December has kept me on my toes. Lots of writing, a few deadlines, some beta reading and even venturing out into the cold.
Nige’s Christmas present was a little early – a visit to see Star Wars accompanies by a full symphony orchestra in Leeds. Seeing Star Wars: A New Hope on the big screen, even with the dodgy additional CGI, was exceptional. It reminded me of what I loved about the franchise. Throw in incredible musical accompaniment and it was just superb. A smashing night was had. We also managed to see Aquaman, more on that below.
We’ve been seeing a lot more of Mars than usual, which has been wonderful. Inspiring and incredible. The kind of news we need.
I completed a good solid draft of Codename True Blue. It’s a touch shorter than I thought, but I’m really happy with how the idea came together. Miles away from the original, but still ending up well. I’m in a good place to start 2019.
I got through a good number of books in December, from the short story anthology by Joe Hill Strange Weather, to the wonderful Rosewater by Tade Thompson. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was a very dark read while The City of Brass was an enjoyable dip into mythology.
I’m a big DC Comics fan. I grew up on them. So while I enjoy the MCU and it’s generally good fun, DC films mean a lot more to me because I’ve read about these people. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Zatanna, John Constantine, even Swamp Thing, they all have a place in my heart.
Arthur Curry? Not so much. There have been the odd attempts at reboots, but I just never got into him. So the fact that this film has changed Aquaman from the Robot Chicken loser we all loved to laugh at to this is incredible figure.
The story hammers through the obligatory origins by mostly making it about his parents a human dad and an Atlantean queen mum before shunting Arthurs backstory to flashbacks. It’s then a film about Atlantean society and their deep horror at miscegenation. (Cue the Lovecraft books dotted around in early shots).
There are a huge amount of insulting ‘half-breed’ versus ‘pureblood’ comments and as someone who has heard them (or worse) the fact that this is a film about how Arthurs ‘mongrel’ background makes me exceptionally happy. That background is the only reason he can heal the rifts in the undersea kingdom.
This didn’t feel like an accident (which a bit of checking on Twitter proved to be true) and it elevated this campy, fun, silly superhero film a whole other level.
It’s a fun film with a very obvious plot you can figure out easily. That said the obligatory reluctant hero is slightly better than the Marvel staple here, we already know he doesn’t mind hero-ing (thanks to Justice League), so instead Arthur isn’t interested in being king of a place he wasn’t raised and doesn’t understand. (Someone tell Daenerys this, please.) It’s very action-heavy, which is normally a negative strike for me, but it was so nicely made, I enjoyed them. (Excluding the obligatory super CGI end battle most superhero films do now.)
I liked Amber Heard as Mera. She had the thankless task of helping someone who didn’t care about her society and she sacrifices everything to help him. It would have been nice for her to be the ruler; smarter, actually socialised as Atlantean, and wants the job, but the actual reason Aquaman gets the job is far less annoying than the first Ant-Man film weak reasoning. I hope she has a royal marriage to actually control the country and Arthur. Dolph Lindgren as Mera’s dad was a nice surprise and actually had a wonderful moment or two.
The weakest part for me was Patrick Wilson as his scheming brother Orm who once more was exceptionally bland. I don’t know him well, but I remember him from Watchmen where he was also exceptionally bland.
There are some nice extra characters, his dad is played wonderfully by Temuera Morrison and I was happy to see Ludi Lin (hidden under evil makeup), and Michael Beach as Manta’s father.
It’s also incredibly pretty. From Mera’s jellyfish dress to the sweeping ocean depths, it’s gorgeous. Beautiful use of space and light and dark.
And no spoilers, but it was great to finally see how Arthur’s talking to fish might be a useful skill.
I also saw the new Coen Brothers Netflix film, The Ballard of Buster Scruggs. The film is an anthology of six stories spread across the Wild West. It’s a very pretty film with incredibly beautiful cinematography and a lovely score. It’s a Coen Brother’s film, you can imagine the wonderful stories that slip between farce to pathos.
But what I most noticed, especially after Red Dead Redemption 2, is the lack of women at all or any people of colour, especially Native Americans. While the film does buck a lot of Western movie stereotypes the two biggest culprits still remain. Native Americans are heartless ‘savages’ and women barely exist.
Forty-five minutes in a sex worker offers her services. That’s the first time I noticed a woman speak. Similarly, for Native characters, they only appear onscreen twice and have no meaningful dialogue. They are mentioned a lot though, mostly as bogeymen the other characters fear. They’re never allowed to be people.
If they catch you, it won’t be so good. After they take off every stitch of your clothes and have their way with you, they’ll stretch you out with a rawhide, and then they’ll drive a stake through the middle of your body into the ground, and then they’ll do some other things. And we can’t have that.
I’m too deep into an interactive more nuanced take of that era with more black, Mexican, Chinese people etc, so it feels as though this is a film that hasn’t progressed past the shortcomings of its roots into anything new.
I was very excited for Patriot Act by Hassan Minhaj and I was right to be. It’s a smart show, contemporary politics mixed in with desi commentary and a US-centric, but still valid, worldview. It’s obviously not got a long shelf life, but it’s so good.
Similarly, Vir Das has a new Netflix special Losing It. It’s a little more personal than his 2017 special, but he keeps pushing humour into many topics that aren’t talked about with the community such as health and poverty and masculinity.
It’s so good to see so much desi content available. We’ve gone from one or two names to at least ten famous desi actors/comedians now.
I’m still knee-deep in Red Dead Redemption. I still think it’s a masterpiece of a game. I wanted to talk more about it but it’s too soon. It’s a long game and not everyone has finished.
End of the Year 2018
I’m very pleased with 2018. I announced the sale of Goddess of the North to Reuts in January.
My story Samsara came out in Not So Stories in April. I’m incredibly proud of it and how many lovely reviewers related to it and named it their favourite story. The idea that we’re colonising a little back ourselves was important to me and it was nice to see Hasan Minhaj saying the same thing.
Tan, America is becoming South Asian. Yoga, meditation, chai tea at Starbucks, us.
I judged an award. It was really fun to read all of the works and discuss their merits. It’s something I’d like to do again.
I started officially mentoring someone for SFWA! They began a programme and I realised I might be able to help. I have a lovely mentee who is incredibly talented and will be wowing the world with more of their writing into 2019.
I attended Eastercon and met up with some of my Clarion West buddies as well as meeting new authors. It’s a good con & I’m hoping to attend again in 2019.
As for representation, 2018 has been a good year. Sacred Games was Netflix’s first Indian original series and it was great. I need more of these, please. Mowgli. Well, it wasn’t as awful as the Disney live action and had more than one desi actor. The Indian Detective was a delight. Doctor Who being set in Sheffield and having Yasmin Khan. Riz in Venom, Rami as Freddie, Karan Soni in Deadpool 2, everyone in The Magicians, plus so much more. Let’s hope next year continues this trend.
There has been great media in general, from the fifty-three books I read this year, to programmes such as The Expanse and Killing Eve, Dirty Computer from Janelle Monae with Tessa Thompson (who also wowed me in Annihilation, Sorry to Bother You and Westworld.)
I’ll talk more about goals in January, (when I figure some out). On to 2019!