Skulk at @Dublin2019 WorldCon

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Floof Will Out

Dublin 2019 World Con will be full of floof! It even includes a performance by the Fox Spirit Skulk Players!

CON-EIRE

‘ConEIRE’  50 minutes FRIDAY 5:00 PM  –  5:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Play

A love letter to the people who do the thankless work behind the scenes at SFF cons everywhere!

It’s three days before the start of ConEIRE, the best Irish-themed science fiction and fantasy con in the tri-state area, when a phone call sets the entire Convention Committee into panic mode. Is Big Name Writer going to pull out at the last minute? What does Very Famous Artist have to do with that decision? And what do the fairies have to say about all this? Follow the hilarious mishaps as the committee members work desperately to salvage months of planning and hard work, all of which are about to be undone by a well-known prima donna.

But there are skulk members appearing throughout the con:
THURSDAY
Ruins, curses, and family secrets: the Gothic  50 minutes 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
Where does the Gothic fit into the overall horror tradition? What elements of the Gothic remain so compelling today, and why? Panellists discuss the genre from its roots to Southern Gothic and other modern interpretations.
Creating podcasts: ideas, people, and themes  50 minutes THURSDAY 4:00 PM  –  4:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall-1
Panel
FRIDAY
Fleshy fears: horror and the body  50 minutes FRIDAY 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Panel
From body horror to body snatchers to possession and beyond, how has horror explored, exploited, and pushed the limits of bodily integrity? What is the subtext of different approaches to body horror, and what practitioners are exploring these assaults on the flesh in the most interesting ways?
Escape Artists podcast: live recording  50 minutes FRIDAY 1:00 PM  –  1:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Podcast
Come and learn more about free weekly podcast fiction! Join the Escape Artists for an audio fiction show presented by all four EA podcasts: Escape PodPseudoPodPodCastle, and Cast of Wonders. There’ll be a Q&A session, swag giveaways, all the latest news, and live readings.
Why is it always raining in Gotham? Noir themes in SF  50 minutes FRIDAY 9:00 PM  –  9:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Panel
Noir tropes are hugely popular in science fictional settings, such as China Miéville’s The City and the City, or William Gibson’s Neuromancer. In what ways are noir tropes adapted or subverted within the genre? Is there a difference in the ways SF books, comics, and movies use elements of noir? The panel will discuss the uses of noir across SF genres and formats.
SATURDAY
Misconceptions in medieval history  50 minutes SATURDAY 10:00 AM  –  10:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-4
Panel
The medieval period is a rich source of inspiration for writers of speculative fiction, but medieval life has been so romanticised in popular culture that it has become hard to separate the chaff of fiction from the wheat of historical fact. Our panel of medievalists will saddle up their warhorses and ride to rescue the damsel of medieval history!
Revolutions in an era of advanced technology  50 minutes SATURDAY 10:00 AM  –  10:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
How do revolutions (e.g. overthrowing government) occur in an era of advanced technologies? Are orderly regime changes jeopardised with growing asymmetries in weaponry, surveillance, and political power? Are current political processes up to the challenge?
‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know’  SATURDAY 11:30 AM to 12:20 PM (50 minutes) Odeon 6 (Academic) Part of: Crusaders and Fairy Kings
Paper
Susanna Clarke’s sprawling novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell takes in the whole of the 19th century attempt to restore magic to respectability in England. Repeatedly the readers are warned that fairy magic is ‘not respectable’ – most often by Gilbert Norrell, who hides his shame at stooping to its employment on at least one occasion. Why is fairy magic not ‘respectable’? I will argue that it is because it is mostly Celtic, rather than the more dour, respectable, and rather puritanical English magic that Norrell seeks to revive and rule over. In contrast, John Uskglass was trained in fairy magic and his troop, the Raven King’s army, is specifically identified as the Daoine Sidhe. In pursuing the Raven King’s example, Jonathan Strange remains open to this Celtic influence and soon surpasses his teacher in skill and daring, but both Englishmen are unprepared for the full fury of the fairy fight.
Horror: where are we going?  50 minutes SATURDAY 5:00 PM  –  5:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
Whose book is it anyway?  50 minutes SATURDAY 5:30 PM  –  6:20 PM  |  Point Square , Alhambra
Panel
Who decides which YA books get bought? Publishers? Editors? Booksellers? Parents? Or maybe even YA readers? Join us for a thoughtful discussion on marketing and publishing in YA as we look at how YA novels get chosen. Moreover, what are publishers and readers looking for in a book?
SUNDAY
Portrayals of mental health in genre  SUNDAY 50 minutes 12:00 PM  –  12:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Panel

Content warning: may include discussions of suicide and self-harm, mental illness and ableism, eating disorders.

Mental health used well can drive a story, create believable motives for characters and even greater awareness amongst the audience. However, these issues are not always treated sensitively or realistically. This panel will explore examples of mental health issues in genre fiction and consider their implications and accuracy.

‘Ditch Diggers’ podcast: live recording  50 minutes SUNDAY 2:00 PM  –  2:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Podcast
MONDAY
Irish horror and the supernatural  50 minutes 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , ECOCEM Room
Panel
Critic Peter Tremayne observed that: ‘Practically every Irish writer has … explored the genre for the supernatural part of Irish culture.’ Ireland has always held its own in fantastical literature, from Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker to Dorothy Macardle and Elizabeth Bowen. But is there a discernible tradition threaded through their fictions? And what, if anything, makes their writing Irish?
Kaffeeklatsch: Marguerite Kenner 50 minutes MONDAY 12:00 PM  –  12:50 PM  |  CCD , Level 3 Foyer
Kaffeeklatsch
Kaffeeklatsch: Alasdair Stuart  50 minutes MONDAY 1:00 PM  –  1:50 PM  |  CCD , Level 3 Foyer
Kaffeeklatsch
[If we missed something tweet Kate with the details]
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Enjoy on us!

There is loads of FREE content for you to enjoy on our website.

At the moment the front page has a sampler of the opening pages of each of our summer releases. 

You can buy Fearless Genre Warriors for £0.00 in our ebook store and get a substantial collection of short stories from our first few years of publishing. 

We have music! Yes actual properly recorded songs, how many publishers give you that? 

Lots of short stories are published on our free fiction page for you to download and enjoy and there are more in the skulk members area if you ‘join the skulk‘ below.  The members area also gives you discounts in the eshop and other goodies.

There is even a bit of video up all for your enjoyment and all it costs is a few moments of your time.

After all that, there is of course the blog, full of great content from guest posts and Hugo nominee Alasdair Stuart’s ‘Not the Fox News’. 

Indulge. Download the stories to take away and read at leisure. Tell your friends and send them over if they are looking for something new to read. The House of Fox has you covered.

Floof Will Out

Not The Fox News: The Booksmart Chef Maneuver

 

So I’ve checked outside and it’s all still on fire. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s so egregiously and completely on fire that everyone can see it. The countryside is burninated. The peasants are burninated. The thatched roof cottages are going DOWN. It’s just a fact at this point.

That means, like I say, everyone can see it and if everyone can see it that means you don’t have to see it all the time. The single upside to culture-wide multi-quadrant fucktastrophe is ubiquity of observation. You’re not going to miss anything, or miss an opportunity to do some good, by stepping away for a few hours. Or as Mike Doughty puts it….

First off, and miraculously still playing in theatres, Booksmart. Directed by Olivia WIlde (13 from House) from a script by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogekl and Katie Silberman. it stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as Amy and Molly. Amy is recently out, kind of terrified and a straight A student. Molly is class president, a Supreme Court justice in waiting and absolutely prepared to take down anyone or anything that stands in her or her friend’s way. They are brilliant, hard working, relentless and have never partied once. They had more important stuff to do. Until, on the last day of school, Molly discovers the kids who partied got into the same universities they did and makes a solemn vow; they’re going to have fun. By any means necessary. Cue the music.

What follows is this beautifully balanced tango between abject teenage mania and painfully well observed characters. There’s a moment where Amy correctly guesses why Molly is acting a certain way towards another character that will break your heart with its honesty. Likewise, Amy’s catastrophic first kiss is romantic until it turns hilarious until it turns horrifically embarrassing. The movie features the single best written and acted argument I’ve seen this century, as the girls go from light-heartedly messing with each other to absolutely cutting loose. The frantic nature of late stage adolescence is hard coded into every single frame and it’s at times a hard watch but always for the best reasons.

It’s also relentlessly funny. From the opening dance off to the magnificent final few seconds Booksmart is never well behaved, always goes for the best, smartest joke and always surprises you. It’s also littered with excellent cameos, the best of which by far is Billie Lourd as possibly supernatural, definitely massively high partygoer Gigi. Hilariously angry, completely driven and painfully sweet, Booksmart is a modern classic. Miss it at the theatres? Track it down on digital August 20th and blu-ray in early September.. It’s more than worth it.

 

Which brings us nicely to Chef. Written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau it follows chef Carl Casper through the worst, and also best, night of his life. Carl works at a high end Californian restaurant and on the night a big critic comes in, he’s told to ‘play the hits’ rather than experiment. He does. It goes badly. He freaks out. It goes badlier (a word). He freaks out again and he’s fired. Until, with the aid of his ex-wife’s ex-husband, he buys a food truck and rediscovers the simple joy of cooking and of being a father.


On paper it looks sappy as hell but Favreau is a man who never met a piece of dialogue he didn’t love, or a scene he couldn’t frame. From opening to closing, Chef is a love letter to food and what food it is. With technical assistance from Chef Roy Choi (Whose Kogi food truck I have eaten from and remains one of the best meals I have ever had in my life), the techniques and recipes all work. But even more importantly, so does the culture. Carl works constantly, intoxicated and obsessed by food and Favreau, who trained with Choi, shows us everything. The rambunctious, cheerfully foul nature of every kitchen. The strict hierarchies, fierce loyalties and cut throat ambition. All of it stacks up and, brilliantly, evaporates once the truck gets on the road. It may be cramped but you can see Carl breathe out, see Favreau’s burly shoulders droop as his guy rediscovers his love for the game. Given Favreau made Chef after several massive blockbusters, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons between Carl and his creator too.

But the movie really soars in the gentle way it explores Carl’s burgeoning friendship with his ten year old son, Percy. Emjay Anthony is fantastic as a calm, focused kid who wants more and has no problem telling his dad where to get off and he Favreau have great chemistry. The movie also takes the brave step of casting Carl not so much as a bad guy as not a very a good one. He knows he’s a bad father and husband and while he tries to do something about it, there’s always the work, always the food. He and John Leguizamo as best friend Martin are born to that world. Inez, his ex-wife played by Sofia Vergara and girlfriend Molly played by Scarlett Johannsson are far less lucky. Molly in particular exists solely to gaze adoringly at Carl while he makes her lunch and then tell him to go find his bliss.

That element is a hard ask but get past it and Chef is the very best comfort food. Favreau is a great leading man, funny and naturalistic. There’s a wide variety of fun cameos including several familiar Marvel faces. The food looks amazing, the creativity behind it is inspiring and the movie does a lot that’s smart, subtle and kind. Also do eat before seeing it. Or take notes while you are. Chef is available to buy now and honestly, get it. If a really great grilled cheese sandwich (And this movie features the best grilled cheese sandwich in cinema history) was a movie, it would be Chef.

So there you go, a little cinematic comfort food for these trying times. Dig in, trust me it’s worth it.

Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times. As geeks, as people who are alive in the ocean of digital information that 21st century life is, we assemble our armor from what attracts our attention. That top line is from Hamilton by way of Brooklyn Nine Nine. I’m writing this wearing an Autobot symbol t-shirt, on an iPad with a sticker of Hunk from Voltron on the case. Why Hunk? He’s a big, articulate, kind dude who likes cooking. Why the Autobot symbol? Have you met me? All this stuff is intellectual property, and yes all we do when we interact with culture is keep IP’s alive. Go too far with that and you get to the kind of extremism that lives on the outskirts of very dark places. But be aware of the dangers of over-investment and culture becomes the lock pick for the door of life. You understand the world through the culture you use to interact with it. It’s why far left folks in the US default to Harry Potter metaphors. It’s why far right folks in the US invoke Newt Gingrich. It’s al so why the ‘don’t politicize fiction’ argument is just a massive Kaiju of willful idiocy, stomping across he innocent city of modern life. Like the song goes, yes it’s political, everything’s political.

But at the core of any cultural interaction is emotional engagement. Emotional engagement is the fuel that drives story, its what’s makes us care about everything from soap opera to Shakespeare and everything in between. Stories are mirrors. You can’t see what they’re reflecting without truly understanding it and that understanding has, as the price of admission, caring. We laugh at Jon Snow kissing Dani with one eye open and focused on her dragons. We cry as Leia hugs Rey, knowing whatever happens we’ll never see one of them on the big screen again. We prepare the re-hydration salts for Endgame, as an epochal crew of portrayals prepares to take its final bow. We know this will wreck us. We know we’ll learn and be stronger in the broken places. HEMINGWAY understood this for God’s sake. But the exact people who’d carry his boxing gloves for him and drink only Big Ernie approved whiskey seem to have forgotten this lesson. Instead, they listen to this guy.

Don’t do that.

The last few years have unleashed an impressive barrage of awful phrases onto the battered, flaming hulk of the English language. ‘Fake news’ is far and away the worst but ‘snowflake’ is the most insidious and, for me, the most toxic. It’s most commonly used to attack people who’ve dared to express an emotional response to something. Like, for example, not being happy about their rights to exist as humans being debated. Or pointing out demonstrable hate speech on a social media platform run by a sentient beard who thinks you can minmax yoga. It’s a terrible term, a blunt instrument used not just to insult your opponent but insult the very idea of emotional engagement. Linguistically, it’s a nuke. Everyone’s got them and they lay waste to everything around them. Every time it’s used, someone gets pushed further away. It’s a weapon designed to not just mock the idea of emotional engagement but the idea of emotional engagement with others. And what’s one of the biggest ways we engage with others?

Shared cultural joy. Fandom.

Gate-keeping in fandom is, often, what’s for every meal. This particular stripe of it instantly pushes my rage buttons because I’m a cishet notional and have fought the stiff upper lip my whole life. I was tremendously lucky to have awesome parents who weren’t afraid of their own emotional responses. I still took twenty years to realize that my emotions were something I was supposed to release in a healthy fashion as opposed to burying them. I honestly think this is one of the reasons why the default response for so many people is hipster snark. If you laugh at something you push it away from you and you focus your attention, and others, on what it is not how it’s affected you. That’s understandable. I’ve done it myself, more than once and will again.

But it never lasts. And it never should.

Kate Bush once sang just being alive, it can really hurt and she wasn’t lying. Modern life is exhausting and at times like this, when the support structures we rely on are evolving, it can be even more so. At times like these it’s all too easy to fall back on defensive behavior and cover up instead of letting yourself get affected. But affected doesn’t always mean hurt, and covering up just means no one else can see you. Now more than ever, we all deserve to be seen.

So, the stiff upper lip is bullshit. Hipster snark is bullshit. Laughing at other people for their emotional honesty is bullshit. All clear? Great. I’m off to load up on tissues and re-hydration salts before seeing Endgame again. See you next time

Not The Fox News: The Spielberg/Netflix War

 

So, let’s talk about movies. Specifically, let’s talk about the mildly confusing, and somewhat upsetting, news that Steven Spielberg is going to war with Netflix. Spielberg, word is, will lobby the Motion Picture Academy to change the rules covering the theatrical eligibility period for the Oscars. This is apparently in response to Netflix’s growing success at the awards. Spielberg is on record as saying he feels Netflix content is better suited to the Emmys because of how it’s delivered and this seems to be the next escalation of that belief. Like I say, it’s kind of a downer. Like discovering that the cool Uncle who leant you all those great movies thinks the internet is a fad and insists on calling it ‘electronic mail.’ I wanted to find out more about this, especially as the LOUD WORDS!/Content ratio on this story has been way off. Here’s what I dug up.

Spielberg’s point of view first off. He’s a passionate advocate for the movie theater experience. So much so he feels that if a movie isn’t designed to be seen in a theater, it’s not really a movie, hence the TV movie/Netflix/Emmy thing. That informs his argument now, which is that Netflix is essentially gaming or breaking the system by putting Oscar contenders in theaters for minimum runs to ensure their eligibility. And the thing is, he’s right and also wrong. Here’s why.

He’s right because Netflix is playing the system, in the exact way every distributor does but with vast amounts more financial muscle. That breaks down into two sub issues. The first is Netflix movies taking up space other films would notionally have. The second is the sense of Netflix being the millennials at the gate; kicking the doors in, squatting in a movie screen for a week and showing up to the Oscar ceremony in a hoodie. The only one of those problems which actually needs attention paid to it is the first and the rumored proposal would certainly do… something. Apparently, the plan is to extend the minimum eligibility requirement to a month in theaters. It’s not actually going to do anything substantial, because Netflix paid $100 million for another year of streaming Friends the same way you pay for a Freddo. But it’ll cost them money and that’s a line in the sand. Even if a big red N shaped tank is going to roll straight over it.  As for the millennials at the gate, honestly, my one response is ‘Good.’ And to see if there’s a quick release switch.

Spielberg’s right about the theatrical experience too. I love the movies, even taking the eternal gamble of ‘Will the audience be terrible?’ into account. When I was a kid growing up on a tiny rock it was a magical wall that transported me to other places. When I was an adult who hated very nearly everything in his life it was an escape. Now, in my ongoing war against becoming a living deadline homunculus, it’s two hours off from my head. The movie theater is my church. It’s where my hurt gets healed. And the only reason I can manage that is the theater is ten minutes away on foot and costs five pounds a ticket. A lot of people aren’t as lucky. Spielberg doesn’t seem to be able to see past his privilege in that regard, and that’s the first place he’s wrong.

Privilege or idealism also seem to be at the heart of his second mistake. The idea of Netflix movies taking up space that ‘proper’ films deserve more on screens and at awards is a willful refusal to both acknowledge the minimal times they spend in theaters and to see how distribution actually works now. The movie industry, like every industry in this entirely-too-late-capitalist hellscape we drag ourselves over is very VERY broken and distribution is a perfect example of that. Revenues shrink, blockbusters turn a profit so that’s all theaters show and smaller movies get squeezed out long before Netflix drops its designated golden child for the year into a half dozen locations for a week.  In those instances, it seems likely the changes Spielberg is proposing could damage the very movies he’d view as ‘deserving’ those slots more.

But while I don’t agree with it, I can see how, from Spielberg’s point of view, that looks profoundly unfair. Movies not designed for theaters taking up space in theaters. Taking spaces that other voices need and deserve more. Plus, this is just the beginning and if Netflix isn’t curtailed here, how far will it go? It’s a compelling mindset and one that a friend and colleague perfectly summed up by describing Netflix as a Super PAC. Their advertising spend for Roma was massive, possibly unlawful and makes his point. Money talks. Or in this case, screens.

On the plus side, the millennials may be at the gates, but they’ve brought some really cool movies with them. Netflix often enables risky productions to find a home and through that home some serious recognition. Ava DuVernay is a vocal advocate for them and it’s impossible to argue with her points. In particular that the only picture she’s directed that ever received wide international distribution was 13th, and it got that release through Netflix.  She’s not alone either, and the platform has done a great job of baking diversity in at a programming and creative level in projects ranging from Sense8 to 3% and last month’s Oscar winner, Roma. Which, as director Alfonso Cuaron pointed out, would have struggled to find a home anywhere else.

The fact those movies are available at all is a game changer. The fact they’re available in your home is another and the closed captioning that’s available on them is a third. The existence of streaming services does an undeniably vast amount for accessibility in the exact way most theaters simply can’t. Or to put it another way, the theatrical experience loses it’s shine when only one screening has closed captions or is autism friendly. Even outside those concerns, parents have access to streaming libraries and a volume control meaning they can still interact with movies without getting a sitter. And a parking space. And tickets. Time and again it comes down to money, both personal and corporate. Corporate because Spielberg, with some justification, looks at Netflix as paying to play. Personal because sitter, transport and ticket are all costs that renders Spielberg’s beloved theaters from an affordable necessity to an occasional luxury for most of us.

But, to quote Billy Crudup in the best Mission: Impossible movie, it’s complicated. Because while this plays more than a little like cloud shouting on Spielberg’s part, Netflix are far from the wounded innocents they’re being played as here by any means.

First off, they did were a massive part of the death of the DVD rental market. On the one hand, industries evolve. On the other, as a former retail worker myself, that doesn’t make redundancy suck any less. Especially as Netflix’s own DVD rental service is, somehow, still going.

Then there’s the odd way they pay for movies. Or rather, when they pay for movies. Syndication and payment splits between initial costs and box office take are commonplace everywhere but Netflix. Instead of paying up front and then after the fact, they pay more than most up front. The upside to this is if your movie doesn’t perform you’ve still got a payday. The downside is that if your movie performs brilliantly, you’ve…got the same payday. It’s less of a gamble but also less of a jackpot. It’s also worth noting there’s repeated anecdotal evidence that the residuals actors and crew get from Netflix are very, very low. Like freelancer journalist level low.

Not to mention the organizations’ weirdly cagey and almost certainly gamed ratings. And the counter-intuitive gap between Daredevil’s ratings and the decision to cancel itAnd the intimidatingly brilliant figures BirdBox figures were so great people were openly skeptical. Remember, Netflix is a venture capital backed company. That means it’s in their interests to look more valuable than they are. It also means, sometime soon, the people who put the initial money up will want a return and if that return isn’t high enough, things are going to go badly. Because in the end, with venture capital backers, they always do.  As a mildly chilling side note to this, Netflix paid very close attention to what choices people made through Bandersnatch and they aren’t saying how long they’re holding onto the data or why.  All of which means even if Netflix isn’t the bad guy, and on at least two fronts it absolutely is, it certainly understands a lot of the bad guy’s viewpoints and feels we should hear him out.

So, we opened this piece with: Cool Uncle Fights The Internet which is a headline no one wants to read. Here’s what it looks like now:

Cool Uncle Fights What He Thinks Is The Good Fight For The Wrong Reasons Against Morally Bankrupt But Creatively Game Changing Mega-Corporation

It’s not punchy but it’s way more accurate. Discriminating against ‘TV movies’ doesn’t hold weight anymore and hasn’t for this entire century. Netflix isn’t going anywhere even if the Academy shuts it out of the Oscars. More importantly, for Spielberg to focus on this is inherently conservative and backward facing at the exact time when the #metoo and 4% Challenge movements could do so much more with someone like him in their corner. Hell even if he didn’t want to throw his power behind them, the best way to save the theatrical experience he loves so much is to help change the economic model behind movie theaters to reflect the changing way people watch films. Build the future, don’t defend the past. To be clear, I think the fact he wants to protect movie theaters is admirable. But he’s in the wrong field, he’s yelling at the wrong people and he’s facing the wrong way.

Then there’s Netflix. The simple fact they’re a global entertainment mega-corporation should make them basically impossible to back or trust but we live in a world of occasionally slumbering Corporate Kaiju whose tectonic movements affect us like the weather and offer us about the same control so Cultural Stockholm Syndrome is very much a thing. I love a lot of what they do. I hate a lot of how they go about doing it and perhaps if this fight indirectly makes them more honest, that would be a good thing. But I can’t help feeling there are better, more necessary fights for everyone involved. And the time to have them is long overdue.

 

Sources:

IndieWire

Steven Spielberg: The Greatest Contribution a Director Can Make Is the Theatrical Experience

The Spielberg vs. Netflix Battle Could Mean Collateral Damage for Indies at the Oscars

Netflix Fires Back After Academy Backlash and Steven Spielberg’s Push for Oscars Rule Change

Variety

‘Bird Box’ Ratings: Nielsen Backs Up Netflix’s Claims That It’s a Big Hit

Alfonso Cuaron Says ‘Roma’ Is Better in Theaters

Netflix Responds to Steven Spielberg’s Push to Bar It From Oscars

Spielberg to Voice Concerns Over Netflix Oscar Competition at Academy Meeting

Industry Debates Theatrical Distribution vs. Netflix Amid Academy Rule Change Speculation

 

Wikipedia

Freddo the Frog

Political Action Committee

#metoo

 

Others

ASI Conferences

This Is What Steven Spielberg Is Saying About Netflix And The Oscars

Deadline

Den of Geek

EW

 

Forbes

No Film School

The Verge

ScreenRant

 

Launch Day – The PseudoPod Tapes 2 – Approach with Caution

If you are not already familiar with Escape Artists horror podcast you should check it out. The whole Escape Artists podcast family is professionally put together and brings great stories and fabulous narration right to your ears!

For the horror podcast, Alasdair Stuart is the host and this is the second volume of his outro essays, in this case covering 2013.

Alasdair is a gem of genre journalism, as anyone who reads his newsletter The Full Lid, or our own, Not the Fox News will be familiar. He is a veritable geekpedia of knowledge, mixed with a rare openness that makes his writing extremely personal.

We are delighted to welcome the tentacled horrors of PseudoPod and their host back to Fox Spirit.

Ebook is available now from our own store and will be appearing on amazon worldwide as we speak, the print edition will be available from Monday. 

 

Not The Fox News: Batfleck No More

Just under six years ago, I wrote this.

Just under ten hours ago, it was confirmed that the next Batman movie, The Batman, will arrive in 2021 and Ben Affleck will not be the visible chin in the suit.

What a weird six years, that’s somehow only produced three movies he’s actually played the role in, it’s been. I stand by my original column too; Affleck was an excellent choice for the role and one that the studio pretty clearly had absolutely no idea what to do with from the jump off. He was writing, directing and starring in the Batman movie. Then he was starring and writing. Then he was just starring. Now he’s going to be in the audience. In the interim, he turned in a good performance in a film full of occasional brilliance and frequent mystifying stumbles, a visibly weary and yet still weirdly charming turn in a film broken in two by numerous problems at every level and rode on a shiny purple Lamborghini. He deserved better, and after a while, you could kind of see him realizing that. And so did we.

So what now? Or rather who now?

Well, Matt Reeves is a safe pair of hands, that’s a given. I mean, sure, everyone has an Under Siege 2: Dark Territory somewhere but look past that and you’ve got Cloverfield, which is a legit epochal piece of cinema. Hate found footage movies all you want but Cloverfield is never less than visually impressive and changed the grammar of blockbusters in general and monster movies in particular. From there Reeves directed the critically acclaimed remake of Let The Right One In and made the revamped Planet of the Apes trilogy not only his own but a strikingly intelligent, modern and bleak retelling of what could have so easily been a goofy cash in. And he wrote all of them too. Behind the camera is just fine, no worries there.

But in front of the camera, there’s an opportunity. An opportunity to break accepted wisdom and actually do something genuinely new and revolutionary with the character. We know Reeves wants to cast a young Bruce and that the movie is planned as an actual detective story with a large rogue’s gallery as opposed to the yelling nocturnal punch fest that so many other Batman movies end up as.

So here’s how you do it. Or rather, how I’d do it.

David Mazouz

The kid has held Gotham, a series of 42 minute explosions, together for five years. He’s literally grown into the role, on screen and has the exact combination of presence, compassion, gravitas and literal batsarse crazy eyes to sell it. Plus you get instant good will from the Gotham crowd, you reward Mazouz for carrying that show on his back for five years and if we’re really lucky? The greatest version of Alfred Pennyworth ever committed to screen comes with him. ‘Ave iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

Michael B. Jordan

Oh you know this makes sense. Jordan is a fiercely intelligent performer and uses that intelligence in the service of his roles. He’s arguably the lynchpin of Black Panther and his Shakespearean Killmonger is, hands down, the best villain the Marvel movies have had to date. Imagine that intelligence, that focus, put to cleaning up Gotham City.

Then there’s the physical dimension. Jordan’s extraordinary work in the Creed movies shows he’s ridiculously physically capable too. Plus he’s a legit geek so there’s instant good will from the hard to win over members of the audience and his best performances sit absolutely in the sweet spot Reeves seems to want; a young, driven, slightly impulsive Bruce completely focused on his work but perhaps over-extending himself. It’s Creed in a cowl, and Jordan knows that territory very, very well.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 16: Oscar Isaac attends the European Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)

Oscar Isaac

Just let me have this one. I know the age gap probably isn’t big enough and Isaac’s blockbuster dance card is going to be good and full for the next few years anyway. But very few people could be Bruce Wayne better than him. Isaac’s sophisticated without being sleazy, intense without being goggle eyed crazy pants and he can do grounded, mournful decency and swashbuckling charm with equal ease. Often in the same scene. I accept he’s probably out of the range but if we can’t get him as Batman, then surely he’s a Commissioner Gordon in waiting.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 05: Colin Morgan attends the UK Premiere of “Testament of Youth” at Empire Leicester Square on January 5, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Colin Morgan

Morgan’s two best known performances in the UK are as Merlin in Merlin and Leo in Humans. The two roles are a textbook demonstration of his range and why he’d be a good fit for the cowl. Morgan can do seething intensity, emotional damage and comedic awkwardness effortlessly and all of them with a guiding intelligence. Bruce Wayne as a player of games, as a mask worn by Batman is something Morgan could absolutely ace. Plus he looks good in a tux so there’s that.

 

There’s the temptation to complicate matters of course. To fold in other members of the Bat family, to discuss the correct Robin for the occasion that sort of thing. There’s also the compulsory requirement to point out that Batman is arguably one of the most over-exposed characters to hang a movie off if you’re looking to break new ground. He’s a guilt ridden billionaire trauma victim who sublimates his rage and guilt by punching criminals. That’s slightly facetious sure but it’s also a good chunk of the character and I worry that a younger Bruce would mean we’d have to sit through the second most overplayed origin story in comics for the umpteenth time.

That being said, there are interesting things to still do with Batman and a raft of great Bat characters that are screaming out for a movie of their own. The Reeves movie won’t be that, but it is a new start and that’s something the DCEU has begun to see real success with. Wonder Woman was great. Aquaman, book torturing idiot dude bro lead aside, was great. Shazam looks big fun and if it is it’ll triangulate the idea that DC movies work best when they work alone. So bring on the new Bat, whoever he may be. Batfleck’s era is gone, and that’s for the best for everyone, including him. Let’s see who picks up the cowl next and if their luck is any better. It certainly deserves to be.

Not The Fox News: The Good News In The Bad News

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Markus Schreiber/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6975532f)
SJ Clarkson Director SJ Clarkson attends a photo-call for the movie Toast at the International Film Festival Berlinale in Berlin on
Germany Berlinale, Berlin, Germany

SJ Clarkson is about to have a very good year. You don’t know their name, odds are but believe me you’ll have seen some of Clarkson’s work. She’s directed for everything from Life on Mars to The Defenders and is one of the never ending stream of excellent female directors who drive the US TV drama industry along. Clarkson’s work, most notably on the first two episodes of Jessica Jones, is known for being clean, character-centric and elegant. She’s excellent and when it was announced last year she’d be helming Star Trek 4 it was a pleasure to see her get the slot, and to see the franchise’s directorial blinkers finally be lifted It was also confidently announced that Chris Hemsworth would be returning as Kirk’s dad. Most people instantly assumed it was time for the Mirror universe but I figured time travel and some sort of Quantum Leap situation.

Regardless it’s a moot point now as Pine and Hemsworth were caught up in a contract dispute with the studio that ended with them leaving the table. Now, Clarkson has left the project to direct the pilot of the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel and serve as executive producer for the series. Star Trek 4 appears to have been indefinitely shelved as a result.

And that’s brilliant news, for basically everyone, here’s why.

Clarkson first off. I wasn’t kidding about the legions of female directors keeping US TV afloat, there are dozens of them and they’re all brilliant and underappreciated and underpaid. Sandra Oh’s gag at the Golden Globes this year about ‘FIRST MAN!’ being the default choice for directors and a movie about Neil Armstrong is funny, and sad, because its true. So any time someone makes it over the fence, as Clarkson has done here, I’m delighted. GoT: 90210  or whatever the Hell it’s going to be called is the definition of a prestige gig and there must be a ton of confidence in her for her to be put in place. Deservedly so too.

Then there’s Game of Thrones itself. The world’s angriest Ren Fair is the largest TV show on the planet by a considerable margin and, now it has finally overtaken the books, has been having visibly more fun season by season. However, it’s also got a justifiably shitty reputation for how it deals with female staff. And characters for that matter. This is a great breakdown of the show’s massive fondness for ladymurder season by season but weirdly the horrific statistic isn’t the big number, it’s the small one. In the entirety of its run the show has had 3 women on the writing and directing staff.

3.

In 73 episodes.

With none either writing or directing for the final season.

On its own, that’s a hilariously shitty metric. Placed against the show’s cheerful willingness to use rape the way some people use punctuation marks, it’s disgusting. The largest show on Earth has employed three whole entire women in its biggest roles. That’s an unforgivable failure, if absolutely nothing else, of leading by example. But it does give you a starting position to row back from and, seven YEARS LATE, that’s exactly what the production office is starting to do by hiring Clarkson.

(As an aside, Mo Ryan should be your go to for this sort of thing on Twitter. One of the best entertainment journalists on the planet.)

But what of Star Trek? Well, it’s good news for that too.

The Kelvinverse movies get a lot of hate and the vast majority of it is undeserved. The original Star Trek is great, everything in Into Darkness that isn’t Khan being whitewashed is fun and Beyond is a legitimate love letter to the franchise. In fact, Beyond is a perfect capstone for these movies for all sorts of reasons. Also THIS IS STILL THE BEST THING. It gives Kirk the test he’s always needed and ties the present of this universe to the past it shares with the core timeline. It also sets up an ending that’s elegant, could absolutely stand a sequel or two but is in no way incomplete without them. And can stand toe to toe with the ending of The Undiscovered Country and The Voyage Home, where they get the 1701-A and the music swells and I become a human avatar of ugly crying.

But most importantly, bringing the Kelvinverse into land here salutes the cast members who are no longer with us. Don’t get me wrong, part of me would love to see a fourth movie with Jaylah sitting next to Sulu. But the rest of me is quite happy with that role being filled by Anton Yelchin’s instantly likable take on Chekov, off-screen and quietly, enthusiastically immortal.

Besides, Trek’s far more at home on bookshelves and the small screen now.  The astonishing work consistently being done by novelists like James Swallow and Doctor Una McCorrmack has continued to expand the core timeline. Meanwhile, the launch of Discovery last year, the imminent second season as well as the new Picard show and recently announced pair of animated series all speak to a new found dedication to Trek on TV.

Tellingly, the existence of The Orville does the same thing.  While the show is still very Seth MacFarlane’s bad days on its bad days, the rest of it is a fascinating look at established Trek tropes through new lenses. It is to Star Trek what Scrubs is to ER, a profoundly affectionate and respectful riff playing all the right notes, just in a different order. That’s why the the people who cite it as the ‘true Star Trek’ because it doesn’t let politics get in the way mystify me so much. Not just because they’ve presumably never seen Star Trek before but perhapsnot The Orville either. Social issues are at the core of both of them. It’s just sometimes on The Orville, there’s a punchline as well. Regardless, it’s existence and success speaks to the strength of Star Trek as a small screen concept, whether it’s branded as Star Trek or not.

So like I say, this is one of those rare occasions where a project falling through is good news. Clarkson has a great new job, Game of Thrones gets to take the NO GURLS ALOUD notice off the front door of the production office and the Kelvinverse gets the ending it deserves. Plus Trek as a concept gets to grow in new ways. Seek out new life and new civilizations. Perhaps even, boldly go?

Seriously though this is great news all round. Congratulations everyone. Now, who’s working on that Chief Miles O’Brien show? Take your time, I’ll wait. And turn up the beats and the shouting, yeah?

 

When Alasdair Stuart is not hosting PseudoPod and Escape Pod, or running Escape Artists Inc., he’s professionally enthusiastic about genre fiction on the Internet at places like Tor.com, Barnes & Noble, The Guardian, Uncanny Magazine, SciFi Now and MyMBuzz. He’s an ENie-nominated tabletop RPG writer for his work on Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space. His other RPG writing includes Star Trek, The Laundry Files, Primeval, Victoriana, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, N.E.W. and Chill, meaning he’s got a playbook for any variety of invasion you can name.  He also makes ketchup sometimes and can bake the HELL out of focaccia. Read about his ongoing culinary adventures, as well as a whole lot of pop culture enthusiasm in his weekly newsletter, The Full Lid, published every Friday around 5pm.

He lives in the UK with the love of his life and their ever expanding herd of microphones. Follow him on Twitter as @AlasdairStuart, or at his blog, The Man of Words.

Not The Fox News: Turn The Page, Do The Thing

Good news everyone! I’m reliably informed by people in other time zones that 2018 does in fact end! Seriously, folks, the 1st of January 2019 has been confirmed as happening in several other places. It’s okay. It’s okay. This miserable hellscape of a year is about to be gone and the slate is wiped clean, the clock reset to zero.

I want to talk about that and why sometimes it can be frightening.

Like Ford once said, time is an illusion, lunch time doubly so. The end of a year is an entirely arbitrary temporal hinge, a left turn in our passage through linear time that it’s super easy to put a whole lot of unneeded pressure on. It’s why most fitness related new year’s resolutions don’t work, because when it comes down to it it’s only the top of the year for a little bit of time. 2019 only has that New Time smell for so long.

That can put extraordinary pressure on you, and by you, I mean us. But the thing I’m realizing this year is that pressure can be exerted two different ways. If you had a great 2018 part of you may be terrified that 2019 will be worse. If you had a terrible 2018 part of you will be terrified that 2019 will be worse. The House always wins. And the House is a Bastard.

We put ourselves under strain at this time of year even before you take into account the radical life reboots that are already rippling around the globe. Going from late nights back to early mornings if you’ve had time off, the sudden gaping hole in your day where the Quality Street used to be, the total absence of any version of A Christmas Carol. It’s always a little frightening to deal with, you always find yourself shrugging the coat of responsibility back on and wondering if it always had the mittens tied to the cuffs.

(it did. And they look awesome.)

And then you decide to run three times a week, finish a novel, write a novella and plan something else.

Here’s the thing. Do that. But add something else in too.

Downtime.

My partner and I have, between us, somewhere in the region of four jobs. She’s a lawyer, we run the podcasting company together, I’m an RPG designer and journalist, she’s an editor. We fight crime. And it really is, I am a blessed man who will go to his grave astounded at what his life is in the very best of ways.

But the one thing we absolutely stink at is downtime. And today we did something about that. Two nights off a week, one full day of weekend when we aren’t working. I promise you we will break those restrictions but I also promise we won’t do it every time. Because you need downtime and if you don’t take it, your body will take it for you. And I say this at the tail end of my second cold in three weeks, so believe me, I know whereof I hack up phlegm.

The New Year attracts us because it’s a new start. The New Year frightens us because it’s a blank page and the responsibility of what to put on there can bend you in two. Don’t let it. Or at least don’t let it for long. This is a new start. It’s one that’s unique to you and owned by everyone. It’s one arriving at the end of two of the darkest years in recent memory and with more, odds are, on the way. But that isn’t going to stop you and it’s not going to stop me either.

Write the words. Do the thing. Show it to others. Share your joy. Like the lady said, let’s get a shift on. Tomorrow is a new start and tomorrow’s on the way. I’ll see you in there.

 

When Alasdair Stuart is not hosting PseudoPod and Escape Pod, or running Escape Artists Inc., he’s professionally enthusiastic about genre fiction on the Internet at places like Tor.com, Barnes & Noble, The Guardian, Uncanny Magazine, SciFi Now and MyMBuzz. He’s an ENie-nominated tabletop RPG writer for his work on Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space. His other RPG writing includes Star Trek, The Laundry Files, Primeval, Victoriana, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, N.E.W. and Chill, meaning he’s got a playbook for any variety of invasion you can name.  He also makes ketchup sometimes and can bake the HELL out of focaccia. Read about his ongoing culinary adventures, as well as a whole lot of pop culture enthusiasm in his weekly newsletter, The Full Lid, published every Friday around 5pm.

He lives in the UK with the love of his life and their ever expanding herd of microphones. Follow him on Twitter as @AlasdairStuart, or at his blog, The Man of Words.

Not The Fox News: There Is Hope

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope recently. Not just the abstract concept, although it is one of my personal favorites along with ‘biscuits’ and ‘Every Brooklyn Nine-Nine cold open ever’. But rather the fact it’s often overlooked in genre fiction and how powerful it can be when it’s there.

My earliest exposure to serial fiction, and hope in science fiction, was the Sector General series by James White. These were a series of novels, novellas and short stories set aboard the Sector
General station, a neutral medical facility designed to cater for aliens of any biology and scale. The problems, the antagonists, were more often the challenge of getting the patient diagnosed or sedated than anything action related (Although there was occasional punching) and the end result was a series of stories that presented as fundamentally benevolent puzzles. One particularly great instalment involved the logistics of operating on an alien the size of a continent.

I took two things away from the Sector General books. The first was a reaffirmation of my profound respect for every stripe of emergency responder and customer facing profession. My dad was a teacher. My mom was a nurse. I have friends and family in emergency response, the Armed Services and political journalism. All of them put themselves between society and harm for a living. All of them, to misquote A Few Good Men, stand on the wall and tell us nothing bad’s going to happen while they’re there. Or at the very least, nothing else bad.

The second was a fondness for stories that were based around that very concept; hope. It’s intoxicating, especially these days, to look at fiction that has at it’s core a belief in the fundamental goodness of people. And the brilliant, tragic thing about that is that ‘these days’ could apply to any period in the stretch of history that humanity has told stories to itself. The world is always ending but never quite does. And there’s always hope.

There’s no more intellectual demonstration of this than Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Sir Patrick
Stewart’s iconic role in Star Trek: The Next Generation remains the star around which decades of
TV, movies, comics and novels orbit. Picard was, and still is, the anti-Kirk. Intellectual where his
predecessor was instinctive, compassionate where his predecessor was impulsive. A warrior when needed. A diplomat by choice. Plus he could throw Shakespearean truth bombs like no one else.

The thing I always particularly loved about Picard was that he was a team player. The best leaders are the ones who listen, and so much of TNG was about just that; a problem being worked by a room full of brilliant people, some of whom were human, all of whom were fallible. There’s one particular episode where everything has gone VERY pear shaped and Picard’s first response is to stand, pull his jacket down (obvs) and address the bridge in that stentorian, France by way of Sheffield voice:

‘SUGGESTIONS’

An instinctive leader, in a tight situation, trusting his people to know things, and see things, that he doesn’t. I think about that a lot, both as a man and as the co-owner of a company.
And now, Captain (later, Admiral and if I remember correctly, Ambassador) Picard is making a
return. Stewart has confirmed that a mini-series focusing on him is in the works. That’s amazing
news, not just because Stewart is a titan but because Picard is the exact sort of lead that 2018
popular culture desperately needs. Intelligent, measured, calm. Doesn’t own a twitter account.
Yes, this could be a Logan situation where we watch Stewart do ‘Samuel Beckett! In! Spaaaaaace!’
But even if that’s the case the character is still fundamentally hopeful, still concerned in his entirety with the best of people. Still someone with intelligence in one hand and compassion in the other, wielding both not as weapons but as tools. Still an icon of hope.

Which brings us to Ant-Man and the Wasp. The sequel to one of the better versions of White Man
Begins that Marvel had us slog through over the last few years is just ridiculously charming from
the get go. Everything that didn’t work last time has been dialled down, everything that did work
has been dialled up and it feels like the Ant-Man movies have now joined the Captain America and Guardians movies as having a distinctive style all their own.

And, fundamentally, the best thing about Ant-Man and the Wasp is that there isn’t a bad guy,
there’s an antagonist.

Hannah John-Kamen is one of those performers whose work has been effortlessly good from the
jump off. She’s incredible in Killjoys, she’s great in Black Mirror, the cameo she has in Tomb Raider
and basically everything else. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, she plays Ghost, a dimensionally
dislocated thief and assassin. She survived the accident that killed her parents, which in turn
damaged her on the quantum level meaning her cells constantly tear apart and reform. She’s
essentially unlocked at the quantum level, leaving a ghostly image of herself when she moves and able to phase through solid objects. Rescued by SHIELD, and turned into an assassin by what’s implied to be Hydra-controlled SHIELD, she lives in constant agony and the relief for her pain is wound up with the very personal rescue mission that drives the A plot of the movie.

She’s also a chronic pain sufferer, albeit one with a science fictional twist. And the moment it becomes apparent that her condition is directly linked to Hank Pym’s research, the movie becomes two rescue missions, one of which is to save her. No science weirdo left behind, not on this watch.

It’s such a brilliant move that it’s passed a lot of people by. Because to be clear, Ghost is a villain
for a good two thirds of the movie. One of the best action sequences is a knockdown drag out
brawl between her and Wasp where her phasing powers and Wasp’s size control basically mean
one shot in three lands and all of them hurt. One of the others is a chase which basically involves
Scott hurling himself around obstacles with acrobatic abandon while Ghost methodically walks
through them. She’s always a threat, but when that threat is contextualised she becomes
something greater, rarer and infinitely more interesting; someone with immense power, in need of immense help. A spy who brought in from the quantum cold by the offer of the one thing no one can resist;
Hope.

There are other examples too. Margaret Stohl’s extraordinary, brave deep dive into the abusive
past of Captain Marvel. The rise of the 20 minute explainer as a program in its own right instead of a news segment. Culture, on every front, in every way is starting to rise to meet the hellscape of the late 10’s with the best possible tool to solve the problem; knowledge and through that, yet
again, hope.

And it needs to. 2018 is a dumpster fire of increasingly 20116ian proportion. But there have been
2016s and 2018s before. The world is always ending, but it never quite does and, like The Crystal Method said, there is hope. And right now, there’s more than there was at the top of the year. That’s not a large victory by any means but you know what? It’s a damn good start.