Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NEW! Movie Series


My cousin and I are embarking upon a journey through the cinemas by picking and choosing films to watch and discuss from the IMDB's top 250 list. What is the point? Entertainment I suppose, but also, to fill in those blanks. We especially want to see the films that we've overlooked, the holes in our movie watching experiences. And the IMDB list is a quick and dirty way to find them.

Because I have this blog, this place to shout things on the internet, it seems only fitting that I should post up my thoughts and feelings about the films that we watch. I'll invite him to comment too, probably, but who knows where that will lead.

Along the way, I hope to find some gems that I didn't know about, or to revisit films I haven't seen in a long time, and maybe wasn't ready for the first time around. It's a journey of discovery, and I hope to share it with you (both of you) who read my idiotic online ramblings.

Anyway, this thing is coming, and the first film is already in the chamber. It's a Stanley Kubrick directed movie from 1957 called Paths of Glory, and it holds the 59th spot on the imdb top 250. Coming soon to a blogosphere near you!

Quick Post: Hot Links

Image lovingly stolen from

Hello, non-existent people who read this blog.

It has come to my attention that there is such a thing as hot-linking photos on the internet. (It has nothing to do with sausages). Now, I tend to use a lot of pictures in my posts. I feel like it gives them more appeal. This matters very little, since nobody actually reads it, but it makes me feel better about what I post, and I am at heart, a very self-absorbed sort of creature.

Now, I didn't know what hot-linking was, or that I was doing it. (This is a thing wherein instead of saving a photo from the internet and uploading it directly ['ploading' as I like to call it] one uses the web address of said picture. This pulls it directly from its source utilizing the bandwidth of where it is hosted.) Apparently, this is a no-no in blogging. This is a small offense, since nobody reads this blog, and I am not robbing anyone anywhere of any significant amount of bandwidth.


I do want people to read this blog. One day, when my international fame grows to its full potential, as many as twelve people might follow this blog. And I want those twelve people to have confidence that they are reading from a reputable source, one that does not hot-link its silly photographs. So, for anyone from whom I have hot-linked photos, I am truly sorry, and will be working, however haltingly, at fixing all 20 of my previous posts. Please rest assured that this will not be a problem in the future. (Unless you are Amazon. I will hot-link the crap out of anything and everything from Amazon.)

Fifth-Letter staff (me)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kill La Kill: Progressive?

I recently watched the entirety of the Anime show Kill La Kill. I'd seen some brief screenshots and animation on Tumblr, but hadn't checked the show out before. Frankly, some of the character design made me cringe, and I had been avoiding it, but for whatever reason, I gave it a go.

Now, to preface this, I want to point out that having been on Tumblr has exposed me to no small amount of feminism as it relates to female characters in fiction, and the male gaze, specifically in comics and animation. So, when I started watching Kill La Kill, I was already prepared to look down on it. I mean, look at the main protagonist, Ryuko Matoi.

Underboob Ahoy!

Yikes. Now, without having seen much of the show, I find myself down on it already. Shame on you Kill La Kill, for pandering to fanboys that want to see all the T&A. For Shame. Tsk Tsk. Now compound that with the main antagonist through the first part of the show, Satsuki Kiryuin.

How does it stay on?

GAH... even worse. So already, I have my doubts. But the show's animation style is hyperkinetic and fun, and the female characters, while scantily clad, are well written and numerous. They all seem to have their own agency. Additionally, they all seem to know and actively acknowledge that their outfits are ridiculous.


OK, So the main thrust of the show is that there are these things called life fibers. Some kind of parasitic alien life form that, when woven into clothing, grants the wearer superhuman fighting prowess. The thing is, that people exposed to too much of this life fiber get overwhelmed by it. So, the amount of skin showing on our two main characters is justified. OK... I'll buy it.

I keep watching, and the show is good. It's from some of the minds behind shows like FLCL and Gurren Lagann, two shows that are as silly and fun as they are weird and inscrutable. Kill La Kill is a little more straightforward storywise with the same strange animation style and off-kilter sense of humor. So I'm enjoying it despite the uncomfortable amount of female nudity, particularly when the characters are supposed to be 17 years old.

Now, a couple episodes in, we are introduced to another character. This character is an undercover teacher at their school. He is an agent for an anti-life fiber group codenamed NUDIST BEACH. They wear little if any clothing because, well, we find out later that the evil corporation REVOCS (anagram for COVERS) is secretly putting life fibers into clothing all over the world. So Nudist Beach does not wear clothing in order to better combat their evil scheme. We get to meet Aikuro Mikisugi.

Nice gun.

Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. Now I'm not so sure. So many shows, games, comics, treat the female form as a thing to be seen. Form-fitting, skin-showing, male gazeworthy things are they. I mean, boob windows in everything. Now, here is a show... here is a show that says, here is the reason that our characters are basically fighting in lingerie, and then is not afraid for those rules to apply to its male characters as well. Mikisugi is forever letting whatever clothes he has slip off, even mid conversation. And he keeps his gun right out front.

OK. So I'm starting to understand that this show isn't about T&A. This show is saying something.

Let's not forget Nui Harime, one of our villains.

How cute.

Yeah, she's horrible. She's the one who started this whole thing by killing Ryuko's father. And she did it with a smile on her face. She's obsessed with femininity and cuteness, and also happens to be about as evil as you can be. By the end she's a snarling ball of rage, but still rocking that pink bow like a boss. I. Love. This. Character.

By the time of the show's finale, virtually everyone's naked, or in barely-there battle gear.

Good thing it's warm out.

Male and female alike, it doesn't matter. And it's not overly sexualized nudity. It just is. I think (and this is my interpretation) that the show is shining a spotlight on all those tropes, particularly in anime, of the strong female character who is also a sex object. I think that this show first shows us how ridiculous it is, and then takes it further and further until it just doesn't matter anymore. Man, woman, and child are all in next-to-nothing to combat the life fiber threat. In the last beat of the show, EVERYONE's clothes are obliterated, leaving everyone exposed, hangin' all their stuff out in all its floppy glory. But it doesn't feel weird or unnecessary. It makes sense.

So, in conclusion, between the Nudist Beach operatives and the ultra feminine, yet ultra evil and powerful Nui Harime, I feel like Kill La Kill says some interesting things about objectification both in anime and in general. So I was wrong to snap to judgement about it. It's not perfect. There are some uncomfortable moments with Ryuko and her surrogate family ogling her, but other than that, I think this show is a step forward. This is a definite recommend.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Here There Be Dragons

And just like that, I have another story out there in the world!

Bards and Sages publishing just put out there 6th annual anthology, and my story Dragon's Folly is featured within. I'm so happy!

I know, there's no dragons on the cover.

I've known about it since January, so to see it finally out there is great. This is the first story I've ever gotten accepted at anywhere, so it's very special to me. Also, it's about a dragon, and I fricking love dragons. Anyone reading this now should go get it and read it immediately. I'll wait. It's fine. It starts on page 117 by the way. Found it? Ok... 

Now that you've read it, you can come to the eFestival of Words virtual bookfair. I'll be having some time in the author Q&A there (time TBD). Ask me anything. Come to think of it ask me anything anytime right here on this humble little blog. I don't get enough questions. Just nothing about Caluculus though, cause I'm not good with the maths.

ummm...  17?

Anyway, I really hope this gets read, and I hope people like it. I guess that's the whole point of this crazy writing thing. 

FYI, I linked to the Amazon version above, but it is also available on Barnes and Noble and Google Play, and will be out other places very soon, and in paperback later this month. Happy reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Back! What's with all the death?

July is over.

I decided unconsciously to take July off. Rejoice both of you who read this blog!

Well, what really happened is that I busted my buns at the end of June to make a couple deadlines, and found myself creatively dried up. I started reading again, which I haven't done in some time, and watching shows on Netflix. God bless Netflix.

Anyway, I finally got back into my Game of Thrones reading. I am halfway through book four, Feast for Crows, and I had a thought. (no spoilers, I promise.) What is with all the grimdark?

I finished the Anime series Attack on Titan, and began a new one, the Netflix distributed Knights of Sidonia. One thing that all three of these stories share, is a seeming delight in letting us get to know and like a character and then killing that character, often in a brutal way. Where did this come from? I blame Sean Bean.
The man is a walking spoiler.

Now, Martin's Game of Thrones novel is old enough to vote, so I have to imagine that he was in uncharted territory in the world of genre fiction especially back then, but this was totally unthinkable in television as far as I'm aware. Aside from horror, where death and dismemberment are the name of the game, where does this happen? I mean, up until Game of Thrones, the worst I'd heard of was people being shot. Who shot JR? (and much later, who shot Mr. Burns). In either case the character lived. Characters are killed off in daytime soaps, but they often come back. If there's no body, there's no death, and even then sometimes not.

Attack on Titan is about as bad as Game of Thrones. The body count is high, and it's not just unnamed grunts or guys who are just about to retire. That show introduces whole groups of characters that we are taught to love and identify with, and then proceeds to smoosh them like so much raspberry jam. That is almost not a metaphor. Those of you who have seen the show know what I'm talking about.

Be careful who you get attached to.

At times it's like these shows are trolling us.

"Hey, you know that one character you love, and is your favorite character? Nothing, nevermind... muhahahahaaa..." -Scumbag Show

Now, with Game of Thrones, having read well into book four I almost feel like Martin knew he was going to introduce whole countries worth of new characters, and had to kill off a bunch of them just so we had enough space in our cerebral cortexes (corticii?) to remember all the names. But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. He might just be fucking with us all, laughing behind his monochrome DOS monitor as he plots another mass murder.

The face of evil incarnate.

All this makes me fear for the future of storytelling. Are we as a people going to tolerate our main characters surviving our stories anymore? I am on the cusp of beginning a new fantasy novel, and I don't want to be expected to kill off my main characters. I mean, unless it makes sense. Sometimes a character was born to die. Especially if he's played by Sean Bean. (spoiler alert).