of harmless absurdity to brighten your day. It may be the only entry in this category, but it is assuredly worthy of the Womble.

And finally:

The People’s Choice Award 2013: Hemlock Grove, Season One

Hemlock Grove PosterBy far and away the thing you most wanted my opinions on that I reviewed this year was Hemlock Grove. Netflix’s original fantasy/horror/weird show, released as an entire season, all at once, in April this year has garnered nearly 2,500 hits, with over a thousand more than its next nearest rival, Looper. This should possibly give pause for thought, as my review of Looper garnered attention more because it was negative and controversial than because the film was well-liked, but I hope that those who came to read my review of Hemlock Grove came away with a more positive image and their interest was more than car crash theatre.

Incidentally, last year’s winner, The Guild, Season Five, still has more hits than any other page on my website (including the home page) at over 14,000. What do these figures mean? Who knows, but something captured a lot of people’s interest, and maybe that’s something that’s worthy of your attention, too.

And that’s about it for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews (or at least found them interesting) and that those who have won Serene Wombles of one kind or another get something positive out of the experience. It’s amazing the volume of wonderful and engaging things out there to culturally consume  in this crazy internet age; I hope I can continue to provide some kind of useful commentary on the tiny section of it in which I partake.

Posted in A Dance With Dragons, A Game of Thrones, blogs, Escher Girls, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Hemlock Grove, House of Cards (Netflix), Inexplicable Objects, Looper, Myths RETOLD, Night Vale, Reviewing through the Time Machine, Sleepy Hollow, Stephanie Mabey, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Serene Wombles, Tolkien, Wake Up Dreaming, Wild Swans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Sleepy Hollow, Pilot Episode

Sleepy Hollow promo image

Look at these sexy bastards

Finally, something new in the visual medium to sink my teeth into. I think I’m going to enjoy this.

Sleepy Hollow is a new TV series from Fox, based (loosely, I assume) on the short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow‘, by Washington Irvin, and not to be confused with the film of the same name.

In this latest iteration, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is a British man who was serving as a spy for George Washington during the American Revolutionary War when he beheads a man on the battlefield. Having been wounded himself, he loses consciousness… and wakes up alone in a cave in the present day. At the same time, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and her partner, the Kurgan, August Corbin (Clancy Brown), are investigating a minor disturbance when Abbie discovers a decapitated body, and Corbin, alas, loses his head. Abbie witnesses the headless horseman – the same man Ichabod beheaded – fleeing the scene.

When Ichabod is found wandering the streets, obviously confused by being transplanted to the 21st century, he becomes a suspect. Something he doesn’t help himself with when he is able to provide further information about the murderer. Whilst his tale is obviously wild and taken as evidence of insanity, Abbie is intrigued by the fact that it matches the more unbelievable elements of her own story, such as the murderer’s lack of a head, which she failed to reveal to her colleagues. Despite being told to steer clear of the case, Abbie continues to investigate, with Ichabod’s help, and things continue to get stranger.

How was it?

I enjoyed this very much. A great cast doing an excellent job in what could easily have been a somewhat painful fish-out-of-water story. Tim Mison being easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt, but he also flawlessly portrays an earnestness and confidence in Ichabod that carefully skirts the potential chasm of cringe/embarrassment humour. Nicole Beharie is also great, as Abbie Mills – the intelligent and insightful cop who isn’t afraid to break rules on her hunch – and if you’ve been reading me for a while you’ll know how refreshing I find it to have a female actor in a role like this. I’m also loving the plentiful people of colour in prominent roles. Nicole, as co-protag, but also John Cho, as another cop, and Orlando Jones, as Captain Irving.

There are some silly elements. Pilot episodes tend to be prone to info-dumping, and Abbie’s opening up to Ichabod about a plot-relevant moment in her childhood seemed particularly unlikely. We get time-travel/ressurection, a headless horseman, apocalyptic portents, and witchcraft all in the first episode, an whilst I am pro those kinds of things, it’s a lot to put on the other plate of the suspension of disbelief scales. Overall, given the fantastic hurdles of its premise, I think it bears up rather well.

This is fun, reasonably well-written, well-acted, and provides plentiful eye-candy (including dishevelled-18th century-military-uniform eye-candy) – what’s not to like! Certainly a welcome new input to those of us waiting for Game of Thrones our old familiars to start up again.

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Review: Night Vale

Night Vale NRA bumper stickers

Night Vale NRA bumper stickers

That’s not Night Vale, that’s just one of the incredible fanworks created for Night Vale. People are trying to manufacture viral marketing left, right, and centre, but you can’t bottle what Night Vale has got. I’ve seen Tumblr fandoms create audiences before – I’m not the only person who got into Hannibal because I Just. Couldn’t. Resist. The. Memes. Anymore. But Night Vale? Night Vale is something else.

Maybe it was the bumper stickers (right). I think they were the first Night Vale art I saw on Tumblr, and they are actually official merchandise, unlike the vast majority of Night Vale art you’ll find on the Internet. These are the bumper stickers created by the local branch of the NRA in Night Vale. I saw these for the first time maybe three weeks ago – no more than four. And since then  Tumblr has basically exploded with fanworks. If you’re on Tumblr and you’re not seeing at least a couple of Night Vale fanworks every day, then you are following the wrong people.

‘But what is Night Vale?’ The question inevitably asked by everyone at some point after sufficient exposure to other people’s squee. The description that persuaded me to look it up was this:

The moment they had meI’d say it’s more like if Veridian Dynamics ran the radio station in a town designed by H P Lovecraft and Douglas Adams, but you get the overall sense.

Warning sign for the Night Vale Dog ParkWhat it actually is is a podcast, written by Joseph Fink, as the broadcasts of ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, a radio show hosted by Cecil Baldwin, with local news and weather for the small desert town of Night Vale. Night Vale is a strange place, with local amenities such as the Dog Park – DO NOT THINK ABOUT THE DOG PARK – the waterfront (there is no water at the waterfront), the library (peopled by terrifying Librarians), and Night Vale Community College. The residents seem mostly human, although there was an outbreak of people growing extra eyes, which has led many fans to picture Cecil with a third eye (although there is no indication in the show itself that he has one). There also seem to be some angels, who hang out with Old Woman Josie, although the Town Council has advised that angels do not exist and it is illegal to know anything about the hierarchy of angels. There’s a neighbouring town of Desert Bluffs, with which there seems to be some rivalry, and which, if anything, seems even stranger and more terrifying, although it makes a more concerted effort to affect that everything is normal and FINE.

Carlos tries to explain to Cecil that time is slowing down, whilst Cecil looks on adoringlyAnd there is Carlos. Perfect Carlos. With his Perfect Hair. Carlos is a scientist who comes to Night Vale as a stranger in the first episode, to study the town and its unusual properties. Like the fact that the sun sets at the wrong time, and seismic activity is being recorded, but no earthquakes are felt.

Cecil is in love with Carlos, and his Perfect Hair. And Cecil’s love for Carlos might be the sweetest and most heart-warming thing I have ever listened to.

Listening to the podcast itself is a pleasure. It’s just like listening to a radio show, which makes it easy to digest. Unlike podcasts which tell a story, you can drift in and out and not worry about losing the thread of plot. There is plot, but it evolves slowly. Typically there is some specific event which forms the backbone of the specific episode, but there are also longer arcs, like Cecil’s love for Carlos, and what exactly is going on with the man in the tan jacket, or time slowing down, which evolve more slowly. Perfect listening fodder for walking to work or going on long car journeys.

But beyond that, there is the fandom, which is so full of joy. In addition to the miles of direct fan art, Night Vale has insinuated itself into a kind of vocabulary of joke-making such that you don’t even need to be in the fandom yourself to understand its references, or for people to relate random unconnected statements to Night Vale itself. As one Tumblr post reads: ‘It’s not so much that the Night Vale fandom makes posts about themselves as people don’t realize the posts they’re making are about Night Vale.’

A post about Night Vale fandom on TumblrMoreover, Night Vale is wonderfully inclusive. It directly calls out racism via the character of the ApachFan art of Cecil and Carlose Tracker, a white man who dresses up in what Cecil describes as an ‘offensively racist’ costume and talks about ‘ancient indian magics’. In a world where most white people still do not realise how problematic the appropriation of other cultures (like Native American culture) is, it’s refreshing to hear stuff like this called out directly. And this continues on into the fandom, where many artists delight in imagining a less white-dominant cast for Night Vale. As in the video above, where Pamela Winchell is imagined to be played by Gina Torres, Cecil by Richard Ayoade, Old Woman Jose by Loretta Devine, Grace Park as Cactus June. Or in other images where Cecil is imagined as Indian or Native American. A lot of fans really seem to enjoy the fact that no direct race has been indicated for Cecil, and it is therefore entirely open to fan headcanon.

confusedtree posing for reference photos

confusedtree on tumblr was delighted to find that many had fancast Cecil as him

Not that there hasn’t been some controversy over this. Many Tumblrites are annoyed that so many people default to seeing a white Cecil despite the opportunity to imagine something different. Whilst I do think it’s great that lots of people have imagined Cecil as something other than white, I do also get why people are frustrated with there not being more. It’s kinda a hella fraught issue, so I won’t venture any more opinions on the matter than that. As a white woman I’m aware that my privilege may be affecting my impressions. Whatever your view on the matter, Night Vale itself seems pretty progressive.

For a while I was frustrated that there were so few female characters. However, as time has gone on, the cast has become much more varied, and I’m less concerned on that front. Yes, it’s annoying that the protagonist is yet another man, and Carlos, as chief secondary character, is also a man; but I love that they have a gay relationship as the love story with absolutely no sense that there’s anything unusual about another man being the object of Cecil’s affections, so I don’t feel like I can complain too much on that front.

I also love the Weather section. The ‘Weather’ to be clear, is always a piece of music, and not an actual weather report. The styles of music presented are incredibly varied. I can’t say that I like all of them, but I have been introduced to a whole bunch of stuff I would never have listened to otherwise and which I am now thinking about buying. How cool is that? Not that there’s anything new about having a random music section in a comedy show. The Young Ones included a musical segment, and other hip young shows have done so since. There seems to be a general tendency for scrappy alternative programmes to support other scrappy enterprises, and I imagine there’s a fair amount of overlap in musical and comedy circuits simply due to the performance aspect. In any case: it’s cool, it’s great, I enjoy it.

Get on board the Night Vale train, ladies, gents, and others. You won’t be sorry.

Welcome to Night Vale can be downloaded from iTunes, podbay, Stitcher or Libsyn or Feedburner or Soundcloud. It is produced by Common Place Books, and has exciting merchandise available from Topatoco. And it’s entirely free.

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Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, as re-enacted at Nine Worlds

Let’s all play ‘spot the Womble’. Hint: I’m in the front row and seem to be fixated on fiddling with my left earring.

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Nine Worlds: A Thank You

This has been a con not quite like any other, and it is deserving of a post-con post not quite like any other. I don’t just want to give a shout out to the people I met whose names I can remember and say that I had a good time (although that will come), I want to thank people. An awful lot of people.

I want to thank the organisers for their vision. For wanting to do an event as open in its geekery as the big US cons at which British geeks on a tight budget have only been able to look on with envy. But not only that, I want to thank you for the vision to go further, to make inclusivity front and central. The name, Nine Worlds, frames the space in terms of multiplicity from the outset. It is in stark contrast to the most famous con, Sandiago Comic-Con, which still sounds, whether that is the intention or not,  as though the Real Geeks, the ones for whom the convention is Really For, are the comic fans – implicitly the same (straight, white, male, cisgendered, ablebodied) geeks who form some kind of nebulous Old Guard, who claim to have read the entirety of the DC and Marvell back catalogue and are ready and able to school you on it. I don’t blame Comic-Con for its name – it grew out of comics into something much broader, and that’s fine – but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Nine Worlds for using their fresh start to do something different and better.

And it’s not only surface deep. The inclusivity and multiplicity goes all the way down.

It’s here in the accessibility of the con. Accessibility information is front and centre on the web and in the programme. And it makes a difference. I’ve never seen so many people with (visible) disabilities at a con, and I can only suppose that that is a consequence of them feeling confident that they could go to the con and get about and fully enjoy it, the same as everyone else.

I’ve also never seen so many women. Granted, the presence of women in cons has been more than the zeitgeist would have you believe for years, but with the exception of ‘Just a Minute’, which I went to on the first day (which was led by a man and at first seemed like it would go on without a single woman on the panel, and which did single out the woman on the panel and a gay guy for mockery (however mild) on the basis of their deviation from the (assumed male, straight) norm) you could really feel the difference in attitude in the equal presence and treatment of women, both on the panels and in the audience. I think that’s a consequence of two things: the well-publicised and explained policy on harassment, and having a whole track for events on Geek Feminism across the weekend. That says that the organisers want to make women feel comfortable and safe, but also that they regard the issues women face in Geek Culture not just as valid in themselves, but worthy of devoting time, space, and serious consideration to as an interest of geeks.

And with that in mind we reach the next person I want to thank: Siân Fever, who organised and ran the Geek Feminism track. Due to a Cow-on-the-Line delay, I missed the first Geek Feminist session I was supposed to be helping out with, but she was very understanding and when I attended her ‘What the FRAK is Geek Feminism’ 101 on Saturday morning I was beyond impressed by her understanding of the myriad of issues that face modern feminism in general, and geek feminism in particular; by her clarity in explaining these complex and fraught issues; and by her openness and ability to engage her audience. Honestly, it’s a talk that should be online for everyone to sample. But beyond her talk itself, her willingness to enter into discussion helped set a tone for the weekend and let me know, as a woman, as a feminist, as a geek, that this was a convention that was going to do things right in a way I hadn’t encountered anywhere else.

Whilst we’re on the topic of geek feminism, I want to thank Laurie Penny, whose talk on Cybersexism surprised me by bringing me to tears more than once. It surprised me because in many ways she didn’t say anything I didn’t know already or hadn’t said myself on multiple occasions, but there was an unexpected power to the sense of recognition hearing her say those things gave, and in the fact that she had been given the platform to say those things, which showed that the organisers respected her and recognised the validity of her opinions also. Here were the things that cut so very close to the bone, and that one has said so often one feels mentally hoarse (and suspects, or has even been told, that one is exaggerating and should just shut up about), and they were laid bare in a scenario that said they were worthy of attention, being expressed by an articulate and confident woman. A woman younger than me who has gained national and international recognition for speaking out on these issues and received a backlash beyond the sort of things I have experienced which have led me to have a hair-trigger blocking policy on Twitter and to close my Ask box on Tumblr. A woman who earlier this week received a bomb threat. And for what? For saying things like this:

That male geeks, geeks who were persecuted, isolated, picked on and marginalised at school, still don’t understand – still will not accept – that female geeks were right there with them, being just as geeky, and further marginalised still. Because we were the ones that even the male geeks disdained and persecuted – who are still being disdained and persecuted now. Apparently there were Dungeons and Dragons groups at my school, but I would never have known about it, because the male geeks at my school would not have been seen dead with me. Because it would have ruined their street cred – their geek cred – to give credence of the lowest of the low: a geek who is also a girl.

And she addressed the narrative of my generation where the changes that have been positive for male geeks have had negative effects for female geeks. Where the ‘geeks are cool now’ story has been expressed as a male story of male success in making money and showing the bullies they grew up with by getting the symbols of power and wealth – including getting ‘the girl’. This misogynistic tale most tellingly expressed in The Social Network, that successful tale of a man getting ahead by shaming women in the grossest fashion, and who somehow is presented as winning the sexy lawyer lady at the end of the movie, too, despite his despicable character and misogyny. I couldn’t believe the success and critical acclaim of that movie, and it meant a lot to hear Laurie Penny take it down for the exact reasons I found disgusting and appalling.

I don’t even know how to put into words how much this talk meant to me, and how much that, in itself, surprised me. So I just want to say thank you: thank you Laurie Penny, for saying these things; thank you, Siân Fever, for organising the track that put her there; thank you, Nine Worlds, for giving Siân the power to do that.

And at the same time as the Geek Feminism track was doing all this for me, there were also tracks that addressed LGBT issues, along with fun stuff aimed at queer geeks, too – discos and high tea and poetry. Whilst I don’t know what it’s like to be a queer person being given that validation and celebration and consideration, I can relate to it by considering what the feminism track did to me. And I can see the results – again, there have always been LGBT people at cons and in fandoms and involved in geekery, but there did seem to be a more visible and (this is important) relaxed quotient of LGBT attendees. And that’s fantastic.

There have also been events addressing race issues, and, again, a greater diversity of race, both in attendees and panellists. I’ve seen very few all white panels, and both the New Voices events I attended for debut authors contained a diversity of race and gender and cultural background that I, as both reader and writer, was grateful for. Some of the most interesting readings were from people of colour coming at genre fiction from different angles than mainstream white Anglo-American specfic.

These things might seem poe-faced matters to those who are privileged to enjoy cons without facing the issues some of the rest of us geeks face, but it’s not just about addressing and airing serious issues. Because by addressing and airing the serious issues it’s made the whole of the rest of the con that much more open, relaxed, and enjoyable. I thought I’ve felt geek circles to be welcoming and progressive in the past, but in the context of the experience I’ve had here, those experiences seem pale and fraught and tense. This is how you use geekery to set enthusiasm free. This is how you get all manner of geeks to feel comfortable getting to know strange people and having fun.

And coming from that I have to thank the people who have made the experience better for me on a personal level. My internet friends, Amanda Rutter, Anne Lyle, Jennifer Williams, Doug Strider, Chris Brosnahan, and Liz de Jager, who welcomed me into their midst on Friday evening when I was feeling left out and lonely because I’d come to the con by myself. My old friend, Jo Oldham, who I hadn’t seen in years and who introduced me to her new friends late on Saturday night; and Dave Tallerman, who I caught up with on Sunday. New friends I’ve made this weekend (most of whose names I am ashamed to say I have forgotten in con-overload) like Becky Austin, the best Buffy cosplayer I have ever seen, and her friends who I joined in the ‘Once More with Feeling’ sing-along, and who welcomed me without hesitation when I asked if I could be Tara in their planned live action ‘Once More, with Feeling’ at next year’s con.

And whilst I’m here, I want to thank everyone involved in the Buffy and Doctor Horrible Sing-Alongs on Saturday and Sunday night, especially our fantastic pianist, David Merriman. Someone did get a complete video of the Doctor Horrible one (complete with spontaneous re-enactment of the Town Hall scene, including two excellent Doctor Horrible cosplays), and if she gets permission from everyone involved to share it on YouTube, I’ll share that with you guys, too, because, damn, that was a very special experience.

Overall, there was just such an incredible atmosphere of inclusivity at Nine Worlds. So that, yeah, I want to tell you that I cosplayed Daenerys and people liked my wig, and the programme was full of more varied and wonderful things than I could actually go to, and I got a signed photo of Miltos and he was lovely and he kissed my hand. And I want to tell you the minor gripes: that the dealers room wasn’t that impressive and that lack of free wifi in the main hotel was a definite bummer. But mostly I just want to say: go to Nine Worlds next year. You haven’t been to a con like it and you’ll be missing out if you don’t.

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Nine Worlds Geekfest

On Friday I will be travelling out of everyday mundane existence and into Nine Worlds Geekfest. I’m quite excited, but also nervous, as, although I will know plenty of people there, I will be travelling down on my own and ARGH, WHAT IF NO ONE TALKS TO ME? WHAT IF THEY DON’T RECOGNISE ME? WHAT IF I DON’T RECOGNISE THEM? There’s just so much opportunity for things to set of my social anxiety. So, to assuage some of these worries, I thought I would provide Helpful Recent Images:

Me, blurry, grinning like I'm about to eat your brainsOh, wait, I’m not sure that one’s all that helpful. Let’s try this again:

A slightly more sensible picture of meOf course, there’s a good chance that on the Friday, at least, I will take the opportunity to put unnatural colours in my hair. And on the Saturday and Sunday I am planning to cosplay, probably wearing the above dress to look like Daenerys (plus white blonde wig and accessories). But hopefully this gives an idea.

I’ll also be helping out a bit in the Geek feminism strand, and probably attending many of the ones I’m not helping with, too. Hope I’ll see some of you there?

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Review: Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie Mabey

Album cover for Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie Mabey

Album cover for Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie Mabey

Whoooo-boy. It’s amazing how ranty people get when you like things they don’t. Or when you critique things they like. Comes with the territory, I suppose, but I’m sort of beyond busy at the moment and haven’t had a lot of time for responding to the Angry Internet, let alone writing new critical posts for them to stew over.

So here’s a little article that’s all about joy and celebration. You all need to get your ears on this album: Wake Up Dreaming, by Stephanie Mabey.

This album is just a breath of fresh air, joy, and exuberance. If you’re a geek and you love quirky, beautiful, original music, you need this album in your life.

I first encountered Stephanie Mabey’s work when Battleaxebunny posted ‘The Zombie Song‘ as part of the Music for the Apocalypse series that I started over at The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse. I have an extensive knowledge of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic music, but I’d never heard this one before. One of the great things about being involved with this series was actively looking out new songs and finding the indie creators that I’d never hear just listening to mainstream radio, but when Battleaxebunny posted this one I had barely dipped my toe in that water, and it really opened me up to the amazing stuff scrappy creators are doing independently of big business.

If you haven’t heard ‘The Zombie Song’, allow me to improve your life (complete with some really fantastic artwork from Maddy Ashton):

When I had a post-apocalypse themed birthday party last year this song was the one everybody’s ears perked up for. The catchy rhythm somehow manages to suggest the lurching movements of a zombie whilst remaining charmingly upbeat. The lyrics are witty, sweet, and dark all at once. They clearly come from a place in love with the genre and simultaneously breath new life into the undead and into love songs:

Our love story

could be kinda gory

far from boring

We’d meet at a post…


The narrator warns, perkily, instantly setting the tone – this is going to be both a love song and graphically macabre, but no part of it will be maudlin. It’s not just a pleasing juxtaposition, these first lines trip us from the clichéd, saccharin notion of a ‘love story’ to the equally cliché ridden zombie genre, highlighting how narrowly both are often viewed and how much fun can be had in mashing them together, each using the other to throw its own bounds open to new possibilities.

And, as a woman listening to a female musician with clearly geeky tastes this also confronts head on the idea that women are somehow ‘naturally’ more suited to the romance genre. ‘You think I can only write love songs because I’m a girl?’ the song seems to say, ‘Well, take this love song.’

But it’s not just a ‘I’ll show you!’ forced affair, this song is written with love for a genre whose tropes are known by the writer and held with great affection – an affection that is somehow in tune with the love that is also central to the song:

You’d be hiding in

a second floor apartment

knocking all the stairs down

to save your life…

from the undead.

Double-barrelled shotgun

taking out the slow ones

then you’d see the passion

burning in my eye

and I’d keep my head.

But beyond the interest, the quirkiness, the experimentation and juxtaposition, this song is more than anything else fun. It’s so catchy I woke up with it in my head the other day and I’ve been singing it since… and I’m not sick of it yet. It’s not the sort of catchy that comes from mindless repetition; it’s the sort of catchy that comes from a tuneful, original, easy to sing chorus set in the context of genuinely interesting and non-repetitive verses. And the chorus itself catches the attention as the singer lets out her (powerful and expressive) voice in a tone whose passion and poignancy cannot help but make one smile when applied to lyrics that say:

If I were a zombie

I’d never eat your brain!

Honestly, the whole album is worth it just for this song, but after a year of loving this one track, a friend (who had bought the album after I played her the song) persuaded me to buy the rest, and boy, it was worth it.

Mabey sets the tone for the album with the joyfully apocalyptic ‘I Pushed the Button’:

Again, it’s a love song, but the metaphors via which the narrator’s emotional state is expressed are of swinging wrecking balls, having a heart ‘shaped like mushroom clouds’, being ‘wired to delete’ and ‘disassembling‘. We’ve all heard a million songs about people who sabotage their romantic relationships and self-destruct, but rarely is the familiar state of mind conveyed via such distinctively geeky reference points. It’s delightful, and the fairground quality of the melody perfectly chimes with the sense of someone who is queesily out of control in a Waltzer, (rather than the conventional rollercoaster) of highs and lows and unpredictable turns. This song is coming at a familiar idea about love from a new angle, finding extra nuance along the way, and laying out Mabey’s geek credentials up front.

And it’s not the only fairground-themed song. Track number 7 (far enough into the album to avoid overdosing on the fairground) ‘The Main Attraction‘ tackles directly the link between the modern meaning of the word ‘geek’ and its origin as a term for sideshow ‘freaks’ – ostracised by society in a way analogous to what most of us with geeky tendencies (especially women, who tend to be shunned both by the mainstream and by male geeks) grew up experiencing. In identifying herself with the ‘bearded lady’, Mabey reminds us, again, of the special pressure on women with regard to appearance. There’s something intriguing about using an identification with outsiders as a way of expressing to fellow geeks that she’s ‘one of us’, and theme of the song draws out the special comfort of finding solace in one who loves you because you are different in the same way as they are:

None of your friends

comprehend why we’re both so happy

Your parents just think

we’re a couple of freaks

Solidarity in exclusion really means something. And isn’t there something universal in that, too? We all want to feel different because our individuality makes us special, but equally we want to find someone who shared all the special things that make us different. And love is like that: that contradiction – needing someone to be like you in the ways that make you unique, unusual, different.

The title song, ‘Wake Up Dreaming‘, could sit respectably on any number of pop or rock albums:

And he can’t shake the feeling

that this whole world’s asleep

He’s full of vision no one else can see

Granted, the song’s about a wannabe comic book artist with a boring day job, but I like that it appeals to such a universal trope: to want to somehow ‘wake up’ in the dream world – the one where you’re famous, or rich, or you have the job you’ve always dreamed about – and the encouragement to keep on dreaming, that you might get there if you just hold on… And by likening the ‘day job’/dream binary to the secret identity/superhero one it’s a really clever way of exploring how geeky passions aren’t so very different from so-called ‘normal’ ones. It’s just another way of dreaming of a better life.

It’s a recurring theme throughout the album, which I guess might be why the title takes its name from this song. Some of the songs, like ‘The Zombie Song’, wear their geek card front and centre, perhaps culminating in the final song ‘The Next Level’, with 8-bit tones and lyrics which read:

I wake up, I’m pixellated

Ching, ching, collectible coins

The music gets all evil

Creepy, could this be

dun, dun, dun

The theme song for the boss

This is a song with geekery in every beat, but the overall album shifts between the geeky and more universal themes that riff on this thought of the interrelations of apparently niche passions and more generally accessible themes of what it is like to be a human.

Stephanie Mabey is a great artist with a beautiful voice turning her talent to the sort of subject matter that, if you read this blog, should be right up your alley. I can’t recommend her work enough, and she’s an indie creator, so if you give her money you’ll be doing a good thing to feed diversity in the arts.

Go here and buy her album. It’s only $10 for 11 songs, which is, like, £6.50 at the time of posting in Brit money. BARGAIN.

Posted in Awesome Things, Music, Stephanie Mabey, Wake Up Dreaming | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments