Monthly Archives: December 2016

Luke Cage Season 1 – TV REVIEW

lukecageI know, I’m a bit behind the times. But earlier this week I finally finished watching Season 1 of Luke Cage.

I entered the show with high expectations. I was never a regular reader of the comics, but I’d read enough of them to know that the character was actually interesting. Marvel and NetFlix had so far done a good job with the characters they’d brought to the small screen. I had faith that they could continue their winning streak. Also, I’d seen a preview of their version in the half season of Jessica Jones that I’d watched previously, and I liked what I saw.

Now… here’s where I need to admit that my expectations were somewhat tempered. I liked Luke Cage. I liked David Tenant’s villain. The writing quality on Jessica Jones was high. The production quality continued to be top notch. But I have yet to finish the show (I’ve seen about half of the first season). Why?

Because I can’t stand the main character. I’ve mentioned this to friends who like the show. Some of them informed me that her decision to “not be a hero” at the beginning was a strong part of the character arc. Fine, I can buy that. I’ve done similar things with my own characters. That’s not the problem. The problem is that Jessica herself is a despicable human being with almost no redeemable traits. It’s been in vogue for the last few decades for critics and writers to insist that characters with no flaws are boring and two dimensional. And they are correct. But so are characters with no virtues, and that’s how I felt about Jessica.

With all that said… I did rather like their portrayal of Cage. So I skipped the last half of Jessica Jones and went straight into Luke Cage.

Warning to anyone else who might follow my lead: I am still slightly confused about where Cage fits into the timeline. It feels like it must take place after Jones. If so, then I clearly missed the part where Luke is sent to prison and loses his bar. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a prequel? I honestly can’t really tell. This isn’t the fault of the show. It’s my fault for not watching the entirety of the previous series.

So I spent a bit of the first episode or two confused before I decided to just forget what I’d seen in Jones and follow Luke Cage as its own separate entity. That proved to be the right choice. It’s a strong show. The main character is quite interesting. He’s flawed enough to have a real arc, but also has strength (of character, not merely of body) and virtue. The setup of the show really drew me in. The supporting characters are interesting, especially the dichotomy between the dual antagonists: the sleazy druglord Cottonmouth and his Councilwoman cousin Mariah.

But those aren’t even the best parts of the show. Indeed, what really sets the show apart and makes it special is the way it absolutely nails race in America. And I don’t mean in an SJW way, or in a conservative way. This show is one of the most brutally honest takes on race – from all sides – that I’ve seen in a long time.

Luke Cage features police who are scared to go into black neighborhoods, and black neighborhoods who are scared of police. We see way the culture binds together against injustice (both real and perceived) – and the way that corrupt politicians stoke the flames in order to exploit those injustices for personal gain. It shows the very real ways in which living in that world holds someone down, but it’s not afraid to show the very real ways in which residents of that world contribute to their own prisons.

Yet at the same time each character has something crucial that Jessica Jones lacked: dignity. The show treats its characters with respect. Even the villains have clear motivations that – while despicable – are also understandable. Characters make mistakes, but they’re very human mistakes that you identify with. None of these characters – good or bad – has an easy life. And all of them – good and bad – have moments of honor, dignity, and even redemption. All the while, it tells a compelling and interesting story.

The show does exhibit one flaw, however, and it’s a doozy. The pacing is sloooooooooooooooow. Way too slow. As good as the show is, it probably should have been told in about 10 episodes instead of the 13 we got. Maybe it should even have had fewer. The first few episodes are the worst offenders, and the show does pick up a bit after that. Even so, it’s never what you’d call a particularly fast pace.

Worse, there’s no good reason for this. NetFlix continues to insist on the HBO/Showtime/BBC model of about 13 episodes per season. But it’s unconventional distribution model should free it from that constraint entirely. How many episodes should a NetFlix season have? As many as it takes to tell a good story – no more and no less. They are under no pressure to fill advertising time, no true “seasonal” constrains like network and cable TV traditionally has. They already release the shows whenever they feel they’re ready, without adhering to traditional release schedules.

The pacing issues of the show are a completely unforced error on NetFlix’s part. But at least for me, it was also the only real drawback of an otherwise most excellent show. Still, it’s enough to drop an entire star off the rating, taking this from a five star show down to the final four stars that I give it. If Marvel’s NetFlix shows are your kind of thing, you will probably enjoy Luke Cage. But you may have to push yourself through the slow bits.

Lyonesse Update and Author Spotlight – Cheah Kai Wai

logo-01Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! As of this morning we’re more than two thirds of the way to our goal! If you haven’t already, stop by and contribute. A $7 contribution gets you an entire year’s subscription – including at least 52 stories (one per week, plus the occasional bonus story) from some of the most amazing up and coming science fiction and fantasy authors. We’ve got some great stuff on deck for our first quarter, and I can’t wait to start sharing these stories with readers. Speaking of our great up and coming authors, today I’d like to spotlight Cheah Kai Wai.

benjamincheahI first became aware of Cheah Kai Wai when I read his story Flashpoint: Titan in Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War: Volume X. The most excellent story intrigued me in its own right. I found it extra fascinating, however, for personal reasons. It featured a scenario quite similar to my own contribution to that anthology (The Fourth Fleet). Yet he took it in a completely different direction and made it a wholly different story. Many (myself included) would argue he actually made it a better story, as evidenced by the Hugo nomination it received.

Flashpoint: Titan was a great story. His contribution to Lyonesse, if I may say so, is leagues better. We Bury Our Own blew me away when I read it, and it will do the same to you. I won’t go into to much detail because you really don’t want to know too much going in. Let me just say, “science fiction battle angels.” It’s every bit as awesome as that makes it sound – but it’s also got a depth to it that might catch you well off guard.

I believe he also has a novel forthcoming from Castalia House, which I look forward to with great interest. Cheah Kai Wai is definitely a young author to watch.

Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

logo-01The Lyonesse Kickstarter is now live! Drop by and help us Make Short Fiction Great Again!

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.

What is Lyonesse?

Lyonesse is a short fiction subscription service. Here’s what Lyonesse offers for readers:

  • The best science fiction and fantasy short stories, one per week, delivered right to your inbox.
  • Bonus stories throughout the year, frequently but not always on or around holidays.
  • Established names in the genre and new up-and-coming authors.
  • A strong back catalog of previously published stories.
  • A low, low subscription fee – our introductory rate will be $6.99 for the entire year – back catalog included!

That’s right – at least 52 of the best science fiction and fantasy stories throughout the year for less than seven dollars! And not from slouches, either. Our lineup includes stories from Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, Dragon Award nominee Declan Finn, and established genre authors such as L. Jagi Lamplighter – and that’s just what we have lined up for our first quarter!

Main Goal – $600

Our initial goal is to reach $600. This will allow us to pay each of the authors in our first quarter lineup at least $50 each for their stories. The first $600 will go entirely to the authors.

Stretch Goal – $1500

Our stretch goal is $1500. We’d like to reach this amount so that we can pay each of our initial authors at least $100 each for their stories. This will also leave us enough extra to fund server and software costs for the first 6 months.