GOT- “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. As usual, warnings of kinda-spoilers–kinda, because unless you’ve read the books the clues I give won’t make a lick of sense. This offering, titled “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” spent actually little time in Harrenhal, dizzily transporting us from The Wall to Essos and back. We start off with Stannis’s and Melisandre’s freakish shadow baby teaching Renly, and all newcomers to ASOIAF, the dire meaning of “valar morghulis.” This leads to a case of “guilt-on-first-sight” by several guards who implicate Brienne the Beauty in the crime, and pay for their sloppy detective work on the sharp end of her sword. Nice fight scene. Lady Stark urges the lovesick king’s guard (who was seriously barking up the wrong tree) to flee with her, as Renly’s forces sail away, disintegrate into mass confusion or start lining up for Stannis. Later Brienne takes an oath of vengeance and swears her fealty to Lady Stark, in a touching Thelma & Louise moment that we all know is going to end in a brutal hanging. (see? no sense. not a lick.)

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Anti-Fascist dieselpunk II- The Italo-Abyssinian War

After my last posting on Anti-Fascist dieselpunk and the Spanish Civil War, which owed much to Steampunk Emma Goldman’s original blog, I began thinking about the other great anti-fascist struggle also lost in the shadow of WWII. In 1935, before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia–one of the few African territories at the time not under European colonial control. The brutal attack on Ethiopia (then also called Abyssinia), which employed poison gas and flame throwers on civilian populations, was partly strategic, and also revenge–for an Italy still smarting from their humiliating defeat by Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. While the near impotent League of Nations remained shamefully complicit in their refusal to denounce Mussolini or allow arms to a beleaguered Ethiopia, outrage was heard from throughout the black diaspora. Ethiopia had long functioned as a symbolic political and cultural historical site in black popular culture, politics and thought; and the invasion by Italy was seen by many as an attack on the entire “black world.”

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GOT- “Garden of Bones”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. And what is there to say except, “let the blatant divergences from the book in order to get some cheap thrills and push through to some larger plot devices begin!” But as an old roommate who happened to be film student once reminded me, movies are not books, even if they’re based on them. There are always changes made–the question is, do such changes help improve on the original storyline or dramatically alter it into something unrecognizable? As usual I’ll try not to give away any real SPOILERS regarding future parts of the storyline for those who haven’t read the books, though I may allude to a few.

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The Old Negro Space Program

Putting the “Mock” in Mock-u-mentary, The Old Negro Space Program was a bit of snark created in 2003 by comedy writer Andy Bobrow, who has worked on television shows like Hype, Malcolm in the Middle and Community. Parodying documentaries from Ken Burns’ Civil War  and Baseball to Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize, the short allegedly tells the little known tale of the Negro American Space Society of Astronauts (NASSA). Cleverly done, the video uses humor to satirize the now formulaic style of documentariy making–complete with a straight-faced white African-American studies professor, readings from diaries of “afro-nauts” and even the requisite “Negro spirituals,” that no documentary featuring black people before 1960 seems able to do without. At the same time, through laughter, TONSP addresses issues ranging from institutional racism to white co-option of black achievement. (Of course some deconstruction of the short’s very un-PC tone could delve into possible undercurrents of mocking real issues of black oppression and rendering them as entertainment, thus diluting their importance . . . but it’s Friday and this is funny, so I’m going to let it slide). Shown at the HBO Comedy Festival back in 2004, Bobrow calls TONSP one of the first video shorts to “go viral.” In 2006 it was even nominated for a Nebula, but was disqualified because of the date of its release. Years later, it remains a “classic” because everyone knows, “goddamned, space is one cold m*thaf*cka.”

Anti-Fascist dieselpunk and the Spanish Civil War

I was watching Guillermo del Toro’s excellent dark fantasy realism flick, El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) the other day, and it reminded of an excellent blog article I read on Emma Goldman and dieselpunk late last year. Huh, you ask? Yes, like a Third Stage Guild Navigator, my mind “moves in strange directions.” Stay with me, and I’ll connect the dots….

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GOT- “What is Dead May Never Die”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. So I sat through episode 3 of the 2nd season, where, as expected, very little happened. Tyrion is consolidating his power in King’s Landing. After a glimpse last week of a White Walker, Robb and the Watch get kicked out of Craster the Molester’s incestous “lovenest,” and are to set off in search of Wildlings. Bran’s doing his pre-Warg thing. Theron Greyjoy, flush with daddy issues, is about to engage in some serious *betrayal* that will not go well for him in the end (what rhymes with REEK?) And Renly is busy making with the man-love instead of getting his army into the field. Was hoping to see what’s up with our favorite Targaryen, but they kept it in Westeros. No Red Lady or Stannis either. Bummer. Did get a strong showing of Natalie Dormer as a politically astute Margaery Tyrell. And Gwendoline Christie makes an excellent Brienne the Beauty (was wondering who was going to fill that part). Some excitement came at the end (which is becoming typical for the series), with Arya and Yoren–though I remember that enire scene a bit differently in the book. In any case, our youngest Stark has started the deathwish name recital ritual, so we’re well on our way to “Valar Morghulis.” Till next week, because all men must die . . . .

The Inheritance Trilogy

Someone asked me recently what was the best speculative fiction book I’d read in the past year. Usually, I’d do alot of hemming and hawing as I try to come up with an answer–divided into varied genres and sub-genres and honorable mentions. But this time, almost immediately, I had an answer– The Kingdom of the Gods, book 3 in The Inheritance Trilogy by author N.K. Jemisin.

I stumbled onto the first book in the trilogy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms years ago by chance in 2010. Someone, somewhere, had mentioned a new black author in fantasy (there are so few it’s a wonder fanfare doesn’t play at the mention), and a female author at that (cue the tubas!). Brief plot blurb: Yeine Darr, an outcast from the barbarian North, finds herself embroiled in a murderous game of royal succession in the floating city of Sky–heart of the Arameri Empire, where gods with seemingly limitless power are enslaved to mortals. Picked up the book and at first was a bit put off. For one, it’s told in first person–a style of writing I just wasn’t comfortable with. Second, here was a black female fantasy writer, and her main characters were decidedly . . . not. But the main protagonist, Yeine, was a POC (i’d later learn based on some derivation of Native American) so I decided to stick with it. And with the introduction of the Nightlord, I was hooked. I finished the first book before I even knew what was happening. Here was a story unlike most fantasy I was used to–with new systems of magic, a fully fleshed out world, and the mind-bending idea of gods as enslaved weapons. The characters were both relatable and unfathomable; the story and plot were engaging; and the prose was plain enviable.

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