Friday, October 28, 2011

Review of Stephen King's The Green Mile

Wow, I'm really getting around these days. My review of Stephen King's The Green Mile just went up on Speculative Book Review. Check it out! I'm quite proud of that review, and the book was really worth reading. On retrospect, 8.5/10 seems a little low for it, but I can't think of a more appropriate score.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Clive Barker's Abarat Review on Voyager

Just another quick blog post. My review of Clive Barker's Abarat just went up on Harper Voyager's blog. You can find the review here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Film Review: But I'm A Cheerleader (1999)

Thanks to the Queereaders group on Goodreads, I came across this film which was said to be one of the best LGBT-themed films that a number of members had seen, and as it was cheap I thought "Well, why not?" Whilst I would love to say I agree with them, I simply haven't seen enough films with LGBT themes to really comment on it fairly.

Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan, the titular cheerleader. She's seventeen, she's got a boyfriend and she's happy as she is, but is blissfully ignorant of two things. Firstly, that she's a lesbian. Secondly, that everyone else thinks she's one. Her parents and friends intervene with the help of an ex-gay by the name of Mike (Played by RuPaul), and she's sent to a corrective therapy camp called True Directions. It is there she meets Graham (Clea DuVall) and in a rather ironic fashion, falls in love and accepts who she truly is.

The film is filled with a lot of subtle and less subtle imagery, both sexual and otherwise. At the camp, gender stereotypes are heavily involved, leading to rather hilarious scenes such as the boys flailing and flapping as they try to play American football or doing mechanical work on a car whilst a giant metal phallic structure created from a giant spanner and two hubcaps looms over them. The woman in charge of the camp is shown to be blind of her own son's sexuality, and it's clear from the start that most of the teens there will not be "corrected", at least not permanently.

Whilst the film has a clearly feminine focus, or at least feel to it, there is a lot of comedy for the men too. Most of the jokes, both subtle and obvious, come from the male cast, whether it's one character dancing around in denim hot pants with a strimmer or Mike's struggle with his own homosexual desires (Both are quite strongly linked, actually). One of the male characters towards the end also teams up with Megan, and both get their happy endings. It could have easily been forgotten about, as things like that often are, but I felt adding it really made a difference.

The camp itself, despite its exaggerated and humorous visuals, is sadly all too real and so are the attitudes in the film. Homosexuality is seen by many characters, including the teenagers in the camp, as wrong and unnatural, and something that can be corrected. They're threatened with losing their families and homes, with deliberately misleading propaganda. The psychology involved revolves around ignorance and almost Freudian thinking, for example the idea of Megan's father being unemployed emasculated him, meaning her mother became the breadwinner and as such it's a trigger that may have caused her to become gay.

It's not all sunshine and lollipops, however. The characters, especially the males, relied way too heavily on stereotypes. All five males at the camp were at least moderately camp in their manner, the camp owner's son walked around in very short shorts and was obviously supposed to be gay, the two ex-ex-gays were also quite stereotypical in a way. There seemed to be no "normalisation", for want of a better term, so what representation there was of gay males it was based on stereotypes and exaggeration. To contrast, the girls were nicely varied. Megan was a cheerleader, Graham was slightly butch in a way, Sinead was a sort of goth (And hot!), there was a very geeky girl and, well, I think you have to see the film for the fifth girl (Who might have actually been a transman, I'm not too sure).

The acting and casting itself also seemed a bit shaky, and in my opinion the worst actors were in fact cast as the two main characters. DuVall held herself and acted in a way that never worked for me. She seemed too old or mature for the role, and I never bought her as a character. Lyonne also grated with me. It was her expressions, the things she said and how she said them, it seemed as if she just couldn't fully get into her character's shoes. The way they held themselves together, the way they acted around others, it seemed way too awkward and false, as if there was someone off screen holding their pay cheques above a naked flame.

Overall, I think But I'm A Cheerleader was definitely a good watch, and a film I don't regret seeing, but I feel it could have been better and more representative whilst still retaining the humour and its message.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship - David Weber (SFFWorld Review)

So, I did it again. I've had my second review for SFFWorld made public, and it's for the recent David Weber book, A Beautiful Friendship. It's not a brilliant review, I'm still learning to write them, but I feel I got my message across.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Header Image & A Song

As you may have noticed, I finally got off my backside and created a header image! I feel that it's only fair to credit the artists for the work I used. So, from left to right we have:
Dave Seeley and his cover for Elizabeth Moon's Engaging the Enemy (Del Rey)
Jason Chan's cover for Ari Marmell's upcoming Thief's Covenant (Pyr)
Guy Davis  and the cover for B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs Vol. 1 Issue #4, illustrated by himself and written by Mike Mignola for Dark Horse Comics.
I felt all three represented the three main aspects of what I created this blog for. Science fiction, fantasy and comics respectively, but also highlights the emphasis I put on female characters.

And, as promised, I have a song to share.
Joan Jett - Change the World.

UPDATE (16/11/11): I removed the header image earlier in the week. I'll leave the details up, however.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Worries of a Rag Doll

As some have probably worked out from my Goodreads account and my blog here, I do dabble in lesbian-related YA/teen fiction (With a few adult books in there for good measure) whether it's Malinda Lo, Nancy Garden or even male-written works from the likes of Jim C. Hines or J.A. Pitts. I love it, I'll say that and say it proudly. Annie On My Mind was an absolutely beautiful work, and Malinda Lo's Ash and Huntress almost brought me to tears at times.

But this brings me to my problem. Finding fiction in that vein is hard, doubly so for fantasy. Finding a well-written piece just about two people falling in love seems to be overly hard. Some are about abuse, some are clearly going to be overtly erotic tales, some are written from the perspective of someone not in the relationship itself. I understand all these books have a purpose and a market, but to me they're not what I'm after. I don't want to read a book about domestic abuse or rape - I hear about things like that all too often on the news for a start - I just want to read a tale about self-discovery and romance.

Fantasy is even worse for things like that. Despite being an arguably bigger genre, it's full of Bloke Meets Woman, Bloke Loves Woman, Bloke Bonks Woman, stories. There's a fair amount of gay fantasy tales, especially in the dark fantasy/paranormal sub-genre, but very little lesbian fantasy. I suppose lesbian werewolves are somehow less interesting than gay ones. Anyway, Malinda Lo is the only author I've read who has what I'm looking for. Whilst I loved Jim C. Hines' Princess series and I do love John Pitts' Black Blade/Sarah Beauhall books, they're about women with established relationships (Although there is some unrequited love in the former and soul-searching in the former) and I do honestly love those series, they're not exactly what I want.

I suppose I'm just worried that with the recent controversies about LGBT YA fiction, and the rise in popularity of genre fiction itself, publishers, agents and perhaps even authors themselves aren't stepping up to bring more diversity into the market. I'm not saying they aren't, I'm just saying that I'm not seeing a lot. I'd like to see more.

Publishers, authors, agents... If you read this, then I have just one thing to say to you. Please publish more LGBT tales, please give transpeople and lesbians in particular a bit more prominence. Please take the chance, and please give young people the ability to read a book that changes their lives for the better. Life is not a fun thing at the worst of times, and for those who are LGBT, they may feel as if they're wrong or broken. Please, put books out there that show that's not the case.