Jul 25, 2016

Who you gonna call?

I'm gonna talk about Ghostbusters. I've blogged about the franchise before, dedicating a Watch & Learn post to the original, and I made my feelings very clear on the negative reaction to the all-female cast for the new version. I've blogged frequently about the need for women to be the heroes of the story. I've spoken in interviews about how important this movie was going to be.

And then I saw *that* trailer. I won't share it here. It was awful. It made me want to not see the movie at all.

But then I listened to what women were saying after they'd seen the movie. And I got excited.

So this past weekend, my wife and I went to see it. And I felt like a kid again.

Let's get some things out of the way first. The movie had some flaws.

I cringed at the "sassy black woman" cliché, even though Patty, as a whole, is a wonderful character and had my wife's favourite line ("Room full of nightmares..."). This is not a great movie for racial diversity or representation. It's very, very white.

Then there was Bill Murray. Now, most of the original cast got a cameo (including the lovely bust of Harold Ramis at Columbia University, and the surprise appearance of Annie Potts). But Murray got a whole extra scene at the Ghostbusters' HQ. This scene killed the pace and added nothing to the story. It could have (should have) been cut, and literally nothing would have changed for the rest of the movie. Really, it smacked of Murray wanting more screen time, and being granted it because Bill Murray. I've never been a fan of him outside of Ghostbusters, and maybe Scrooged, and this extra scene felt like pure ego-stroking.

So with those issues firmly established, let's look at what's so important about this movie, and why it's so good.

As I watched, I was wary of a trap I've frequently fallen into, whereby I fake enjoying a movie that's actually really bad. I did it with Phantom Menace and Ghostrider. But it turned out that this time, my enjoyment was genuine. So why was I continually checking myself?

It was because I was seeing something I had never seen before.

The dialogue sounded strange. The characters use a lot of techno-jargon. It was all based in actual terminology used for the study of the paranormal, or on jargon from the original. And it was all well-delivered. The reason it sounded strange was because I'd never seen a sci fi action movie where multiple women were playing scientists. I'd never seen women have scientific discussions. How messed up is that?

There was never one mention of body issues or any of the team wanting to look sexy. The team didn't snipe at each other or try to one-up each other. They dressed appropriately for their work. They ate because they were hungry and didn't complain about being on a diet or start comparing their figures. They were there to do scientific research and to help people.

And then, it all went up to 11...

I love fight scenes. I could write for volumes on the meaning and purpose of fight scenes and their role in narrative. This was one of the most stunning and significant fight scenes I have ever witnessed.

No skin-tight or revealing clothing. No moves posed to make the character look sexier. No male character jumping in to save the day.

There is a standard by which most characters are portayed. I like to frame it as "I want to be that" vs "I want to fuck that," with men falling largely into the "I want to be that" category, and women being presented as "I want to fuck that."

In the cinema, I wanted to be Holtzman.

I'm not the only one to feel that this scene was so important, either,

This movie has broken new ground. It was exactly what I'd originally hoped an all-woman Ghostbusters movie would be like. Women, coming together by their own choice, using knowledge and skills only they have, to do good. To save the day, because only they can.

And that's why this movie is so important. That's why it needed to have an all-woman team. I've repeatedly said that diversity, in and of itself, will improve any story. And here is my proof. Imagine this movie with an all-male team, or even mixed gender. Would it have been fun? Sure. But it would not have been so incredibly significant.

The imagery of women saying "this happened to me!" and being disbelieved, torn down on the internet, and expected to happily endure their treatment.

Women faced with men who oppose them, undermine them, insult them, who treat them worse the more they insist on being treated with respect. Men who only allow them to operate untormented for as long as they can go without drawing attention to themselves.

A villain who is the epitome of the reactionary rejected male. Who thinks others have to suffer because he has had a hard time.

And women, standing together to save the world, and each other (power of friendship, yeah!!). Not fretting over boyfriends. Not jealous of one another. Women who got to be heroes wholly, and deservedly, in their own right.

Not only that, but the original Ghostbusters were running a business. They formed the team because they thought catching ghosts would make them rich.

2016's Ghostbusters set out to catch ghosts in order to study them, Their primary goal is research, the pursuit of knowledge. Sorry, boys, but these Ghostbusters are better scientists than the originals!

Can you remember the last major mainstream movie that featured an all-female lead cast?

It was Sex and the City 2, in 2010.

Do you know what challenges those characters faced? A failing libido. Fear that a husband would cheat with someone more attractive. Not getting jewellery as a present. And making it to the airport so they wouldn't have to fly home economy-class.

It's time for that to change.

I used to say that, when it comes to representation in stories, women get to fight each other, and men get to save the world.

This year, women got to save the world. Let's keep that going!

I used to think I wanted my daughters to watch the original Ghostbusters first. But now I'm not so sure. The movie I first saw as a kid was made for me. It taught me things that seven year-old me needed to learn.

My daughters have different things to learn. And this movie is for them. And every other little kid out there.

Light 'em up, ladies

Jul 21, 2016


Today's the day. A little under a month away from my 36th birthday, the IndieGoGo campaign for Blackened Wings has ended, 103% funded. This is enough to pay for my edits and formatting, as well as order the books and tshirts I need for the perks my backers will receive.

I'll be totally honest, when I started this, I wasn't sure I'd reach my goal. That's why I chose the flexible funding option, so I'd at least get something towards the book, in case it didn't reach the minimum goal.

It's interesting looking back at how my books have all been landmarks of certain life milestones.

This IndieGoGo campaign was the first major step in a new positive outlook for me. After life beating me down for a few years, it finally feels like I'm back on my feet. I'm happier, healthier, and excited to bring this new story to the world.

Now, those of you who missed the IndieGoGo, don't worry too much. Lady Raven and Red Skies are available through Amazon, and Blackened Wings will be joining them in October, following its launch at this year's Octocon.

Thank you to all of my backers, this book may not have happened with you!

Time to raise the colours and get ready for Cora Ravenell's next big adventure. Yo ho!

Jul 15, 2016

Health and Fitness

Those of you following me on Twitter and Facebook may have noticed my posts from a mobile app called Zombies, Run! This is part of a set of changes I've been making over the last several weeks to improve my health.

I figure, I'm almost 36. I eat okay - food that's not horribly unhealthy or particularly good for me - and I've mostly walked for about 40 minutes a day, five days a week, as part of my work commute.

But I'm not happy with my body image, and I can't run for more than a few seconds without wheezing at the end. I have a back injury that, as anyone who's hurt their back will know, could flare up at any time. And my tendons are so tight I've managed to strain the ones in my left leg while doing the exercises I needed to ease my back pain.

It's high time I did something more than just reduce my sugar intake and cut out coffee.

I've started exercising. It's a slow build, since I'm very unfit and have to make sure I don't over-work the tendons in my leg or put my back out again. I've majorly changed my diet, replacing my dependence on carbs and sugars with a load more protein.

This isn't about weight loss, so I won't be tracking how many pounds I lose or gain. It's about how I feel in my own skin and how much energy I have. If I'm going to talk and write about what it means to be a warrior and a hero, I have to feel the part.

Wish me luck!

Also, there's less than a week left on the IndieGoGo campaign for Lady Raven Part 3: Blackened Wings. It's fully-funded so I can guarantee that everyone who backs it will receive their perks. Drop over and check out the perk levels. Raise the colours!

Jul 12, 2016

Holding on, and Letting Go

Yesterday was my son’s fifth birthday.

Losing Conor was the single most painful experience my wife and I have been through, and it definitely tested the strength of our relationship.

Every year since Conor was born, we would take his birthday off work and spend the day together, not committing to anything that would put a toll on us. We would pick up a helium-filled balloon from the card shop in Dundrum, and go to the beach in Bray, where we’d talk to Conor and, when we were ready, let the balloon go.

It was a cathartic, but exhausting, process. We’d dread it, a week or two beforehand. Get snappy at each other and at friends. Lose energy. Sleep badly. There is a special kind of discomfort from standing in a shop while the balloon gets filled, the staff naturally assuming you’re off to a kid’s birthday party, smiling as they serve you. The first time I was asked if the balloon was for a boy or a girl, I almost collapsed.

And the beach isn’t exactly a private place for two grieving parents. Your self-consciousness gives way to tears, but it’s yet another weight to bear.

Letting go was the worst; watching the balloon fly away over the sea. It was like saying goodbye to Conor all over again. We’d go home, in silence, spent from crying and holding each other. We’d order takeaway or cook something simple, then watch a movie and try to put ourselves back together for the next day.

Looking back, I think we needed this ritual. Whether due to guilt, or fear, or just wanting something to fill the empty hole where Conor should be. But somewhere along the way, it went from being a way to release the pain and sadness to a way to keep hurting. As If we’d forget Conor if we didn’t do it. It became time to change. To let go of letting Conor go.

This year, we didn’t get a balloon. We will always miss Conor, and want to know what he could have been, but he’s got three little sisters we have to look after, and we’ve got so much ahead of us. So much to be happy for. Conor wouldn’t want us putting ourselves through a painful ritual that had served its purpose. The change in each of us when we made the decision was instant. Weight lifted and we spent the rest of the day feeling more at peace than we have for a long time.

July is always going to be a hard month for us. And Conor’s birthday will always hurt. Only now, we’re letting it hurt a little less.

From now on, we’re holding on. Holding on to all the love and happiness that we have, and all that’s yet to come.