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Content Warning: Erotic Fanfiction Deathmatch

Books & Writing, Comedy, Culture, Events

June 12, 2017

In Vancouver we’re a little spoiled for choice when it comes to entertainment, especially indie-run live nerdy and comedic show. I’m definitely not complaining when there’s such excellent acts out there like Geekenders, the Fictionals, and West Coast Geeks vs. Nerds, just to name a few. Mockingbird Media Entertainment’s new offering, Content Warning: Erotic Fanfiction Deathmatch, fits right in with this community and promises a monthly competition over who gets to claim the title of Ultimate Smutmaster. As you might imagine, things get a little steamy…

The premise of the show is to have local authors create their best (or worst) smutty fanfiction along the month’s theme and these works of fiction are then read aloud for the crowd by professional actors. At the end, the crowd votes for their favorites, and then the Ultimate Smutmaster is crowned, to be brought back to defend their title at a later date. It’s a good, simple framework that ran very smoothly, even when this month’s voting resulted in a tie.

This month the theme was “Remember the 90s”, and the audience began the evening enjoying a playlist of 90s hits, often breaking out into spontaneous sing-alongs – Backstreet’s back, alright?! Seven Dining Lounge, which is a familiar haunt for a number of great local entertainment acts, was standing-room only by the time the show began. Our host, Jesse Inocalla, in purple gator-skin Fluevogs and a velvet jacket, made sure to check that we were all ready and eager to participate in some sexy shenanigans (emphatic consent!!) before ushering us back to the time of Saturday morning cartoons, neon patterned everything, and not-so-innocent fantasies.

I was a bit surprised to discover that the actors were going in to the readings cold, but despite the lack of practice ahead of time they all did quite a good job, adding voices and pauses and inflection to hit the right mood, and often their own shock and laughter over the content of the scripts added to the humour. Still, it might be worth considering letting them have at least one read-through, or if not the producers might at least color code the various characters’ dialogue so that it will be easier for the actors to switch appropriately.

With actor and writer set up on stage, the fun was ready to begin. The actors were encouraged to pause and interrogate the writer at any time. And both the writers and actors were given a chance to plug whatever other artistic endeavors they wanted to publicize, which I really appreciated. It’s always nice seeing the community support each other! The audience was given a chance to ask a few questions after each story as well, often with hilarious results.

Our first story was by Little Miss Tristan Risk – an untitled fiction starring none other than Wolverine. It was read by Ariel Hansen, who gave it a sultry quality that suited the story. Set in a small town in the Kootenays, our nameless protagonist was a cynical rock chick who decides to hit the local watering hole for a bit of fun… or trouble. The story had a lot of lead-up, describing the protagonist’s beauty routine with vivid imagery. As a piece of fiction it was well written, but it seemed to lose the crowd as they waited for the smut to begin. Wolverine, who “tasted like exotic masculinity” (apparently cigars and beer are exotic in small mountain towns?), may have a thing for the vanilla essential oil worn as perfume by the protagonist, but the crowd seemed to be craving a different flavor. We didn’t need to wait long.

The second story was by David Marino – another untitled piece featuring Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey, and an unnamed protagonist. The protagonist is described as an important businessman, so in my head I think it’s Scrooge McDuck, but whomever you imagine will do. This was a story that had everyone in the room rapt and gasping for breath (because of the constant laughter, you pervs). Expertly read by deliberately foppish Seth Gordon Little, the story begins with our protagonist out cruising in a park where he runs into Goofy and Donald and Mickey, and after he “enthusiastically consented to [their] forthcoming merger”, he participated in a gay threesome (with Mickey creepily watching since he has about as much genitalia as a Ken doll). At the end, the protagonist “liquidated his assets” and the audience similarly exploded into thunderous laughter, applause, and a sincere standing O.

Story number three was titled “Holiday in the Evening”, written by Jenna Sokalski and set in the beautifully 90s world of Daria. Performed by Luchagore’s Gigi Saul Guerrero, it was transformed into a Latin-infused fanfiction that was surprisingly sweet and earnest.  Gigi gave it a lovely quality as she added sound effects and laid on her accent as thickly as she could, easily selling Daria’s “ecsta-CI!!” in her beach encounter with Trent. The ending got a little confusing due to cameos from season 3 characters from Holiday Island, a little-known reference that won over the truest Daria fans. Overall, a tender teen moment that was surprisingly charming.

Gigi stayed where she was, ready to perform the next one. The fourth fic was written by Tanner McCoolman; a crossover romp with SpongeBob and Mojo Jojo titled “Sponge Monkey Mayhem”. The premise of the story was that Mojo Jojo had set up a not-very-convincing fake casting couch for a non-existent adult film company, and a broke SpongeBob auditions hoping to earn some money. The fiction began with pure psychological body horror a la Kafka’s Metamorphosis, as SpongeBob began fingering his holes and growing more arms and fingers to finger all of his holes. There was also a creepily pointed anti-child molestation PSA related to Bubbles the Powerpuff Girl and an off-colour explanation about how SpongeBob was intersex due to genetic mutation brought on by Agent Orange, but some moments were gold: the tsunami climax as they “Californicated” particularly stands out. Gigi’s performance of the voices for both Mojo Jojo and SpongeBob were also superbly on point.

With all of the laughter and smutty depravity, we all needed a break. After a brief intermission, we dove right back into the fray, with Seth Gordon Little returning to voice Lyssa Strata’s tale: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze”. A sweaty summer training session with April and Michelangelo turns into a hilarious (and well-researched) birthday gangbang, eventually incorporating all four turtles and Master Splinter. Seth was the perfect actor for the job and as before the audience was howling with laughter as he expertly delivered the deliberately cheesy, reference-laden smut. Even Seth had to pause for another drink. After a gooey climax, many in the audience were on their feet again, clapping, and Seth delivered his heartfelt compliments both to Lyssa and David Marino for their excellent work on Seth’s favorite childhood characters.

The sixth fiction was a fantastic gay BDSM scene created by Zhora Kys; an X-Men offering titled “Savage Land” starring Professor X, Magneto, and Sinister. Performed by the delightful Draco Muff-Boi, it was a saucy romp realistically describing the experience from Charles’ perspective as a bottom, relishing the sting of whips. The dynamic between Charles and Erik was particularly believable to anyone familiar with the D/s relationship. It definitely left many in the audience feeling a little hot and bothered.

Next was Zachary Taylor’s “Too Blue For You”; another crossover piece starring Sonic the Hedgehog and Genie from Disney’s Aladdin. Ariel Hansen returned to perform the story, providing us with a hyper, youthful Sonic, and a creepy, fourth-wall breaking Genie. This was a 90s extravaganza as Sonic finds himself in a strange land: first passing through the LA riots before ending up in Disneyland. There, he meets Genie, who is, of course, a Dom. The audience soon realizes that you can’t make a wish while wearing a ball-gag, as Genie turns poor Sonic into his “living cock puppet”. Moments of humor, like the revelation that Genie’s “onmipodick” tastes like blueberries, were interspersed with uncomfortably graphic, stomach-turning scat-porn erotica. Laden with author’s notes and ending with Sonic’s “hog juice”, it was truly an example of the depths of depravity that fanfiction can feature!

The final offering of the night was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story centered on Angelus and Spike. Written by a published novelist – Mistress Ivy – the tale was steamy and well-written. Titled “Troublemaker”, it was performed by Draco Muff-Boi who tried valiantly to use an Irish accent for Angelus and an English accent for Spike. In the story, fans were treated to a realization of their teen fantasies as Angelus showed Spike what trouble truly is. Spike made a good, bratty bottom, as the long tensions between the two vampires results in a sexy showdown where Angelus wins. I ship it.

All eight stories completed, the hosts collected the tiny voting slips. I couldn’t help but think there must be an app for that, but maybe they’ll have that minor wrinkle ironed out for the second show. The voting resulted in a tie between audience favorites David Marino and Lyssa Strata, so Jesse called for a cheer-off. I feel this was the perfect ending, as both writers provided the best entertainment of the night and deserved the feeling of recognition and pride (or shame?) by being called up for this final tie-breaker. The roars for both were deafening, but Lyssa Strata’s TMNT fiction had won the audience, and she was crowned the Ultimate Smutmaster. And with that, the first show came to a close, and, like many of the story characters, we felt satisfied… if a bit dirty.

All in all, Content Warning is solid entertainment, offering what people want: comedy, geeky references, and, of course, sex. I’m sure it will continue to be a popular addition to the local roster of shows.

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173

Contest Time: Instant Theatre Company – Shakespeare After Dark – The Anniversary Show!

Comedy, Culture, Events, Showcase

June 11, 2017

Instant Theatre Company is celebrating the anniversary of their hit show Shakespeare After Dark and they are teaming up with us to do a super great contest.  To enter you need to tag a friend you want to go to the show with and Living Myth and Instant Theatre will randomly select the winners to receive 2 tickets and a snack.

Featuring live swordplay from Affair of Honor, live music from our improvising Shakespeare band, and many more surprises yet to be announced!!

Shakespeare After Dark is the highbrow fusion of Shakespeare served with a side of improvisational mischief. In the first half, you’ll witness a scene from the Bard utterly monkey-wrenched by an utterly punch-drunk cast member leaving the rest of the cast to improvise around them. Then, stick around for the second half where the cast lays the booze aside to serve a straight up Shakespearean tragedy – based on your suggestions. With a genuinely drunken professional actor volunteering every night, no two shows are ever the same. Side-splitting, raucous, and completely interactive, Shakespeare After Dark will blow you away.

Shakespeare After Dark seeks to introduce a new generation of theatre-goers to the works of the Bard by reviving the raucous, interactive and vibrant nature of Elizabethan theatre with a very modern twist that only the spirit of improvisation can bring, whilst reminding them to to always enjoy Shakespeare responsibly.

Shakespeare After Dark regularly sells out so make sure you get your tickets in advance! The Rio Theatre on the corner of Broadway and Commercial Drive. Tickets are $10 or $12 at the door.

19+ – Alcohol will be served. No minors.

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225

Wonder Woman Critical Analysis Part 1 of 2

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews

June 9, 2017

 

So… Wonder Woman happened. The first movie of the Geoff Johns era of DC filmmaking and you can tell, but let’s back up a bit because nothing happens in a vacuum and we need to talk about where this film came from.

A little more than a decade ago, Time Warner approached DC Comics and said they wanted to do a new superhero movie. I like to imagine – and this is important guys, this is my imagination and probably has nothing to do with reality, so do not sue us because this is a fictitious retelling – that the conversation went like this:

Cool, guys,” DC Comics said, then sane and not yet driven bad by nineties nostalgia. “Who do you have in mind?”

Green Lantern,” Time Warner grinned.

Cool, cool,” DC Comics said, excited by the possibilities. “Storied character, a lot of lore to draw on… are you thinking classic Hal Jordan, new Kyle Rayner, or drawing from our award-winning animated series and doing Jon Stewart? Do you have a leading man in mind?”

Jack Black.”

This is a real thing. A real thing that really almost happened, except DC Comics said…

No.”

Excuse me?” said Time Warner.

No.”

C’mon, Big Fat Guy with a power ring,” Time Warner said, wiping the cocaine from their upper lip. “It’s comedy gold.”

An argument ensued. Hair was pulled and punch was thrown and at the end, clothes were straightened and everyone tried to have a little bit of dignity. Time Warner was convinced that their camp-fest comedy would make a lot of money, but DC Comics wouldn’t sign over the character.

You don’t understand how to make movies,” Time Warner argued. “You make comics, and who reads those anymore?”

Fuck you,” DC Comics replied. “Bet you we can make a superhero movie better than anything you’ve ever seen.”

Really? You think so?” Time Warner asked, an evil glint in their eye. “Fine. Here’s forty million dollars. I know, that’s like your annual budget, but you make your little shit show and when that fails you’re going to sign the contract and we’re going to make our Green Lantern movie, okay?”

DC Comics agreed to terms.

The movie they made was a little thing called Batman Begins and it won awards and made all the money. It launched a trilogy and is generally considered the best superhero movie made up to that point (Christian Bale’s bat-voice aside) because it was a good movie that just happened to have a superhero in it.

Marvel learned all the right lessons from this, and a few years later we got Iron Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Time Warner learned all the wrong lessons from this success and decided that what people wanted was grim and gritty, and by this point management at DC Comics was riding high on the nineties and decided to launch the nu52, so there was no dissenting voice.

The first result of this was Man of Steel, which was okay. This was followed with Batman v Superman, which was not, and Suicide Squad, which was a very stupid movie, and both of those lost a lot of money. All of them had series flaws, and their inability to succeed on a Marvel-like level woke Time Warner from their cocaine-stupor, fearing a lack of cocaine in their immediate future.

Meanwhile, on the comics end of things, DC Comics managed to lose forty percent of their readership over five years of the nu52, and only started gaining it back because of titles like Harley Quinn, Gotham Academy, and a revamped Batgirl. All of those comics had an underlying theme of hope that had been missing from DC Comics as a whole for the entirety of the nu52, and DC Comics officially relaunched with Rebirth and has been pretty great ever since.

A big part of that is a man named Geoff Johns, who is basically the biggest fan of DC Comics and its characters to ever live. The man is also an acclaimed comic book writer, so Time Warner took note and said “You! You seem to know what you’re doing! Make our movies good so we can compete with Marvel (and get more cocaine)!”

Geoff came on board to handle the movies a couple months before Suicide Squad launched, so the first movie he’s had any real input on is this one: Wonder Woman. And this is where things get interesting.

Warner Brothers wanted this movie to fail.

They did little in the way of advertising for it, nothing along the lines of Man of Steel or Batman v Superman or even Suicide Squad. I know many people that were dying to see this movie that had no idea when it was coming out, or if it was out, and even the person I went to see the movie with had no idea it was out before I suggested it.

Really?” she said. “Wonder Woman is out?”

Yep,” said me. “Wanna go see it?”

Hell fuck yes.”

She didn’t really say that. It’s profanity being used to underline a point.

Wonder Woman is a female led action movie being directed by a woman, and the first woman they hired to direct it walked because of studio interference – a thing that also happened with Ben Affleck and Batman and has happened with a number of other DC Movie projects prior to Geoff coming on board. This movie is Geoff’s proof of concept, one that says that, yes, women read comics, women like superheroes, and women can tell good stories and be part of good stories and isn’t this goddamn great?

And it is.

Without studio advice and/or interference, with Geoff hiring someone to tell the story and trusting her to get it right, we ended up with the best of the DC Comics movies and one of the best superhero movies, but there’s some subtlety here that I’m thinking 49% of moviegoers might be missing, so let’s talk about that in part two.

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113

World of Mercedes Ketch – Perfect in Flaws

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

June 9, 2017

Persephone had long retreated into the underworld, and Everett believed that the place she entered the underworld from was Toronto. Cold and polite, the gray apple, the chill in the air seeping into people’s minds and hearts. It’s why he liked Toronto; the sense of etiquette without thought, pity without relevance.

He’d known someone, decades ago, that had described autumn as a time of edges and scripture.

“What about winter?” Everett had asked that man.

“You’d have to ask Persephone,” the man answered. He’d died soon after, held in Everett’s arms.

Steam rose from gutters and carried the scent of waste and cigarettes and coffee. He nestled in his jacket, coffee close at hand. He’d just gotten back from Brazil and a new supplier, the coffee good and rich in his hands, down his throat, settling in his belly. Two cups, one for him and one for the lwa, as entropy tightened fingers on the throat of civilization.

Civilization was crumbling as it had crumbled before many times. He’d learned to enjoy whatever a civilization could offer before faltering in and dying, and this one had come so far. The stars struggled to find some place in the night sky, but the purple-orange haze of smog and clouds turned even the moon away.

The coffee grounded him. The candles littered around him, protected from the snow and still air, the dull haze of a hundred streetlights below. He stood on the roof of a building he owned – his home on the second floor, a coffee shop he ran on the first. Good cheap coffee, some tasty snacks, free wi-fi, open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, closed on Christmas but open for New Years.

Every New Year’s made him smile, the arbitrary measurement of time that this world is now obsessed with. He wondered what the next civilization would build itself on, once this one was dead and past and remembered only as another dark age. The arrogance of humankind, to think that whatever age they lived in was the apex of every possibility, that what they knew now was the only truth there could ever possibly be.

Cold and polite, he felt the soul of Toronto rear up and stare, nodding its head as it wandered the corridors of itself.

So many spirits out tonight, he thought. I wonder why.

He was having a moment, he knew, unable to remember whether this was the end or the beginning of winter. He knew where he was but after so long the seasons blended together, the decades, the centuries. He’d been told to remember and he did, back before sky had become earth, back before they’d won the war but lost, lost, lost so much.

What good was it to remember when everything he was had long since passed from breath into dust?

A shattering electric light flared into life beside him, the twinkling mire of a cell phone ring assaulting his ears. That grounded him a little; he was here and now. He stared, took a deep breath, let the sense of time wash over and through him. Call display showed no name but a long string of numbers, one of those strange equations that came from across the Atlantic.

He reached for the phone, tracing the edge of the small screen, his hand looking like a shadow against the light and the trickling flakes of falling snow, so gentle.

“Hello?” Everett asked, smiling at the sound of his own voice. The deepness of it, the richness, unmarred by centuries past and the present world.

“Hi, Dad.” Two words, the voice familiar. He’d had children in the past, watched them grow old and die. Some he’d sired and others he’d adopted and this voice was from the latter, a small girl left to die in the care of those who saw only someone to be used until withered. He’d bought her, a black man buying a Hispanic girl from white folks. From Rose Unwanted to Rose Stone and now, now, he’d given her away and seen her married, and now she was Rose Ketch.

“Hey.” He remembered her, the flash of her eyes, the crook of her lips when she smiled. The way she did her hair, the studious way her brow furrowed. Published, respected, he’d watched her grow and cultivated her loves, staring in awe at the women that unwanted child had become. “I don’t recognize this number. Where are you calling from?”

“Acco, in Israel,” Rose answered. Names cycled through Everett’s head, old names, dead names – Devinii, Kebara, Natufian, Meggido, Canaan, Kandar, Judea, Syria-Palestina, Palestine… He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. He’d spent a little time in the area, had avoided it for the sake of memory. “Are you okay?”

“What?”

“You’re doing that breathing thing you do.” Rose sounded concerned. She knew him so well. “Are you having one of your… episodes? Do you know the year? The month?”

“It’s Toronto in winter time,” Everett answered, sounding stronger than he felt. “And I have a newspaper subscription on my phone. I’ve just been thinking.”

“What about?”

“Time.”

“Ah,” she said, and though she sounded reluctant she took the hint and let the matter drop. “How’s Toronto?”

“Cold,” Everett said, and now his smile was genuine. He was looking down at the few people wandering the city this late, the chill they braved so much more than mere weather. “How’s Israel?”

“Hot,” Rose answered, and he imagined the heat there was much the same. “Do you remember I was telling you about John’s dig? The new one?”

“Surcess?”

“No, dad, he finished with Surcess,” Rose sounded playful, and he could imagine the light of her eyes. “The new one.”

“Surcess would be enough for anyone else,” Everett said, but his tone robbed the words of their criticism. He liked John and always had, but something was tickling him. “Isn’t it pronounced Akko?”

“Or Acre,” Rose confirmed. “You know these places don’t translate well. There’s something like fifteen versions for spelling Hannukah I’ve seen in English alone.”

“I like Channukah.”

“The the one that starts with ‘ch’?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know there are people debating Surcess’ authenticity?” Rose asked. She sighed, and he could hear her stand, imagined her walking through whatever house she was living in. Acco, he recalled, was closer to the sea. Western Israel. “It doesn’t help that a private investor bought the whole island.”

“The Verenes,” Everett said, nodding. Solaina, Robert, and… Lloyd. He narrowed his eyes, thinking of the latter. He’d never liked Lloyd.

“You remember them?” Rose asked as if he would ever forget. “They were very excited.”

“I’m sure,” Everett answered, trying to keep his voice mild. “I’m sorry I missed the party.” He’d never been to Surcess – he’d been touring what would become Carthage when he’d first heard the stories. A whole island of people who would do favors for others and eat those who would not pay them back as demanded. Monstrous, evil humans, their name living on through the ages and now dismissed as myth. The Hellenists had destroyed them, led by a woman who had claimed their island for herself.

“It’s alright,” Rose sighed. “The Verenes are turning the whole thing private, though, and without further investigation…”

“It’s making John look bad,” Everett finished the lingering sentence. He knew how hard it was to explain anything to people when it challenged their view of the world; the people of the earth always preferred the shadows in the cave to the world outside, so afraid to remember the sky.

He wondered if, living among them, he had become so guilty. Would he know? How often might it happen? He shook his head, sat down in the snow and cradled his coffee. It was still warm, scalding his lips, but he didn’t mind the sensation. He let it ground him.

“How’s John taking it?”

“He’s trying not to let it get to him, but you know how he is.” Rose paused, and he could hear the quickening of her breath. “And it’s killing Jack.”

“And so he’s brought you to Israel,” Everett asked, the words not quite a question. If people were challenging John about Surcess he would find it difficult to get more grants, more funding… “How are you feeling about that? How’s Mercy enjoying that?”

“She likes the oranges and the fields,” Rose said. There was something wistful in her voice, something sad. “So do I. I’m trying to be supportive, but the books aren’t doing as well as I’d thought they would and… well, at least there’s something calming about deserts and mountains, you know?”

“I do,” Everett said, looking at his own horizon, the towering gray spires of concrete and glass, the dead valleys of streets named by those long since forgot. “What’s he looking for now?”

“A group of people called the Devinii,” Rose was silent for a long time, and Everett realized he’ wasn’t breathing. He forced himself to, long slow breaths, in and out, in and out, his eyes open as the towers around him looked like outstretched fingers.

“W-what name did you say?”

“Devinii. Have you heard of them?”

That was a code; she knew about him even if she didn’t know how old he was. She was asking if they were real if he knew them to be more than a fable. He nodded, took another breath.

“I have,” he answered, hearing her breath catch in her throat. “Your husband is ambitious – I don’t think there’d be much left of them, though. They predate Surcess by several thousand years.”

“Thousand?” Rose sounded surprised. “Thousand? How old are they?”

“About as old as my people,” Everett answered, and he heard her sit down, heard her take a deep breath. He’d never told her about his people, the culture they’d built, the one he’d been powerless to stop from being destroyed. No one could understand those horrors except the others that had been there, the handful of ones that had been asked to remember, and of those few, he trusted even less.

“This is what I give you,” the Annanuki had said. “Life until death.”

“Don’t we already have that?” one of the others had asked.

Everett silently wished that he’d stabbed them both, then and there.

It was painful to think about how much had been lost, how sky had been bound to earth. He’d told her the tales instead, the old legends that his father and his mother had told him, tales echoed by whispering lwa. The Scarlet Angel. The Musician. The Purple Queen, the Blue Queen. The Weaver.

“Dad?” His daughter asked. “Dad, come back to me.”

“Sorry. Sorry, hun, I missed that last bit.” Everett held the cup of coffee steady in his hands, staring at it, forcing himself to study the minute details until the world around him was all that mattered, here and now, the cold seeping into his ass from the snow he was sitting in. He stood, dusting himself off with one hand, holding the cup steady in the other. He could see all the way to the horizon, knew every window along the street.

There were weeks, months, years where this happened, where memory drowned reason. He’d been told to remember and he never forgot and sometimes, rarely, he would act and bring the weight of himself down upon history and try to change the world.

“Is the Weaver out walking again?” Rose asked. “I can call back next week.”

“No. No, this helps.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Everett said. He closed his eyes, took a single breath. He remembered the conversation, every breath from the moment Rose called, every word and pause and inflection. He opened his eyes, took a long gulp of coffee as he considered all of it and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“We’re fighting over money.” He could hear the pain and embarrassment in Rose’s voice; she did not like admitting this, but few people ever liked admitting weakness. “When the Verenes bought the island, they stopped John’s peers from confirming his findings, and without confirmation…”

“People are branding him a crackpot,” Everett nodded understanding. “I’m sure Jack is thrilled.”

“Jack always had a firmer understanding of that sort of thing than John, and he’s done his best to keep the reality away from John, but…,” she trailed off, and he could imagine her biting her lip, closing her eyes, gathering her thoughts and her strength. He waited, patient with ages, patient with knowing. “John’s beginning to feel the crunch. We had to sell the house, and that’s why Mercy and I had to move out here.”

“You sold the house.” Everett frowned, looking in the direction the house lay. Even he couldn’t see it – the earth curved long before he might have, and there were cities in the way, but he still grimaced as he remembered every room and imperfection, the backyard and the garden, the ivy creeping up the side, the mint that grew along the back fences. “I loved that house.”

“So did I.”

“Let me buy it back.”

“Dad…,” Rose let the title hang between them, her tone uncertain. She didn’t want to ask and struggled with the idea of him doing this, the hesitation in her voice caused by a yearning for her old home and wanting to stand on her own.

She loved that house, he knew. They both did. To go from the bedlam and squalor of her childhood to those brick walls had been an impossible dream, and the two of them had made it their home together. Her harsh teen years, rebellion made worse by the pains of her childhood and the trauma he’d suffered in that decade, but they walked one another through it, walked one another beyond it.

He left it to her and John when he’d moved to Toronto. He’d always been a creature of cities, and he’d been glad when humanity had rediscovered them – living in Damascus, in Carthage, in al Hambra, in Kumasi, in Barcelona, in Toronto. He loved the lights, the whispers, the collective breathing of hundreds of human souls, the thrum of their heartbeats, the joy of architecture.

“You could have come to me,” Everett said. “You can always come to me. You know that, right?”

“Yes, I do, but John doesn’t,” Rose said, her voice very quiet. Everyone carried secrets, some shared and some not. Everett had shared his with Rose because he’d had to, but both of them had decided that John could never know – his obsession with the past would have broken against the length of Everett’s life, and they both knew it. “He likes you, but he doesn’t know… he doesn’t like asking for help.”

“No one is an island, Rose,” Everett said, the words as gentle as he could make them. “We’re all connected. Everyone accomplishes what they can depending on who they are and where they’re from, the relationships they build in and of the world.”

He didn’t need to add that he could afford it. He could afford almost anything, his riches grown through ages. He’d learned to diversify his holdings after Carthage was sacked, the lesson that no empire was eternal one that he’d learned slowly, but once he had, he’d taken the time to divide his wealth among different nations, different kingdoms, different places. This was a practice that had served him well.

When the idea of inventing wealth had finally occurred to the modern world he’d been an early buyer, and he was now easily in the one percent of the one percent, rich in a way that stripped the word of essential meaning. He owned the building he lived in, owned the seven blocks around it, ran a coffee shop because he enjoyed coffee and giving night people a place to go. He had grandfathered his investments into other investments, spending a year in every decade learning the ins-and-outs of different economic models.

It was better, he had found, to be wealthy than to be poor, and better to be free than to be a slave.

He frowned, remembering the early days of America, the rise of the Three Sisters, the… he blinked, let his thoughts settle.

Deep breath, he thought. Here and now.

He loved his adopted daughter. He liked John. He enjoyed his granddaughter, little Mercedes. She called him uncle and John thought Everett was Rose’s adopted brother. He looked at the stars trying to break through the smog cover and smiled, finishing the last of the coffee.

Sometimes, Everett thought, John could be more a child than Mercedes.

“Who’d you sell the house to?” he asked.

“A real estate firm for a down payment.”

“I’m going to buy it back and put it in Mercy’s name as part of a trust,” Everett said, his tone allowing no argument. “Keep the money you got from it. Are you comfortable?”

“Me? Yes. Of course. This place is, well, it’s lovely.” But it isn’t home, she thought, and he could hear those words in the slim shaking of her voice. “What do I tell John about the house?”

“Anything you like,” Everett said, letting her know that he’d support her. “Next issue is your finances. You want to handle this on your own, and I get that. The Verenes are why you can’t get grant money?”

“I guess. I mean, yes, kind of.”

“Then call the Verenes,” Everett said. “You got on well with Solaina, I seem to recall, and Robert seemed to get on well with John. If they’re so interested in Surcess, let them have it – but get them to pay John for what he found, and get them interested in what he’s currently looking for.”

“You think they’d be interested?” Rose asked, her tone light.

“If they’re interested in Surcess, they might be interested in the Devinii,” Everett shrugged, letting the motion flavor his voice – she would not see the motion, but she would know that he’d done it. “Call them. Find out.”

“Okay,” Rose said, and she sounded so much more like herself.

“Do you have a contact number?”

“Yes, Dad, from Solaina.” Rose paused, and he could hear her licking her lips, swallowing. Her voice dropped, became quieter, more frightened. “Do you remember her?”

“I do,” Everett answered. “From when the two of you were kids.”

“We were in our teens,” Rose’s voice turned warm, her recrimination playful. She was fond of those memories despite their horror, but the ability of adults to swim in their childish nostalgia had always amazed Everett, always left him wondering if his own memories were so tinted. He shook his head. Here. Now.

“Barely,” Everett said, his eyes rolling. He remembered young Rose, rags and bones, her eyes haunted and smoky, and Solaina’s anger and flashing sword. “Give her a call. Play on history and see if there’s anything there.”

“I’ll do it as soon as I get off the phone.”

“You might want to have Jack plant the idea in your husband’s head.”

“What?” Rose asked, surprised by the suggestion. “Why?”

“Because your husband, much as I love him, can be a bit of an idiot,” Everett said, smiling as he leaned against a wall, his eyes drifting over the city spires. “He might not listen to you, and he won’t listen to me, but a suggestion from Jack…?”

“Yeah, okay.” He could hear her grin. “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, too,” Everett said. He let the words hang between them, enjoying a comfortable electric silence, breaking it only to ask, “Is Mercy around?”

“She’s out in the orchard,” Rose answered. “The property we’re on has an orange field. She spends her days reading, playing, or stealing oranges to eat.”

“Aright, well, let her know her Uncle said ‘hi.’”

He could hear Rose shifting her weight, making herself more comfortable, hear the way her breathing changed. Rose understood why they told Mercy the things they did, understood why they kept the secret from the eight-year-old girl – children traded secrets for candy, and Mercy might never know the full depth of Everett’s life, might never know that he could live forever.

Other children in the past had traded secrets bigger than that. Everett had seen it happen, had even had it happen to him. He’d had to flee Spain, cross a sea and flee further to escape the fires of Inquisition and the persecution of zealots. He’d ended up in chains, ended up blistered and shattered across an ocean, ended up in-

“Dad?” Rose asked. He took a deep breath. Here, he thought, now.

“Sorry, lost in thought again.”

“Hopefully, it’s a little more pleasant.”

“It is,” Everett lied. She knew that he had seen and been and done many things, and often it was the bad memories that dominated. She’d seen him when- he smiled, shook his head, laughed. “Iataad taohif aamgae.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

He asked her to call him when it was done, to let him know how things are and if there might be anything else that he could do to help. She said that she would and that she loved him and then she hung up and he stayed there for minutes afterward, staring down at a single girl staring back up at him.

She was young, this girl, pale as snow, with raven hair and emerald eyes. Her facial structure was that of someone that wasn’t human but was trying to be – lacking the small ticks that came from growth, the small changes evolution brought to structure and culture brought to stance. She was looking at him and she nodded, smiling, turned and vanished into the night.

There were powers older than he was and too large to easily comprehend. He’d seen some of them in the past, been there when they’d done their workings and changed the world. It made him shudder in a way the cold never could, to know that such powers were moving through the world again, were gathering, that one of them might think that the conversation he had just had was important enough to watch so closely.

He replayed the conversation in his head once more, all of it from beginning to end, felt something that he’d missed when he’d muttered the most ancient of prophecies: iataad taohif aamgae.

In the long dead language of the Devinii, it meant none may escape.

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Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo 2017

Culture, Events

May 29, 2017

It’s strange how generations of entertainment have passed us by. In the past two centuries, we’ve gone from novels to radio plays to comics to movies to television to video games without newer forms destroying older forms. Instead, there’s this strange co-operative where these different creative forms feed off one another, both in terms of modern output and an appreciation of history. There are festivals to celebrate old books, theaters that specialize in old movies, and comic conventions are ever-more common as they bleed into every other form of media.

Video games, though, are something else again: tied to specific middle-men consoles that allow people to enjoy the entertainment that they’ve bought, those old games are often lost as the consoles that used to play them are abandoned: Q-Bert and Burger Time don’t exist on Playstation 4. There are exclusives that appeared on one console and never anywhere else, versions of games that differed depending upon the console they were on. Anyone that wants to experience this in older generations, though, can be hard pressed to find what they’re looking for unless they know the right places.

The Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is the best of those places in Vancouver.

Attracting collectors and collections from all over the west coast, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo takes over the Anvil Center in New Westminister once a year, bringing you the very best of what was and celebrating the generations of an entertainment art form that is eclipsing all others in popularity. It’s well known and popular enough to draw crowds of people ranging from the oldest of the old school to recent converts looking for a sense of history to shack-dwelling hillbillies that live in hillbilly shacks somewhere.

Braving the heat and the sun over this past Vancouver weekend, they filled the whole of the Anvil Center, New Westminister’s shining jewel and prime effort in drawing outliers to come and hold their events. A stunning and elegant building with story-size windows that allow all the light one could possibly want, the Anvil Center was swarmed with gamers of all kinds and all ages looking for relics of eras gone by.

The main floor was more than ready to deliver. Space dedicated to places like Game Deals and Toy Traders, the main floor held a collection of old consoles and games ranging from the dawn of the medium through to the modern era. Imports from around the world, old bootlegs and never released roms, toys and strategy guides, controllers and accessories… whether you wanted something from the classic Nintendo Entertainment System or one of the old Dreamcast video-screen memory cards, this was the place you wanted to be. Amiibos, charms, shirts – anything and everything celebrating the history and evolution of gaming was here for you to find and adopt.

For those looking for more information, a host of panels covering everything from collecting old games to working with old hardware was available, people coming to share the secrets they’ve learned and pass on that knowledge. There’s something about listening to people that are passionate about the things they know, or passionate about the things they do – an infectious energy that permeated that top floor, conference rooms sharing space with artist’s alley and some of the most gifted artisans and masons working within game-based designs. From throw pillows to custom made posters, there is and always will be something for everyone.

Those looking to test their skill would also find a home here: the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a host of prize-based tournaments that covered the breadth of old school competitive gaming, everything from Street Fighter II to Tetris. Those less inclined to competition were still encouraged to play on various arcade machines and console systems, most of which were conveniently set up on the second floor in a theater where live game-inspired music was being performed live by bands like MissingNo, the Runaway Four, Bryface, 20Six Hundred, and Opus Arise… and if music isn’t your thing, the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo also features video game improv games by way of Minus World, here on behalf of the award-winning Fictionals improv troupe.   

And for those looking for something even rarer, something most people have never heard before – this year the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo featured a working prototype for the Nintendo Playstation, along with several playable games that people could try. Yes, you read that right: Nintendo was once partnered with Sony to compete with the Sega CD, but when that console failed and doomed Sega, Nintendo left the plans with Sony and they released it and changed the video game landscape forever.

The real question when it comes to the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo is why aren’t you there? If you love video games at all you owe it to yourself to come out and celebrate that love, to treat yourself to this event. And if you missed it this year, make sure you don’t the next – we’ll keep you posted on when the Vancouver Retro Videogame Expo returns.

Until then, keep your calendars open.

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427

Story Story Lie – The Devil Is In The Details

Comedy, Culture, Events, Interviews, Reviews, Showcase

May 27, 2017

On a balmy May evening, the din of the crowd at Cafe Deux Soleil is palpable from a block away. The venue is a well-loved place where the local community gathers nightly for improv, poetry, live music and for this night a story telling game show and podcast.

The premise is simple, listen to stories, pick out the liar, win fabulous prizes!

The show’s creator and host Jo Dworschak sat down with me for a quick interview on a hot sunny afternoon. I got to pet her bunny rabbit.

Floppo the Bunny (Photo By Anne Honeycutt)

 

LM: What is the inspiration of Story Story Lie?

JD: I moved to Vancouver and Vancouver didn’t have the variety of shows that I thought it should have. After travelling to Chicago to study with Second City I came back and thought about the type of show I wanted to do. My son and his friends had a game where they would tell two truths and a lie and it seemed like the best way to get storytellers involved.

Photo By Anne Honeycutt

LM: What is your selection process?

Jo explaining the show. (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

JD: I scout through shows in the area. I go to a lot of them and then sometimes I get recommendations.

LM: If you could have any person on the show living dead real fictional, who and why?

JD: My two personal icons! Who are Frida Kahlo and Leonard Cohen. They are just so inspiring to me.

LM: Who would be the worst person on your show?

JD: A Lawyer… *nervous laugh* actually not them because I am trying to get an online divorce attorney to sponsor the podcast.

LM: How do you get the cool and very practical prizes for the show?

JD: I buy random things off of Craigslist!

Travis Bernhardt talking about a magic act gone horribly wrong (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

LM: What would be your Hogwarts House or Star Trek Shirt Colour?

JD: Ops Gold

LM: If you were in an airport and you had time to waste and 20$ what would you spend it on?

JD: I wouldn’t buy a thing, but I would go get a quick pedicure and ask the person for their story.

If you are able to attend the next show June 10th at Cafe Deux Soliel please do. This is the type of show and cultural experiences that are awesome.

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371

Instant Theatre – A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular

Comedy, Culture, Events, Improv, Reviews

May 27, 2017

“A long time ago, before East met West. When the modern world wasn’t so modern. In a far away land across the Pacific Ocean, there was one path, one way, one truth – kung-fu. A Fistful of Kicks is an improvised kung-fu spectacular starring an all Asian-Canadian cast of Vancouver’s best improvisers. Mashing up all of your favourite martial arts movies of yesteryear, this show will bring you all of the hard-hitting fight scenes together with our signature epic storytelling to tell these authentic and hilarious stories all for one amazing show. Filled with impressive stunts choreographed by local fight director, Nathania Bernabe, an amazing soundtrack, and a grand adventure, this is a unique and exhilarating improv show with a cultural twist.

Vivian Tang, Brent Hirose, Kai Rudell, Carla Mah, Curt Da Silva and Kia Vance

Featured comics include Curt Da Silva, Vivian Tang, Carla Mah, Brent Hirose, Nathania Bernabe, Kia Vance, and Kai Rudell.”

A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular started off as part of Instant Theatre’s Incubator program. Curt Da Silva the show’s director/producer organized to have fights choreographed for the show by local fight coordinator Nathania Bernabe.  After having several successful shows it has been added to the monthly line up of shows that Instant puts on at The Havana. Representation matters and to have a show that honours Asian heritage in a city that has a population of 42.9% of Asian descent is not only important but vitally needed.

The story itself ended up being an epic much along the lines of most epic Eastern tales with trickster spirits, pupils and masters teacher each other, goddess empresses, family feuds and in the end a happy end. 

The next showing of this masterpiece is June 9th at The Havana. 

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Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show – Opera Mariposa

Culture, Events, Performance, Reviews

May 26, 2017

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show

I recently had the pleasure of attending Opera Mariposa’s “Here I Stand” benefit and awareness concert for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM).

Soprano and Artistic Director, Jacqueline Ko, tells her inspirational story of living with ME/FM through a variety of musical theatre songs and opera arias with highly accomplished pianist Angus Kellet.

A big part of Jacqueline’s story is the chronic pain and emotional struggles born out of the many obstacles she has faced. That struggle was explored through carefully chosen songs and arias. The song “Anyone Can Whistle”, by Stephen Sondheim, was an insight into what it feels like to not be able to do normal things the way someone without ME/FM would.

So why not do extraordinary things? Jacqueline became an opera singer and started an opera company. She mentioned this with pride, and rightfully so.

I know how much work goes into putting on a show like this, but I was blown away when Jacqueline said she will spend months recovering from this one night. “You Learn to Live Without”, from If/Then by Tom Kitt, alluded to all the adjustments Jacqueline has had to make since she became ill at just six years old. Yet you can see how much joy singing brings to her life, and how it radiates to the other people around her.

Her musical numbers showcased how versatile her voice can be: delightfully sweet and intimate, yet also powerful and raw. It was a welcome surprise to hear her sing “Wait For It” (complete with an Opera Mariposa chorus) and “That Would Be Enough” from the highly acclaimed and very popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

However, two pieces were absolute standouts for me. “To This, We’ve Come” from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, requires a solid classical technique, while still conveying an utterly tragic frustration with how immovable bureaucracy can be to the disenfranchised. It’s chilling to hear Jacqueline sing lines like “I’m asking for help, and all you give me is papers” as she sings with her whole body and every ounce of emotion.

The second standout piece for me was “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Jacqueline makes a quick joke about how she just had to sing this aria. It’s about a woman that is forbidden to sing because of her illness, but she sings anyway. I was very moved with how graceful, lyrical and resonant her voice was. It was as if the aria was written for her.

This concert was a unique experience, with a very important purpose. I’m grateful to have been there.

Photography by Diamond’s Edge Photography: https://michelledohertyphoto.smugmug.com/


Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.

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389

Alien: Covenant

Culture, film, Reviews

May 19, 2017

The Alien series shifts genre in a strange parallel to the xenomorph upon which it was based and as commentary on the era in which it was made. The first movie was about horror and suspense as took us from the seventies to the eighties, where the suspense we felt moving from one decade to the next gave way to the horrors of corruption and disease that we’re still feeling to this day. The second movie was all about action and consequence and how the greed of a few might kill the rest of us, about how our society will blindly follow the people that are profiting off our work into war and not heed the warnings of those with the most experience. Sounds like Iran-Contra, the AIDS epidemic, the Iraqi War… all those messes that we barely survived.

Alien3 was a thing that happened; we had settled in nihilism by that point, and David Fincher captured the entropy that had taken root in the human soul, the disappointment of his movie caused by forces far beyond his control but still being forged into something better than it had any business being. The fourth movie was a music video written by Joss Whedon, a high action disaster that started strong and ended weak… and that was okay. We weren’t expecting anything more than a close to the series and that was it.

It should be noted that Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie is apparently dead, but it was supposed to be the Alien3 movie we had been promised thirty years ago. Instead of that, we got Prometheus, a wildly ambitious high-concept sci-fi adventure movie that would have been stronger without a connection to this franchise. Honestly, most of the problems people have with that movie is that it ties into the others, acting as a direct prequel to the very first movie. This movie acts as a direct sequel to that movie, which makes it the second chronological movie in the six-movie-long series, with a third part to begin shooting in fourteen months, which will make this a seven-movie long franchise if you don’t count the two AvP movies.

Confused yet? Don’t be. One of our staffers didn’t see Prometheus and went with me when I saw this, and he seemed to have a good time. I had a good time, and you will, too. Just try to relax your brain a little because this is, like Prometheus, not what you’re expecting from an Alien movie.

“We’re all still going to die. Morituri nolumus mori.”

Whatever that may be. C’mon, guys, given how loose the continuity is and how much these movies change from one installment to the next, you just kinda sit back and accept the movie for what it is. Have some popcorn.

Covenant very much aims to equal the ambition of Prometheus while also taking into account fan backlash – there’s a lot of concessions made that directly address problems that fans had with Prometheus, and some of those are for the better. To illustrate those points, though, we need to talk spoilers. You have been warned. The whole movie is summarized below, so highlight at your own discretion or skip past it to where we talk about the movie without spoiling it:

We cold open in a white room where Peter Weyland is waking up David, an android played by Michael Fassbender and one of the big reasons so many things went wrong in the story of Prometheus – that movie is basically about David being creepy and touching things and here we get to know the beginnings of his dissatisfaction with humanity, as his creator is kind of a tool. Thankfully, they both got ripped apart in Prometheus, so we cut to

A crew of colonists in deep stasis, heading towards a planet that has been researched for them. They are being cared for by a robot named Walter who doesn’t do creepy things but is still played by Michael Fassbender. They’re doing a recharge of the electrical systems when there’s a solar flare that causes that system to be damaged and wakes up some of the crew while also burning one of them to death in his pod as his girlfriend looks on.

The person that died was supposed to be the captain, which puts Oram in charge. He’s not good with people and thinks people don’t like him because he’s religious, which he brings up a few times and doesn’t play into his character arc at all but does play into the themes of the movie, so we’ll let that one go. The crew is full of couples (including a gay couple, which is a nice touch), and dead captain’s surviving partner is Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. She leads a funeral that Oram isn’t onboard with, but he lets it go without comment because he’s not an asshole.

As they’re fixing things they pick up a distant distress signal from… somewhere. They use long-range scanners and find a planet that is much closer than the one they’re supposed to go to that is suitable for human habitation – they could get to this one in a week, and the one they’re supposed to go to is decades away and requires more sleeping in cryo-pods like the one the captain burned to death in, so off they go explore the new world. Daniels objects, but not loudly given that her lover was just turned into BBQ.

Oram and Daniels lead an away team down to the planet and find it full of plants and, strangely, wheat, but no animals. They test for toxins in the atmosphere and find none, so they head out and discover the crashed ship that Shaw and David stole in Prometheus, along with Shaw’s dog tags. There’s no sign of Shaw or David, though. Everything is okay until two people are infected by microscopic spores and hatch white not-xenomorphs that blow up the ship they came down on and nearly kill them all until they are rescued by David.

David leads them to a necropolis that is clearly an alien city (actually one built by and for the Engineers) and David tells them a story about how the Engineers and Shaw both died and it was sad and he is sad. David and Walter have some conversations that are the core and most interesting part of the film that infers questions about the act of creation and what is owed between creator and creation. It’s some interesting stuff that hints at the horrors to come.

David watches as a human gets killed by one of the white not-xenomorphs and tries to communicate with it, but then Oram blows it up and tells David that he is the devil. So David offers to show him something and Oram, instead of shooting him, follows him down into a pit where there are xenomorph eggs and David reveals that he created them. Oram gets face-huggered and out bursts a mini-xenomorph. Oram is dead, a xenomorph is on the loose, and Danny McBride is in charge of the mothership and brings it down for a rescue.

We get Daniels fighting the Xenomorph on a flying ship while David and Walter have a conversation and one of them dies and the winner goes on the ship. Daniels beats the xenomorph but there is another and that one ends up on the ship and kills the whole crew except for Daniels and Danny, who jettison it from an airlock in a tense battle because that is how the first, second, and fourth movies ended and it worked for them.

Daniels and Danny go into their pods and go to sleep, the android on board is revealed to be David, and that’s where the movie ends.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the movie.

First off, this movie is gorgeous. Ridley Scott has some flaws as a director but set design and cinematography have never been among them, and this movie lives up to the high expectations he sets for himself. The ship looks good and practical, the necropolis is fascinating, the ruined Engineer ship is as haunting as you might remember if you saw Prometheus. The score is gorgeous and perfectly sets the mood and compliments the visuals and the direction is spot on.

The writing is also stronger here than it was in Prometheus. Aside from a couple of character moments that are never followed up on – like the replacement captain being a man of faith and that being why he wasn’t fit to be the actual captain – we get the sense that these are people that know and trust one another and that they are professionals. Their deaths are the result of circumstance and panic rather than idiocy, and they feel like experts who have hit a situation they’re not prepared for. It makes the movie more enjoyable when we want the characters to live, and we do here; even Danny McBride brings surprising nuance to his performance, and it makes the movie stronger.

Fassbender is transcendent, playing two understated characters with very different experiences and goals. There are subtleties to each of them that set them apart from one another, small tics in body language that speak about the intelligences that they are. His David is heartbreaking and terrifying, his Walter aloof but sympathetic. The dichotomy of these two characters are what makes this film as good as it is, and their conversations are what allows us to see two very different ways of accepting the role of created and the drive to create.

Likewise, Katherine Waterson is also incredible. Fassbender’s characterization wouldn’t work without her, and if he is the backbone of the movie than she is the movie’s heart. This is entire tale is very much hers to tell, and her sense of loss is palpable throughout, her acceptance of Walter as a surrogate for her lost love heartbreaking in its conclusion. She is smart, agile, and courageous in the way we demand that protagonists in this franchise be. She is a worthy successor to Shaw, but perhaps not to Ripley and it’s painful to type that – this movie, like Prometheus before it, would be a much stronger film without being attached to the Alien franchise.

She is great.

The central question of the film is a good one and justifies the religious subtext and populates the undertones of the movie: where Prometheus was about stealing answers, Covenant is about building relationships with what is created. This trilogy is about David but is told through the eyes of heroines who do not live through their meeting with him; they are the main characters of the chapters they are in with David as the clear antagonist of their story, while he remains the protagonist of the trilogy as a whole. It’s an interesting means of framing a tale about an immortal creation plaguing his creators, all while creating something as monstrous as he perceives his creators to be.

Make no mistake: David’s reliance on human poetry and art to express himself is as defining as his sociopathic outlook on the human race as a whole, and it makes him both pitiable and more monstrous. He is alien in his mindset and outlook simply because he was alienated, and it remains to be seen what final revelation awaits him.

Which is not to say that the movie is perfect: it isn’t.

Like Prometheus before it, Covenant is a highly ambitious but flawed masterpiece.

The promise of the last film was that Shaw was going to find and confront the Engineers that we might learn more about them. David has killed them all sometime between the end of Prometheus and the beginning of this movie, so we learn nothing more about them. The humans that discover this have no time to seek answers to any questions they might have because they are trying to survive the white not-xenomorphs, the actual xenomorphs, and David (two out of three ain’t bad~!). It’s frustrating but understandable – the Engineers were a framing device in the first movie but are of no importance here – but that lack of resolution is irritating.

And, again, David’s creation of the xenomorphs adds nothing to the franchise as a whole and detracts from the mystery of the creatures somewhat. The xenomorphs aren’t scary anymore – we know all about them, what they do and what they’re about, and it’s hard to be afraid of them when we know so much about them. Because of this, the xenomorphs are denigrated from terrifying presence to a simple obstacle to be overcome.

Worse, we know them but the characters don’t, and that drives a wedge between us and the people we should be rooting for. If the characters were informed – if they had a chance to even glance at David’s notes – they might have been able to put up an informed fight and that would make the monsters scary again by showing their intelligence and versatility. The monster that shows an ability to learn is much more terrifying than the one that doesn’t, but they are not the antagonist here: David is. David does learn, David does show his intelligence, and David is terrifying.

Terrifying.

The xenomorphs are nothing more than a tool being used by the true villain in a movie that they are named for.

Aliens: Covenant is not a scary film. It has a couple of jump scares and it flirts with horror, but much less so than even Prometheus did. It will not give you nightmares and I don’t think it was designed to. This is a movie that is about the journey and the questions more than the destination or the answers, a complex exploration of a god’s responsibility disguised as a science fiction film.

It’s likely to be as divisive among Aliens fans as Prometheus was. It adheres to some tropes from the franchise it’s nominally a part of to its detriment, clearly a response to the backlash the first suffered, but that reining in of that ambition gains the film nothing and hobbles the scope of the potential trilogy as a whole. If this had been a new property I get that sense that people – including fans of the franchise – would love it, but as an Aliens movie, it confuses itself as it stumbles along.

All that said? It’s a fun movie and a good way to spend a couple of hours, and the conversations it inspires will be worth the price of admission. Fassbender and Waterson turn in incredible performances and the artbook is going to be a must-have for people that go in for that sort of thing (I am very much one of those people). Definitely worth seeing.

All photo credits are Mark Rogers.

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362

Fiction: My Bad Dream

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

May 13, 2017

Beyond the end of the world, the end of all the worlds, is a place where they all meet. All manner of creatures and beings come here; it is a place of refuge, of shelter from the storm. And there is always a storm somewhere.

Among them, strangely even for this strange place, is a child. A girl of eight or nine in a nightdress, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, the very picture of innocence. One might be worried in this place that she is somehow a trap, a monster hiding, but it is not so. Goldie really is a little girl, but she is a dreamer.

Goldie fell asleep one night. It was a strange falling asleep, but she remembers nothing more about it. Then the terrors began. Night after night, week after week. The teeth in the woods, the house of blood, the gray faces, each more terrible than the last, the nightmares haunted and tormented her. Even in sleep, there was no rest.

But time passed. It always does, even if it moves strangely beyond the veil of worlds. One can eventually get used to anything, and though Goldie really is a little girl, she had been a little girl now for a long, long time. One day, with the teeth snapping at her heels again, she tired of the chase. She sat under a gnarled, blackened tree, picked up one of the fallen branches, and waited.

The snarling and howling stopped the moment she sat, and in short order, intrigued, the nightmare appeared to her, taking the form of a tall, dapper man whose body seemed to be made of black fire.

Why do you not run? it said, the words being remembered without ever being spoken.

“I’m tired.” she replied.

But you are asleep, it said, For years now. How can you be tired?

“Not sleepy,” said she, “Tired. Tired of running. Why do you torment me?”

The nightmare paused. This was something it had never considered. How could it? Do fish wonder why they swim, or flames wonder why they burn?

Finally, it spoke, without speaking: I am your Nightmare, it said.

“Mine?” Goldie asked.

Yours and yours alone, it said, as long as need be.

The girl stood. “You… are mine? You belong to me?”

Confused, the nightmare nodded, for was that not what it said?

Years of darkness change anyone, even someone who really is a little girl, and there in the gloom and the dark Goldie smiled for the first time in years, and ran forward, embracing the burning man who did not really burn.

“You’re MINE!” she said. It was the first time she could remember that anyone or anything was truly hers, even from before the strange sleep began. And the Nightmare, for it was made of her dreams as much as her fears, to its surprise wrapped its burning but not burning arms around her and hugged her back.

This, gentle traveler, is how you may meet the dreamer who has been young for so long in the place beyond the end of the worlds. Beside her always is her traveling companion, her Nightmare, which brings her from dream to dream wherever darkness touches, teaching her now the joy and laughter that lives where light doesn’t reach, for it already taught her everything it could about fear and pain. The nightmare is itself, himself, young in many ways, and does not always understand the places they travel. But it knows two truths that are clad in iron.

Firstly, he is HER Nightmare. Without her, he does not know what he would be, perhaps the nameless dread in the dark again, and it would be awful to go back to that sort of nonperson after finding this richer life.

And secondly, he looks really good in that hat.

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