What is your favorite current superhero show?

TV MonitorSuperheroes are everywhere on television these days–ABC, CW, FOX, and Netflix all have superhero shows. By my count, there are eight currently running, four based on D.C. comics and four on Marvel ones, with more in the works.

 

 

Which of the following is your favorite?

  • Agent Carter
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Arrow
  • Daredevil
  • Flash
  • Gotham
  • Jessica Jones
  • Legends of Tomorrow

Tell us which one and why in comments!

BAM! BIFF! Favorite super-powered novels!!!

Superhero SpeedsterI’m putting together a list of recommended super hero novels, both for myself and to use in my day job as a librarian doing readers advisory. So, what are your favorites in the genre? Which book would you give to a reader new to super hero fiction, or a comic book or movie fan looking for a print fix? Tell me in comments and I’ll feature your picks in an upcoming blog post!

The Empowered: Weed

The first novel in my new super hero fantasy series, The Empowered is Weed, due out this November. Here’s the current back cover blurb for the novel:

Jolene Brandt is an Empowered,  one of a rare few people possessing superhuman abilities. She also went to prison as a rebellious 16 year old when the government took down the Empowered gang she was in. Now, at 21, she’s out on parole and has vowed to take care of her ailing grandmother and orphaned sisters.

But it’s not easy.  Her parole won’t let her use her power over plants, and her attitude won’t let her hold down a job — at least not the kind of job open to parolees.  Still, she’s trying.  But when local thugs use her sisters to try to get to her, Jo’s anger takes over, and she unleashes her power.  With deadly effect.

Now she’s in trouble.  It’s go back to prison for life or work for secretive international organization known as Support.   Her mission?  Join the most notorious Empowered criminal group in the world, and stop a psychotic villain’s plot which threatens thousands of lives, including her own family’s.

But can she control herself and her power?  Or will it destroy her?”

Tell me what you think in comments!

Super-Powered TV Roll Call!

Super heroes are everywhere these days. Disney rules the multiplex with movies based Marvel Comics franchises such as The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man and others, and other Marvel licensed properties such as The X-Men and Spiderman regularly appear on the big screen. DC Comics Batman was done right by Christopher Nolan in his Dark Knight trilogy, though the Man of Steel has had a harder time of it since Christopher Reeve way back in the day.

DC and Marvel are both seeing great success on television, my favorite place to get a super-powered fix right now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in its third season on ABC. It was rocky going for me at first, but at the midpoint of the first season the series took off when it tied in with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Suddenly S.H.I.E.L.D was decimated and the survivors scrambling against a resurgent HYDRA. Sudden twists and reveals are this series’ hallmark, and the writers spring them on us regularly, and yet each time I’m surprised, because each twist and reversal/reveal are set up with great head fakes.

Agent Carter, also on ABC, is a delight to watch—love the post-World War II setting and seeing our hero battle bad guys and male chauvinism in fine fashion. Very glad it’s back for another go around.

Arrow and The Flash, both on CW, are like night and day. Arrow was the first of the new super hero shows we started watching back in 2013, with the compelling backstory story line in LOST flashback fashion counterpointing the present day main story in each episode. It’s dark, filled with martial arts and of course arrows, and has gone from the lone anti-hero “Arrow” to Oliver Queen now “the Green Arrow,” mask at all, at the center of a loose team including (*spoilers*) his sister, his former lover, and several others.

The Flash on the other hand is the classic optimistic super hero, with young Barry Allen battling the villain of the week as he learns what it means and what it takes to be a super hero with super speed. His love life, like his career, has it’s challenges, but he stays optimistic (most of the time), which is a big part of the show’s charm for me.

Gotham, Fox Network’s offering, is the pre-Batman saga of crime and corruption in Gotham City, with Jim Gordon battling bad guys and crazy ex-girl friends. Its as much a story of the rise of Gotham’s villains, like the Penguin (my favorite villain in the show), the Riddler, and others. Gotham has a cinematic look, a big cast, great camera work and staging, and larger than life melodrama galore. In fact, it borders on b*tshit crazy at times, which fits the show. It’s dark, but in a more gleefully crazied fashion than Arrow. Plus it has cynical Harvey Bullock, Jim Gordon’s partner, to add some sarcastic wit to the goings-on.

Then there’s Netflix’s first two of it’s Marvel shows: Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Both take place in Hell’s Kitchen post the first Avengers movie, both are superbly staged, written and acted. I loved the both, and did the best I could to binge watch them. Jessica Jones is my favorite, but both are excellent.

I don’t watch CBS’s new Supergirl show, though I’ve heard good things about it

I’m looking forward to CW’s newest show, Legends of Tomorrow, the first true super hero team saga on television today. It premieres tonight, and should be great fun.

In short, there’s plenty of super-powered fun to go around in 2016!

Excerpt from Special Corrections assessment regarding Empowered inmate Jolene Brandt

Special Corrections

Special Corrections

In last week’s interview Jolene Brandt talked about what it means to be one of the Empowered. But, come on, is it really like that? She has a special gift, a talent, and she could be one of the elite, ensuring humanity’s safety, worshiped even by many, and yet, she chose first to be a criminal, and now, just wants to prove herself.

Who is Brandt fooling? Being able to spur plant growth—possibilities there are huge, if only she could see them, but she’s blind, thinking only of staying out of prison, and how her power landed her behind bars for five years. Her choices led her to prison, not her power. It is not her power’s fault she was orphaned at a young age, it’s her fault for letting her anger at being orphaned drive her to crime.

“No man is an island,” the poet John Donne once wrote, but Brandt acts like one, refusing to consider the greater good. She only cares about her guilt over leaving her family in the lurch when she went to prison, and on staying out of prison once she’s released.

Her shortsightedness is almost beyond belief. Imagine how much good she could accomplish if she’d work with the authorities, rather than against them.

The average person looks up to the Empowered, even venerates the Empowered as divine. James Golden and the others first empowered during the War merit such a view—they put humanity before themselves. Golden and the First Empowereds helped repair our world, and their legacy brought humanity to heights undreamed of. Brandt refuses to acknowledge this truth.

She says powers are a magic trick, ignoring their Divine Provence, proving the selfishness curled around her shriveled soul.

Brandt could be a member of the Hero Council, she could have walked in the sunlight, honored, praised, adored even, for acts of heroism, but instead she is in prison, wanting to start over, and sees her power as shackles, because she is blind to the greater truth that the gift of such a power is a heaven sent opportunity to be a hero, serve others, and uphold law and order. Brandt has become the enemy from which the Empowered of the Hero Council protect the rest of humanity. Huge resources have been spent keeping her and other Empowered criminals locked up, monitored, guarded, housed, and fed. Even greater resources have been spent imbuing devices with the ability to dampen their powers while incarcerated.

She has the chance to live outside once more, almost all of her fellow Empowered convicts will be housed and guarded at state’s expense for the rest of their lives.

The question is, if Brandt is granted parole, will she be able to resist the pull of crime, and will she be able to let go of her stubborn clinging to her past, and be a useful instrument for the state?

Jolene–The Empowered

Blooming Thistle

Weeds survive.

Jolene Brandt is an empowered human, and the hero of my new series, The Empowered. Today she talks about the Empowered, magic, and what possessing such a “gift” means.

* * * * *

Powers are gifts from God. Powers make you a god. Powers are magic, and defy analysis. Take your pick.

People hate it when you try to reconcile the magical with reason. It doesn’t work. It wasn’t always this with. Grandmother Ruth told me about a time when you needed to know the reasons, when scientists weren’t just a flavor of engineers, but were getting at the mechanisms beneath reality. Now it’s all about the magic being real, and worshiping the few of us which are empowered. Easy times for some of us with the Power. Rock stars have nothing on those super stars.

They used to call me Weed back in the old days, back when I was an idiot teenage girl who thought she was on top of the world because of her power, because of what I could do. I could control plants–okay, weeds. I could accelerate their growth, push them to be bigger, nastier, and use them, kill them if I needed, conjure them when I wanted. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to send me to prison, Special Corrections.

I got mixed up with the Church of the Insight. We used to battle the New Olympians and Heaven’s Soldiers. We were idiots, and I was the biggest idiot of all. We all had stupid names in the Cult of the Rebel. At least the Scourge had better names. The Hero Council, now there’s a name that speaks to Americans, and because Golden was an American, it stuck. I think the British, the Chinese, the Kenyans might have picked something different.

Then there’s the magic trick no one sees, which is the best kind of trick at all, because, like all magic tricks, it’s about distraction. You don’t see the thing the right hand is doing because the left is doing something flashy.

In the absence of reason, Grandmother said once, religion takes hold. I shivered when I heard this. I was twelve, and about to come into my Power, I hadn’t become a rebellious teenager yet, and I worried for Ruth. That kind of talk could get her in trouble. Her father had been a preacher, and she must have been pushing back against that. She’d had the chip on her shoulder for a long time, before the New Schism hit faith. New religions arose. Old ones had to rethink things. Not all, some adapted without change, and some acted like nothing had changed. Those withered and died.

Then there were those that denounced the Empowered, called them spawn of the devil. Religious terrorists killing followers and even an Empowered—Melinda Jacks back in 1968, killed by some holy roller, and now the Holy Rollers are just one of a number of terrorists in the name of God. The Assassins for the True Faith are another.

But when you have Enchanters, Empowered who can enchant, imbue, craft, forge, call it what you will, weapons, tools, and items as an alternative to simple science based technology, well, the sky’s the limit.

At the same time, International Law and the Second Geneva Convention mandated how the Empowered were to act, and to treat others, and in term, be treated. Taking an agnostic stance as to divine origins, the Second Geneva Convention stated that Empowered had a moral duty to larger humanity. The Tokyo Protocols extended that duty to Empowered Others.

We’d managed as a world to reach the 21st century more or less in tact, but plenty of tatters along the way. Grandmother says her grandparents wouldn’t have recognized the world, but some of that is simply being in the future.

I was born into this world, so it’s normal to me, but normal isn’t always right, in fact, it’s often wrong once you see what is really going on.

What is really going on is that the Empowered and the rest of Humanity are both controlling each other. Yes, the Empowered in the Hero Council have special privileges, but the rest of humanity benefits from the Crafted creations, and the sense that the Gods walk among us. The Conventions and the Protocols restrict what the Empowered can do, which is why breaking them can send you to Special Corrections for life. I only avoided that fate because I was under seventeen when I was convicted, so I had the chance to parole at twenty one. If I’d been fifteen I could have go to Educational Detention or whatever they are calling it now, and had the chance to get out at eighteen. My conviction hit at sixteen. It was confusing to sixteen year old me. I was still underage, but the Convention said sixteen was old enough to be responsible for actions, but since like all sixteen year olds my neural wiring was still in progress I was cut slack. I wasn’t automatically convicted for life, I had a chance at parole at twenty one, if I behaved while in prison. Excuse me, “Special Corrections.” An odd name since most convicted Empowered were lifers, but the Convention made allowances for saving souls.

Some Empowered are located before they turn criminals and get enrolled in the Creche program, but others, like me, slip through the cracks, and some of us turn bad. Like I did.

Now my sisters were slipping through the cracks. They weren’t Empowered, thank God. Twins, if they had been, or if one had been, we’d have known by now. They were sixteen

Our parents were dead, so it was left to Grandmother Ruth to take care of us. Our father’s mother. Mom’s mom was also dead.

Lots of dead going around. Someone once said in the long run we are all dead, but many of us wind up dead in the short run, too.

I’m rambling, I’m sorry, I do that when I’m worked up. And I’m worked up now.

Some favorites from 2015

A few of my favorites from this year.

My favorite science fiction novel read this year: Andy Weir’s The Martian. Chockfull of humanity as an astronaut stranded on Mars must find the means to survive in the face of overwhelming odds and a very harsh environment.

My favorite urban fantasy novel read this year: Justice Calling by Annie Bellet. A fine start to her Twenty-sided Sorceress series. Lots of humor and emotion packed into a quick read, and a great voice.

My favorite mystery read this year: Faithful Place by Tana French. The third in her Dublin Murder squad series, this one features Frank, a cynical, hardbitten undercover cop who is confronted with the chance to solve the central mystery of his own life.

My favorite writing book: Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants, a fantastic look at how to outline your fiction. Highly recommended. Runner up: Susan Kaye Quinn’s For Love or Money, a great book that examines the spectrum of writing motivation—from purely for the love to writing for money.

My favorite film: Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer tasked with working a trade with the Soviets for captured U-2 pilot Gary Powers. A very compelling story from a screenplay cowritten by the Coen Brothers, and directed with a very deft hand by cinema master Steven Spielberg.

My favorite science fiction film: The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s excellent novel.

My favorite new television series: Jessica Jones, just edging out sister show Daredevil. Both were terrific adaptations of Marvel characters, but Jessica Jones’s treatment of dealing with trauma, guilt and anger in the context of super powers was terrific. Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle saw some superb world building, but the main storyline was a bit meandering.

My favorite ongoing series: This is a tough one, since I love shows as diverse as Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Agents of Shield, Big Bang Theory,etc. Tough call, but I have to go with The Flash, which continued to soar with its idealistic young hero.

My favorite play: Tina Connolly and Matt Haynes’s gripping BOX, a young adult science fiction play, originally performed as a three night serial last winter, and then again in altered form as a single night play. Minimalist stage only showcased superb acting and the very well written play.

My favorite trip: I went on several great trips this year, but visiting Disneyland in November during the 60th Anniversary celebration was my favorite. I have been to the Magic Kingdom three times before, all during the 1990s, but this time was special. We were there for three days, and the atmosphere was truly magical.

My favorite convention: Three-way tie– Sasquan and our local OryCon were both highly enjoyable science fiction conventions, while Gamestorm, held in Vancouver each March, is a fun-filled four day gaming convention.

Speaking of gaming my favorite board game: Didn’t play as many as last year, but certainly Isle of Skye as well as the older Stoneage were excellent. Codenames is a very fun and fast playing espionage themed word game, and Glass Road, which we played at Gamestorm, was quite fun.

My favorite video game: Only started playing video games again in the fall, just in time for Yoshi’s Woolly World, a fantastically enjoyable platformer, with a mellow mode and incredible high definition graphics.

My favorite party: The Halloween Costume party at my friend and fellow writer’s group member Wendy Wagner’s, right before we left for Disneyland.

My favorite meal: Christmas breakfast. LeAnn baked incredible cinnamon rolls from an Alton Brown recipe, so very tasty.

Absent Santa

tinsel-314750_1280A few years ago 10Flash Quarterly planned a Christmas theme issue. I had sold them three stories at that point, and wanted to come up with a Christmas story for the theme. An idea came to me, a Christmas story aboard an alien starship. I worked on it for a few weeks, including on the flight to Ireland, but I couldn’t make it work, having a devil of time coming up with an ending. So, I shelved it.

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving. Every Day Fiction sent me a message, requesting a story for their December invitational, a special issue they were running because their submission server had been offline for a month. It was a very short deadline.

I had had six stories published with them, the last, “The Fez Shackle,” in March 2014, which had gone on to be read on Tina Connolly’s wonderful Toasted Cake podcast. Of course I would try and come up with something in the next few days. I played with a couple of ideas, but kept returning to that Christmas story I had never finished. I reread it, and saw how to end it. Funny, I struggled with the story a few years earlier, and now the ending was right there in front of me.

“Absent Santa” is now up at Every Day Fiction. I’m happy to see it there.

 

The Force Awakens

For the first time in a very long time, we saw a movie opening night, in fact, the night before the opening, what the theaters called a preview screening. That movie was of course The Force Awakens.

I am a Star Wars fan from way back. I originally saw A New Hope the Friday evening after it opened back in May, 1977. My whole family, all six of us, drove to the Westgate Theater in Beaverton, Oregon, a few miles from where we lived. I didn’t know what to expect–I’d seen the advertisment in the  Sunday Oregonian a few days earlier, but that was it. The opening crawl started up and my heart began beating faster. A star field came on screen, followed by panning down to a planet, which filled the screen. A star ship roared past above it, followed by a colossal star destroyer and the movie was off and running. I was thrilled. The story, a classic hero’s journey, the special effects, quite

I went back the following Friday with my younger brother and watched it again, and it held up so well. I saw it a third time later that summer, and over the years, I’ve seen it dozens of times. My girlfriend and I stood in line for The Empire Strikes Back three years later with a friend, and again three years later, when we saw Return of the Jedi,  only my girlfriend was now my wife. The middle trilogy of what was said to eventually be nine movies had ended on a high note.

Time passed. Lots of time passed.

I’ll skip over the hugely hyped and largely disappointing prequels, which became more disappointing the more time passed after 2005. When Disney bought Lucasfilms and Star Wars and I learned that the the third trilogy would finally happen, I was excited. Not worried like some friends–hopeful.

Cut to last Thursday. We had tickets to a private preview screening of The Force Awakens, arranged by a friend months ago with the local Cinetopia. We arrived at the theater amid heavy rainfall, to find the friend there with his remote controlled R2-D2 droid. Our small theater had seventy odd excited Star Wars fans, and the crowd erupted in cheers and applause when the open crawl began.

Just like that, we were home again. No spoilers in this post, so I’ll just finish by saying we went back to see The Force Awakens again today, one week after seeing the preview screening.

If you are a Star Wars fan, and you haven’t seen it already, give yourself a Christmas present and see TFA.

 

 

Jessica Jones is urban fantasy

Okay, Jessica Jones is definitely a super hero show.

It is set in the Marvel universe, specifically the same post-incident Hell’s Kitchen as its sister show, Daredevil, the NYC dealing with the aftermath of the alien invasion depicted in the first Avengers film.

Jessica possess super strength, allowing her to bend steel bars, leap far enough that it’s a limited form of very short flying, etc. She heals faster than a normal person. She possesses one other super power as a result of her back story—see at the end of this post*. SPOILER WARNING.) Her friend Luke Cage has essentially unbreakable skin, while her antagonist, the sinister Kilgrave, can control minds.

So, we have a small group of super powered characters. It’s also set in the modern day, in Manhattan no less, where many Marvel super hero tales take place.

At the same time, Jessica Jones is urban fantasy. Sure, there are no vampires, werewolves, trolls, etc.

But consider:

Jessica is a detective with a special power, dealing with crimes perpetrated by a villain with a paranormal power. She’s aided, in part, by a friend who also possesses a paranormal ability.

Like much urban fantasy, Jessica Jones is noir in tone, dealing with traumatic events and their aftermath, and magic of a sorts, both hidden and public. The relationships are central—Jess’s best friend Trish, an adopted sister; her neighbor Malcolm, who turns out to be something entirely different than the pathetic addict he first appears to be; bartender and lover Luke, who, like Jessica, “is one of them”; Jessica’s client Hope; her lawyer employer Hogarth; Hogarth’s soon to be ex, and so on.

Jessica is part of a community of people, yet she is an outsider, like so many urban fantasy heroes. Her story runs in multiple roles-private eye, former victim, best friend, would-be lover, crusader, antagonist to others (namely Hogarth, who is played perfectly by Carrie Ann Moss).

Her outsider status is key. Urban fantasy heroes are often apart, even when they are part of a community like Harry Dresden and so many others. Jessica doesn’t fit in, and she knows it.

Also like much urban fantasy, there is horror at the heart of Jessica’s story, a darkness she must face if she is to survive and grow into the hero she can be. She discovers a power she didn’t know she possessed, as she struggles to first escape, then confront, the paranormal villain who threatens both her freedom, and the people in her life, and eventually the larger world around her.

Jessica Jones is street-level, gritty, dealing with the underbelly of the modern world and hidden dangers. Again, like many other urban fantasy stories.

Yes, Season 1 of Jessica Jones is a super hero story, a street-level super hero story, but its also an urban fantasy. Two genres I love that go great together.

 

 

 

SPOILER WARNING

*Jessica’s immunity to Kilgrave’s mind control is a crucial power.