Authors Behaving badly: Baycon edition

For those of you who don’t know what BayCon is, it’s a sci-fi fantasy convention held in the San Francisco Bay Area that is mainly focused on writing and writers. There’s also gaming and other fun things, but the panels tend to center on more literary topics. Every year, they have a writer Guest of Honor, and this year it was David Brin.

Full disclosure: I was not at BayCon this year, and in fact haven’t been for the past couple of years. The con had a change of venue, and I really didn’t like where they ended up. So, I can’t speak from first-hand experience about what happened this weekend, but an account is going around from people who were there.

Apparently, David Brin is well-known in sci-fi and fantasy circles for being a racist, misogynistic asshole, and these qualities were on full display in a panel which he was moderating. You can read about it in more detail in this Facebook post from one of the attendees.

I find it baffling in the extreme that authors who work in a genre that features stories of inclusion and explores social issues can be the exact opposite as a person. And yet, we see it time and again at cons: a big-name author is invited to speak and makes a significant portion of the attendees feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I think we all need to take the responsibility to call out this behavior when we see it, and we should all stand up for those who feel unsafe in the environment created by these types of people.

We’re supposed to be better than this. Let’s work to do so.

Outlander Season Three Episode Three: “All Debts Paid”

Welcome to our recap of Season 3 of Outlander!  This season is based on the novel Voyager, a beefy book that follows the storylines of both Claire and Jamie, separated by two centuries.  It’s early days in the season, and we’re still going through the process of finding out exactly what Claire and Jamie have been up to over the course of twenty years.  So far, we’ve seen Claire decide to follow her dream of attending medical school, and we’ve seen Jamie sacrificing his freedom for his family after hiding in a cave for six years.  Tonight, we can both rejoice and grieve—rejoice at two characters that we’ve all wanted to see, and grieve for the final exit of someone we’ve come to know and love.

The past two weeks we’ve started with Claire’s storyline, but I think this week we’ll reverse that, as there are some massive events in Claire’s life that deserve a little drama in their telling.

Somewhere in Scotland is Ardsmuir Prison, a bleak posting that is thought of as a punishment post for the officers unlucky enough to be stationed there.  Arriving at this inauspicious place is one of the series’ most anticipated characters: Lord John Grey, who has come to take up the post of Governor of the prison.  Colonel Quarrie, whom Lord John will replace, is all too happy to flee to parts more civilized, and he warns John that his only society will be his officers… and one prisoner.  Red Jamie Fraser is at Ardsmuir, kept in irons, and the other Jacobite prisoners treat him as their chief, calling him Mac Dubh.  John doesn’t like that suggestion, and if you paid attention to the “Previously on” segment of the show, you remember that Jamie spared John’s life at Carryarrick, for which John, perversely, hasn’t forgiven him.

Still, John seems to realize the value of cultivating Jamie’s acquaintance and asks to speak to him.  Jamie is obviously wary of him, and doesn’t seem to recognize John.  Their first conversation is brief, although John does get a bit of an earful about the rats in the cells and how the prisoners will eat them if they catch them.  In the aforementioned cells is the most welcome sight imaginable: Murtagh!!!  CRANKY OTTER LIVES!!!  Okay, he’s a bit the worse for wear, with a nasty cough and a festering rat bite on his wrist (anybody else think he’s going to replace Duncan Innes later down the line?) but still, he’s alive!  And I am a happy recapper.

Later, a British patrol comes across a man walking alone across the moor, muttering about cursed gold.  Immediately thinking of the Frenchman’s gold—the fortune that King Louis of France was supposed to have sent to Charles Stuart—they swoop down on the poor guy and spirit him off to the prison.  Lord John, realizing that he needs help to translate the man’s hodgepodge of English, French, and Gaelic, asks for Jamie’s help.  Jamie initially refuses, but John promises to strike off his irons if he helps.  All he wants is a true and accurate telling of what the man (Duncan Kerr) says, and Jamie’s silence on the matter.  Jamie wants John’s help in treating the prisoners who are sick, but when John protests that he hasn’t the resources to do so, Jamie asks him to help one in specific: Murtagh.  Duncan Kerr is near death, babbling about selkies and Jamie’s mother Ellen, but it’s his mention of a white witch that gets Jamie’s attention.  Duncan dies without giving Jamie any real information, but Jamie becomes determined to find out if the “white witch” is Claire, and the next day, he escapes while the prisoners are being marched out to cut peat.

John is, as you can imagine, less than pleased with this development, but searches diligently for the rogue Highlander.  As John is leading the search, Jamie pops up behind him (how can a guy that big move so quietly?) and reveals that he knows who John is.  And he wants John to honor his promise to kill him.  John won’t kill an unarmed prisoner, though, leaving Jamie reluctantly in possession of his life.  Jamie does explain to John why he ran, and John begins to see how lost Jamie feels without his wife.  The two men begin to bond over dinners and games of chess, and eventually, Jamie talks about Claire with John.  In return, John tells Jamie about the loss of his dear friend on the battlefield at Culloden, with the clear intimation that they were more than friends.  John tries to console Jamie by putting a hand over his, but almost unconsciously strokes Jamie’s hand with his thumb, causing Jamie to shut down and threaten to kill John.

The pair still haven’t reconciled their friendship when Ardsmuir is closed and the prisoners set to be transported to America and into fourteen years of indentured servitude.  Jamie, however, seems bound for a different fate, as John ropes him to his saddle and sets off across the countryside with him.  He’s gotten Jamie’s indenture transferred to a landowner at a place called Helwater—the best he could do to give Jamie his freedom.  When Jamie questions him, saying “I didn’t give you what you wanted”, John expresses his regret for that moment, and says he wanted to discharge his debt to Jamie.  The pair proceed to Helwater.

Off to the 1950s we go!  Claire and Frank are having breakfast together—a proper English breakfast, prompted by Brianna having asked for Eggo toaster waffles.  Over the meal, Claire suggests that she and Frank see a movie that night, which he’s willing to do, but he admits to having seen the two that she’s suggesting.  Claire is taken aback, but a comment from Frank explains things to the viewers: Frank and Claire have agreed to lead separate lives, which includes seeing other people.  He has promised to be discreet, for the sake of her and Brianna, but he is obviously seeking companionship elsewhere.  This is actually a fairly neat and tidy way to resolve the contradiction of the book version of Frank, whom the author says can’t be proved to have cheated but whom we are told (by Claire, who may not be the most reliable narrator in this regard) that he had definitely had affairs.  It also keeps the essence of the book version of Frank while making him more likeable to those who have only seen the show.  After all, if Claire cooked up the idea of letting him see other women, he’s not quite the cad he might otherwise have seemed.  Okay, book nerdishness off now.

A few years later, Claire and Joe have gotten their medical degrees and they’re having a graduation party at Claire and Frank’s house.  Frank is a bit concerned about their dinner reservations, having misremembered them as being at six, when in fact they’re at seven.  His nerves are explained when a young woman rings their doorbell and is visibly shocked to see Claire, who answers the door.  Claire covers her anger by suggesting that the party go to the restaurant early.  But you know this is a fight that won’t be put off forever.  In fact, as soon as Frank gets home, Claire confronts him.  How dare he bring a woman to the house where their daughter lives?  Even if she was just picking him up, Claire feels that Frank is throwing his affair in her face, and on the night of her graduation.  Frank admits that he might just have wanted to hurt her, to make her feel what he’s felt for so long.  But when Claire tells him to file for divorce, he refuses, afraid that he’ll lose his connection with Brianna.

1966 rolls around, and Brianna graduates from high school.  That night, Frank confronts Claire with his request for a divorce.  Brianna is eighteen now, and Frank has been offered a job in Cambridge—and he hopes Bree will go to England with him.  For good.  Claire accuses him of waiting for the clock to run out to make his escape, but he pleads with her to understand that he wants to live what life he can while he can.  He asks her if she could have forgotten Jamie with time, if Brianna hadn’t been a living reminder.  She replies “That amount of time doesn’t exist.”  Frank grabs his car keys and leaves the house, leaving Claire briefly alone before being called to the hospital for a surgery.

Later that evening, as Claire comforts the husband of the woman she just operated on, Joe approaches her with a shocked look.  It’s Frank, he says.  He’s been in a car accident.  Claire runs out to the ER, only to find Frank lying dead on a gurney.  Now that it’s too late, Claire is finally able to admit that she did love Frank, and that he was her first love.  She kisses him goodbye, visibly pulls herself together, and walks out.

And thus exits a great character and a wonderful actor.  Tobias, we’ll miss you and we hope that you return in a flashback or two.  Next week, we return to 1968 as Claire, Brianna, and Roger search for evidence of Jamie’s continued survival through history.



Game of Thrones Episode Seven: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Welcome to our weekly recap of Game of Thrones, the show that makes you scream obscenities at your television. We’re well beyond the books and no one knows what’s going to happen, although as you might imagine, there are as many theories as there are characters in the series—and that’s not a small number. This season promises to be epic—winter has come, the dragon queen has returned home, and the stage seems set for one last, monumental war…

I know up above I said that this show makes you curse at the screen, but tonight, at least in parts, I was screaming with excitement.  Lots of things have finally come together, some things are unraveling, and dear God, I’m not sure I can recap this in any coherent fashion.  I’ve been involved with this story since the first book came out, and here we are seeing the culmination of so many storylines.  Help…

Okay, here we go.  The big climate summit at King’s Landing goes off on schedule, with Dany making a dramatic entrance on Drogo.  Once again, just like with the Traveling Therapy Group last episode, there are characters meeting up and chatting–Tyrion and Podrick, Tyrion and Bronn, Brienne and Jaime, and even the Hound and the Mountain do the sibling glare for a couple of minutes.  But nothing tops this tension-filled discussion of the Great War.  Tyrion tries to start everybody out politely, only to be immediately interrupted by Euron, threatening to kill Yara if Theon doesn’t bugger off.  A semblance of order is eventually restored, and the Hound brings in a crate full of WTF.  He kicks it over and the wight goes straight for Cersei, who actually displays a facial expression as the Hound pulls the wight up just short of her face.  Jon demonstrates how to kill the thing with fire and dragonglass, and Qyburn looks like he can think of no better pastime than dissecting one of these freaky things.  Euron does what he wanted Theon to do and buggers off to the Iron Islands, reasoning that if wights can’t swim, he’ll just wait things out.

However, even though Cersei now believes in the wights, she has no intention of helping unless Jon agrees to be neutral.  He could lie at this point, but instead he tells the truth: he’s pledged to Dany.  Cersei flounces off in a huff, with Brienne catching Jaime and begging him to talk to her.  But that’s not the important conversation that we’re about to see.  That honor goes to Tyrion realizing that his only option is to go and talk to Cersei himself.  He walks into the lioness’s den, and the conversation initially goes about as well as you’d think.  Cersei nearly orders the Mountain to kill Tyrion, but can’t bring herself to kill a family member–the thing she is most angry at Tyrion for.  She’s more concerned with saving her family than anything else, and Tyrion clues in to the fact that she’s pregnant.

Back in the dragonpit, Dany and Jon are having a chat about Jon’s inability to lie, when Tyrion comes back, followed by Cersei.  She pledges to send her armies to help fight the army of the dead, and everybody begins to think that maybe the world isn’t screwed after all.  But wait… Jaime finds that Cersei was lying all along.  Euron didn’t abandon them–he’s off to Essos to bring back the Golden Company (including elephants!) and Cersei has no intention of committing her armies to a losing battle.  Jaime’s attempts to reason with her come to nothing, but almost get him killed by the Mountain too.  But in the end, he leaves Cersei behind, leaving King’s Landing as snow begins to fall.  Winter has come to the South.

Back at Dragonstone, plans are moving on apace to get their armies moving North, and Jon and Dany decide to sail North together, to show everyone that they’re united.  Theon, who’s had little to do this season but get his ass kicked, has a heart to heart with Jon, who forgives him for what he can.  Theon races off to save his sister, but runs up against the contempt of the Iron Islands sailors.  He and the leader have a seemingly one-sided fight, with Theon getting his ass handed to him, until the other guy tries to knee him in the balls… and nothing happens.  Theon actually smiles at this, and turns the ass-kicking back on his opponent.  Off they go to save Yara.

Back up at Winterfell, Littlefinger is continuing his quest to drive a wedge between Sansa and Arya.  He tells Sansa about a little game he plays, in which he thinks of the worst reason for someone to do and say what they do, and then see how well their actions and words fit that reason.  Sansa realizes that the worst thing that Arya might want to do is kill her and become Lady of Winterfell.  So now what does Sansa do?  After a lot of thought, she calls Arya to the Great Hall.  Arya faces Sansa calmly, asking her if she really wants to go through with what’s coming, and Sansa does.  She pronounces charges of murder and treason, and then asks “How do you plead… Lord Baelish?”  And I have never screamed so loud at a TV show in my life.  Littlefinger tries desperately to weasel his way out of what’s coming, even dropping to his knees to beg, but all for nothing.  Apparently the Stark siblings have been gathering evidence with Bran’s neat new abilities, and they know all of his secrets, all of the ways he turned the Starks against each other.  Sansa pronounces him guilty, and Arya slits his throat with Catspaw–his own dagger.  He collapses and dies as the siblings watch silently.

Later, Samwell arrives at Winterfell and goes to see Bran.  The conversation that ensues is the biggest bombshell of this series.  Bran knows that Jon wasn’t Ned’s bastard, but instead he’s Lyanna Stark’s son.  But it’s Samwell who provides the crucial piece of information–proving that was listening to Gilly after all!–that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married.  Bran immediately wargs off to check this intel, and sure enough, we see the pair getting married.  And we finally, finally, get Jon Snow’s real name: Aegon Targaryen, the rightfully born ruler of the Iron Throne.  Robert’s Rebellion was founded on a lie.  None of these terrible events need to have happened.

Meanwhile, on a boat, Jon goes to Dany’s cabin and the next thing we know, the two are having a passionate love scene.  Interspersed with this is the aforementioned revelation of Jon’s parentage, which we viewers all know means that Jon is screwing his aunt.  We’re not sure how to feel about this, but we’re still kind of rooting for these two crazy kids.

But none of this may matter in the end, because at Eastwatch, the army of the dead has finally arrived.  The Night King swoops in on Viserion, and the dragon breathes what looks to be cold fire.  The Wall, which has stood for eight thousand years, crumbles.  The army of the dead enters Westeros.

And that’s our season!  At this point, all I can think is that the showrunners better not make us wait two years to finish the story, or all the fans may riot.  But at least this season has been immensely satisfying, bringing many characters together and resolving some long-standing questions.  I’m looking forward to what comes next.  Thanks for reading!



American Gods Episode Eight: “Come to Jesus”

Welcome to our recap of the STARZ television series American Gods, starring Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle.  I’m going to try to do this every week, so we’ll see how that goes.  I plan on doing a general recap first, and then commentary and whatever I happen to notice in the episode that piques my interest.  Needless to say, there will be spoilers for both the novel and the TV show.  So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

The episode opens with Mr. Nancy sewing new suits for Shadow and Wednesday and insisting on telling them a story while he does so.  In his tale, we learn the backstory of Bilquis, the love goddess from the first episode of the season.  We see her as a powerful priestess in 864 BCE before jumping forward to Tehran in 1979.  Bilquis spends time at a disco, but soldiers of the Ayatollah crash in and disrupt the gathering.  Fleeing to America, Bilquis finds herself coming face to face with the AIDS epidemic before we see her in 2013, homeless.  She’s found by Technical Boy, who does her a favor by showing her a dating app called Sheba, which allows her to find victims.

Wednesday and Shadow go to Kentucky to visit Ostara, also known as Easter.  They arrive in the middle of her Easter Sunday party, complete with multiple versions of Jesus.  Wednesday makes a pitch to her to join them, and she initially refuses, but Wednesday’s lie about the New Gods killing Vulcan gets her to listening more closely.

Laura and Mad Sweeney show up next, and although Sweeney asks Easter to resurrect Laura, Easter can’t.  She tells Laura that a god killed her, and that’s not something that can be interfered with.  Enraged, Laura forces Sweeney to admit that Wednesday is the one who had her sacrificed so that Shadow would have nothing left when Wednesday made his offer.

The New Gods finally arrive, led by Media dressed as Judy Garland in Easter Parade.  She also offers Easter a partnership, which Easter declines, but Media reminds her that it was she who kept Easter alive in people’s minds as a commercial holiday.  Wednesday steps in to question why the New Gods are there if he, Wednesday, no longer matters.  Both Technical Boy and Mr. World arrive to assert that Wednesday is old news, and that the New Gods only need to wait until the Old Gods fade away.  Don’t start a war, Mr. World advises.  But Wednesday strikes at them with a lightning bolt that kills all of Mr. World’s minions.

Turning to Shadow, Wednesday asks if he has faith.  When Shadow asks who he really is, Wednesday finally reveals his true identity: Odin, the Allfather of Norse mythology.  Then he demands that Easter–Ostara–show her true powers.  Ostara responds by taking back Spring, and Wednesday says that humans can have it back when they pray for it.  Mr. World reluctantly acknowledges that they are at war.  And Laura and Shadow are finally reunited.

Meanwhile, Bilquis is heading to Wisconsin, to the House on the Rock, at the behest of the New Gods, who want to use her as a weapon against Wednesday and Shadow.


Although ostensibly the main thrust of this episode is the start of the war and Odin’s revealing his real nature, this hour was mostly about the power of the women.  Not only that, but it’s about the way men take power away from women when they feel threatened by it.  Mr. Nancy sums it up when he says “And there’s no end to the cruelty of men threatened by a powerful woman”.  Bilquis is forced to flee a regime that relegates women to second-class citizens, and she ends up in one that is fearful of all sexuality because of AIDS.  Easter has had to cede her day to Jesus, and she has to pretend that the skewed versions of her old rituals are enough to sustain her.  Even Laura is merely a pawn that Wednesday removes from the board to get what he wants.

The chess analogy is actually a good one.  In chess, the queen is the most powerful piece in the game, moving the most freely and potentially doing the most damage.  For all three women, their power to move freely and control the game being played around them has been hampered, but we’ve seen them coming back into their own, to the point that Mr. Nancy and Wednesday both acknowledge that both sides will need a queen.

Let’s turn now to the Jesuses, or Jesi, as the showrunners call them.  According to them, there are fourteen different versions of Jesus wandering around Easter’s party.  The characters have mentioned a time or two that there can be multiple versions of a god in existence at the same time, but this is the first time that we’ve really seen it.  Of course, this makes me wonder about the other gods we’ve seen so far.  Is there a different version of Media wandering around, or Vulcan (which would mean he’s not dead after all)?  This opens up quite the can of worms.  But back to Jesus.  It’s the one called (in the credits) Jesus Prime who talks to Shadow about faith, and maybe it’s his words that get Shadow to the place where he can finally believe.  I wonder if this is because, of all the gods we’ve seen, Jesus is the most compassionate and provides a stark contrast to the violent tactics he’s seen from Wednesday and Sweeney and their ilk.

But also, it’s hard not to see Odin’s big reveal and not believe.  That was a heck of a sequence, and it also underscores the “multiple versions of gods” idea–Odin says that he has “as many titles as there are ways to die”.  That makes me wonder if you can create a “new version” of a god by naming it something else.  The fact that Odin kept his name so close to his chest for so long, and the fact that he called Easter “Ostara” when she unleashed her power, suggests that names are extremely powerful.  And that has some interesting implications for our man Shadow, doesn’t it?  He’s still dreaming of the bone orchard and the buffalo, and we have no clue what that means yet.

And speaking of Shadow, the showrunners really need to give him more occasions to smile.  Thinking back, we’ve only seen him smile in early flashbacks of him and Laura in “Git Gone”.  That smile is too adorable to hide!  And how cute is it that Shadow loves Easter (the holiday), and turns into a blushing boy when Easter the goddess pays attention to him?

So now we’re left with questions about next season.  What is Bilquis’s goal at the House on the Rock?  What other gods will be drawn into this conflict?  Will we continue to see more backstory for characters such as Laura and Sweeney?  What portions of the book will be included?  The showrunners found a good stopping point here, but we all know there’s more to explore.

And that’s it for season one!  Thanks for reading, and I’ll see about doing this again for season two.  All pics, as usual, screencapped by me.