Open Thread: White and Green

My camera just got back from being repaired.  This is a good thing, but --as you might imagine-- before that could happen it first had to be elsewhere being repaired.   Have a picture from a day less than a month ago.

I debated with myself whether the "and Green" was justified.  There's a lot of green in the image, for sure, but most of it is background green.  There's relatively little foreground green.


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies and shows, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are the current ones:
   ● Game of Thrones
   ● Avengers: Endgame
   ● Captain Marvel


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: I Am Dragon

I Am Dragon

Ok, we're gonna try this again. A reminder that these live tweets go up on my patreon so for the low price of $1-2 dollars a month, you need never miss one!!

I AM DRAGON is a great title, let's try this one. "In the midst of her wedding, Princess Miroslava is kidnapped by a dragon and carried away into his castle on a remote island. Now the only things Mira has are a stone cage and a mysterious young man named Arman but who is he and what is he doing on that island? Miroslava will know the truth too late: loving a dragon will reveal the bitter truth." I mean, I guess the title and the description give the twist away, but that NAME.

"What's your name?"
"Uhh, Arman. I'm a man. Unrelated to my human name."

Open Thread: More Purple

Have I mentioned that it always seems to be difficult to get pictures of purple things to look like, color-wise, the purple things they're pictures of?  Because it does.

Sorry for the lack of open thread last week.


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies and shows, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are the current ones:
   ● Game of Thrones
   ● Avengers: Endgame
   ● Captain Marvel


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Dragonphoenix

The Dragonphoenix Chronicles

Ok, that last movie was serious and sad, and I want something awful to laugh at. Let's try again. I feel we can't go wrong with DRAGONPHOENIX CHRONICLES, which I was certain we've seen based on the name but I don't recognize the description??

"In an Age of Darkness, the mighty Dragonphoenix Empire rules the World of Elebros with an iron fist. Dragar, a mighty warrior from the North, is a slave, taking part in brutal pit fights for the pleasure of the Empire's noblemen. His body is there, but his mind is back at his homeland and the wife he left behind."

I want to know what kind of over compensation is going on with "Dragonphoenix Empire". Either that, or it's a war of the roses thing where everything was fixed by marrying the two sides together. Dragon+Phoenix. ANYWAY, shut up Ana you ungrateful cow and just watch the pretty sparkle show, amirite, here we goooooo.

Film Corner: Ember Days

Who is ready for some football? Wait, I'm being informed that I do not have football. I do have terrible Amazon Prime movies, though. EMBER DAYS: The fallen angel Azazel has come to Earth at the behest of the Winter Faerie Queen and formed an alliance with the Greek god Hermes. Together they seek to resurrect Azazel's demigod children, the Nephilim, whose existence would destroy the world.

There's...a lot there, but I guess my first question is why Hermes would want the world destroyed. Hermes loves the world, it's where all the interesting stuff happens. This was recommended by Amazon because of all my dragon movies, so I'm assuming there's a dragon somewhere in this mess.

We open with a narrator who is trying to sound like Galadriel from FELLOWSHIP but it's just not working. A woman in a halter top and a wispy skirt walks in slow motion; she kinda looks like she wanted to dress up for the Ren Faire but just had to go with what was in her closet.

What the actual fuck. I am truly at a loss to describe this costuming. Also, I'm pretty sure this guy wandering through the woods has a GUN. Not sure Ren Faire chick's sword is going to do much against that. Like. Help me here.

It's like a white woman with bright green braids and a white man wearing a maroon dress shirt, a vest with orange flames, lace up black leather boots, and a flared tiered duster coat. He also has glasses and, I THINK, a flower face-painted on his cheek??

I'd call the white woman's braids appropriation except that I think they're just ragged strips of fabric from Joann's Fabric that she taped to her head????

I DON'T KNOW. I'm most messed up by the inartful daisy painted on Solemn Guy's face. It's like he let his daughter practice face painting on him before he went out to hunt demons, and if that's actually the case, that's kind of charming.

Ok, yeah, that's definitely a gun. And he's wearing LEATHER PANTS in a sweaty humid forest, he must smell like death. Someone needs to gif that bit from GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE where the one bad guy scolds the other bad guy for wearing leather to the jungle.

They're being hunted by another white woman with some kind of bright red bird headdress that's probably supposed to be Indigenous appropriation but again it's so bizarrely UGLY that it's baffling on exciting new levels. Like?????? It's like a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonation collided at full speed with ""edgy"" Indigenous appropriation and also too many belts. Also, she's wielding some kind of automatic rifle.

Anyway, she shot Green Braids and Fire Vest dead, so I guess they weren't important. If the face painted daisy goes unexplained for the rest of the movie, it'll be the disappointment of the century. She's also apparently a vampire or a demon or something????? She has unnaturally sharp teeth and an inhuman victory bellow.

Hermes is a consumptive goth boy wearing one of those button-up black shirts with embroidered angel wings that the really douchey country music stars like to wear. He's talking to a snek who didn't ask to be in this shitty movie. Snek looks sad, as though she instinctively knows a shitty movie is filming her even now. Hermes is trying his best to gamely soldier through his dialog but it reads like something a fifteen year old wrote during a mandatory pep rally in the gym.

The important thing, I guess, is Yahweh blasted Azazel's kids. Hermes is sympathetic and points out that the Olympians didn't put up with that shit from THEIR oppressors the Titans, like he's trading friendly tips between pantheons. I'm lying on the floor gasping. Azazel just straight up says that it doesn't really make sense that Hermes would be all Team Apocalypse and Hermes just says he has really strong feelings about free will and being an independent rebel and I'm just gonna assume Yahweh was judgy about Hermes' guyliner.

We're only 5 minutes in and I have to lie down, I'm actually overcome by the exquisite badness of this movie. I'm informed God Awful Movies did a brilliant podcast on this movie, begging the question of whether Amazon recommended this movie to me BECAUSE they know it's bad.

@yoboseiyo. a lot of ravers wear those. fake locks made of tubing or yarn or other fibre. the colors usually glow in blacklight.

So she's dressed for a rave and he's dressed for a combination Woodstock reunion and Dresden LARP. And Hermes is still a goth cowboy talking to a snek who committed NO CRIME worthy of being in this movie. Ok, I'm up and looking for food to place in my human mouth. Hermes has changed into a sensible black tee and jeans (and, ok, a leather jacket) so he can carry the snake portentously down a railroad track. That's DANGEROUS, Hermes. Feral LARPers challenge him.

Hermes is like, if I wasn't friends with the Winter Queen would I have this sweet press-on tattoo, but the point is moot because she teleports in to vouch for him.

I played Richard III. There were five curtain calls. I was an actor once, dammit. Now look at me.

The faerie queen tells her people that never has there been a face more full of truth than Hermes', and I honestly can't tell if she's trolling him or if the 15 year old screenwriter didn't get Hermes' whole thing.

I love how in good acting, like GOOD OMENS, it's foreshadowing when one character WALKS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY from before, but here I'm wondering if I'm supposed to notice when Hermes contradicts what he said literally one sentence ago.

"I am the gods' messenger" I...n o? Hermes is the patron of travelers and mail, and ok, yes, he's used as the messenger in myths where the author didn't want to break Iris out of her original packaging (using her reduces the resale value on ebay) but- ok look whatever we'll just move on. Iris did not invent the queer rainbow to be disrespected by a drama major in a country music shirt, ok. That's all I'm saying. Ok.

@AlexandraErin. Story where the Messenger of the Gods and the God of Messengers keep getting each other's mail and can't figure out whose fault it is.

"Ensuring the survival of the immortals is a mighty task" is a sentence that was written down, and then read, rather than thrown in a fire. "Whispering seductively" is a caption employed at the good snek, and I'm very glad that the actors clearly CARE about the good snek. I feel confident she was given many good snack. I'm just straight up assuming that Hermes' actor owns the snek because he seems to know how to hold her properly. Also, I'm VERY grateful to the internet for helping me not be afraid of pet sneks anymore.

I.....think the Winter Queen kills a human Black man in order for Azazel the fallen angel to take up residence in the vacated corpse and while I am always extremely delighted to see non-white actors in fantasy movies, that is NOT how I would've introduced him.

Ren Faire girl is back and once again spouting nonsense which I will just quote at you.

"They are the satyr.
The faerie folk of the forest.
The ancient warriors.
The earth worshippers."


Ren Faire girl is Hecate and she's got a side-faun and I need to lie down again. Like, LOOK, I approve of Hecate having whatever she wants but this is like K Stew falling for a damp dishcloth. Girl, love yourself and aim higher. "[Hermes] is not the only one who finds our love objectionable." AH, I SEE YOU HAVE ANTICIPATED MY REACTION, MOVIE.

Hermes is against gods fucking non-gods? Just as a general principle??? Why even use Olympians if you're going to change everything??? Just make up new gods!! Because women can't be friends, the Girl Satyr hates that Hecate is fucking one of the boys. Because nothing says free spirited, passion ruled, love worshipper like petty judgmental bitch.

We....we seem to be on a Shakespearean set in an entirely different play now? Oh, this is the Summer court of faeries. The Summer Queen is somehow blending a Jersey accent with a British one.
The Winter court just busted into this basement and I think we're gonna have a West Side Story dance battle. *snaps fingers* Azazel killed the Summer Knight with his bare hands, so I guess the Winter Queen is in charge now. ....Hermes shot the Summer Queen with a gun. I guess just to be sure. Ok then.

Machine guns are being used by the winter court to gun down the summer court while the Winter Queen dances in front of the bullets and while I know all that may sound cool, I wish to assure you it lands more squarely on "what." I feel I should point out that all the satyrs are white kids with, like, dreadlocks and box braids, so we're still going strong on the cultural appropriation front.

Hecate's faun is possessed while Hecate GODDESS OF SECRETS AND MAGIC helplessly goes "what's wrong what's happening" the whole time. He's been possessed by "Shemihazya, Fallen One" which I had to look up, so we're scraping pretty deep on the mythology here. Shemi wants to stop Azazel and the resurrection of the Nephilim because he's fatalistic and just wants to fade into memory, a motivation which even Hecate of the Slow Uptake points out makes no sense and is out of character for an imprisoned fallen angel. Do writers know that having someone say "that makes no sense" isn't a substitute for providing a reason?? Like, you still have to come up with a reason!!

ANYWAY, apparently the TITANS are walking around just living their lives, and Azazel needs to absorb their power in order to rez his kids or something. "The Fallen One has had countless thousands of years" is another sentence that was written and not burned. Hyperion is the first titan on the list. He's hanging out in a Dickies uniform in an abandoned warehouse, as one does. I feel some kind of way about Azazel being a strong Black man just so he can overpower various white opponents with his muscles. I'm white, of course, so here's a good article by a Black man you should read.

"The game is afoot," Hermes says, and I am now literally dead.

Y'all know I don't like to clothing shame, but I just don't feel like suede yoga pants and jacket look quite right on Hecate. ANYWAY, Hermes asks the Winter Queen to kill Hecate and the Fallen One and I don't see how this will be hard given that everyone has a weakness to bullets. Other, better movies make you get, like, The Sword of Hades or the Shuriken of Persephone, but here it's just saunter on down to Wal-Mart and buy a 9 centimeter or whatever the gun lingo is.

Rhea is running a pottery studio which is at least kinda earthy. Despite the fact that Hecate had a headstart and knew where they were going, Hermes got there first because....otherwise there wouldn't be a movie I guess? THE WILD HUNT IS AN ACTUAL THING IT'S NOT JUST GOTHS WITH GUNS. Azazel keeps wearing a Nike shirt and I keep wondering if they got permission for that.

Oh my god, Hecate is pregnant with the faun's child. Hermes tells her he knows, and I'm honestly not sure SHE knew. If Hecate GODDESS OF THE MOON isn't aware she's preggo, I may burn my own house down.

I'm deeply annoyed that they keep calling guns "blades". Call them weapons, sure! BLADE HAS A MEANING. Kronos is kinda distressingly hot.

The Wild Hunt is standing still in a line, waiting, and bobbing up in down in dance-anticipation of the upcoming battle. Hermes is dead. Lots of other people are too. He seemed super psyched about dying, for what it's worth. I think the faun is dead. There's a rule in movies that a man CAN be taken hostage to motivate his kickass wife/lover, but she'll never get him back because that would be emasculating. Hecate is taking the irreversible death of her lover really well.

Battles are expensive, so the final showdown will be done off camera and we'll just hear their voices as they argue. Hecate writhes around with magic cramps, then the guy wearing her boyfriend like a skin suit comes back and gives her a final goodbye with the dead faun's spirit. "In our child I will live again." Not sure that's how this works, buddy. He disappears and leaves behind a sprig of fake flowers that were probably shoplifted from Hobby Lobby.

Hecate stalks off screen whilst narrating that she'll be hunted by fae and olympian alike, because Olympians are SUPER against half-god children. *weeps*

Y'all, that movie was... That movie... That movie EXISTED.

Oh gosh the minstrel who actually knew how to play a fiddle!! was!! celebrity cameo!! Alexander James Adams, who is:

- a cinnamon bun
- my favorite folk singer
- a trans boy
- on Bandcamp, seriously go check his songs

He deserves a better movie than this, but that's awesome.

If you know about Alexander's backstory--that he talks about his transness in the framework of being held by the fae while his professional precessor Heather Alexander walked the earth as a changeling, and he won his freedom to return with a song... *tears up* It's just. Him being the minstrel at faerie court is very important to him, and I love him very much and his story is important to ME as a trans mascy person and anyway, yes, knowing they cast him here means a lot to me.

ANYWAY, the movie was garbage but go listen and buy HE OF THE SIDHE.

He had exactly one scene. If you want to see it, it's in EMBER DAYS at 18:58.

Open Thread: Purple Before a Road

It is my completely objective and absolutely scientific opinion that "before" sounds way more poetical than "in front of".

Taken the Wednesday before last.  Sorry the open thread is so late; I've been having computer and medication problems.


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies and shows, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  These are the current ones:
   ● Game of Thrones
   ● Avengers: Endgame
   ● Captain Marvel


Friday Sunday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us almost over, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Rampant


Alright, people, I'm confined to bed and that means movie time. We will not, however, be doing a bad Amazon Prime movie. We will instead be doing a good Netflix movie that was recommended to me after I asked if there were any historical setting zombie movies. TURNS OUT THERE IS.

Today's movie is called RAMPANT. "When Prince Lee Cheong returns to Joseon after his brother's death, he finds the kingdom plagued by deadly creatures--but they're not the only threat." I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS MOVIE, Joseon era movies are my fucking favorite movies period, and someone put ZOMBIES in one. This is catnip for me. I'm so happy.

We start with a ship which is VERY on fire, on account of the archers shooting fire arrows into it and its crew. The crew is scrambling to escape. One of the crew investigates something on the deck of the ship and is bitten by a blood soaked feral man. Never a good sign in these movies. His crewmates rescue him and haul him away. An indeterminate number of hours (days?) later, he's back home in his crowded village and burning up with hunger. That night he goes full zombie and-- oh shit. His wife and infant son don't fare well at all. He runs out into the night, leaving a trail of carnage behind.

Film Corner: Arn


Amazon Movie Time! ARN: THE KNIGHT TEMPLAR: "Arn, the son of a high-ranking Swedish nobleman is educated in a monastery and sent to the Holy Land as a knight templar to do penance for a forbidden love." Bets on whether the forbidden love is white and cishet? I'm just saying, film makers, there's MORE forbidden loves than just "her daddy has a moneys" or whatever. This may or may not have a Skarsgard in it, but I don't think it's the naughty vampire one.

In the Holy Land, Europeans attack some Arabic-speaking men, who are surprised when a templar knight busts up to kill the Europeans. "Why is he helping us?" I feel a flashback coming on. In a picturesque monastery, a dirty young woman languishes in a dungeon. She flashbacks to giving birth and the baby being taken away because she's unmarried, as if the church didn't have an entire legal process for legitimizing bastards and shotgun weddings. (I mean, I'm not gonna say they never stole babies because OBVIOUSLY THEY DID, but it was never just because of a hardline policy against premarital fucking.)

Film Corner: Dragon Crusaders

Dragon Crusaders

What movie do you have for us tonight, Ana? Why it's DRAGON CRUSADERS which I honestly can't tell from the title if we've seen-- no, I'm thinking of DRAGON PALADIN, I think. Or DRAGON PARAGON.

Anyway, we definitely haven't seen THIS: "A group of fugitive Knights Templar attacks a pirate ship and they are cursed to turn into hideous monsters. To fight the curse and ultimately save they [sic] world, they must defeat the wizard-dragon who is determined to destroy it."

I feel like once you're a fugitive, you got no cause to be attacking pirates if they're minding their own business. What's that all about. And a dragon-wizard. That's new, right? We've had dragons and wizards, yeah, but I think this is our first combo meal.

A pretty girl with no bra runs up to the camera whilst clutching a book and pants urgently at me. I think she's warning me to run. Oh, pretty girl, I think we're stuck here together. A dragon swoops down to eat a guy while people run amok in fear. This is top tier dragon graphics. I feel confident that I'm a connoisseur of dragon graphics now.

September Newsletter (2019)

September is here!

August has come and gone with some high highs and low lows. I celebrated my birthday (now called Liberation Day in honor of my ex-husband leaving me on the same day last year) with a lot more relief and serenity than I would have thought possible--I am amazed at how far I've come, and how right you all were about the pain becoming easier to live with. Thank you. On the other hand, some really bad things have occurred at my day job. I can't talk about that directly right now, but it means I am more dependent than ever on my patreon income and I am grateful to you all for sticking with me.

September Stuff:

- The last few live-tweets of movies are going up on Patreon this month and I hope to be able to continue them soon; I got a little burned out for a while because so many of them relied upon "surprise" sexual assault or Nazis or something else triggery that often wasn't adequately warned for in advance of the narrative.

- Several D&D fanfics are going up on Patreon this month, some of them fluffy(ish) and some of them pretty grimdark so please heed the content notes! I hope these are enjoyable reads for everyone; they were fun and therapeutic to write.

- My Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney live-play is still going on YouTube, so check that out if you're interested in that; I enjoy doing the voices and the characters are super fun and compelling. I'm liking that a lot.

- I started a new short story today! Like, a real one! I'm really excited and I hope to have it for Patreon for October. Please cross all your fingers and toes for me.

Reminder! It's a new month, which means new paper books for the $25 patrons and new bookmarks for the $5 patrons! If I don't have your address, send me a message on the internal system or email me at AnaMardoll at gmail dot com. I love sending ya'll things!

An index to the deconstructions on my blog is here.

My YouTube channel is here. The Phoenix Wright videos are here.

Do you like "Tumblr Threads" which collect funny tumblr posts? I have one here!

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

I want to thank you all again for your support. There really are not enough words to tell you how grateful I am to you all for helping me and the kitties to survive. Thank you and bless you.

Transcending Flesh: Body Diversity Beyond Gender Presentation

Note: This was previously published on my Patreon.

a pink and blue sky with a radio tower

This essay is one in a series which focuses on writing gender in science fiction and fantasy settings that provide body modification options beyond our current level of technology. Note that you can download this collection of essays from my website here.


Transcending Flesh:
Gender and Body Diversity in Futuristic and Fantastical Settings

Essay #15: Body Diversity Beyond Gender Presentation

Depending on the limits of body modification magitech in your setting, it should occur to you as the author that there are more things which can be done with those capabilities than just modify genitals and gender presentation. How will you handle that in your setting?


Cultural attitudes towards weight and fat bodies are not universal. Often, though not always, those attitudes are shaped by factors like class and money. In our society, thinness is a mark of wealth and therefore thinness has been hyped as desirable; the diet industry spends vast sums of money to influence us to prefer a body size which is unattainable for many people. That unattainability is part of the appeal for the industry because it means people will continue to spend money on products which are marketed to "help" them.

Will your magitech setting have the same cultural attitudes privileging thinness? There is no reason why it should if the history of your world is different from ours. Perhaps fatness is privileged in that world because the BodyTron5000 works on a conservation-of-mass principle and people who use it have to pay more money to receive more body tissue--if that's the case, perhaps only rich people can afford to be comfortably chubby!

This isn't to urge you to create a world where all the fat people are rich decadent hedonists, as that runs into harmful stereotypes of its own. But I want to challenge you to think about the preferences and biases in your world, and how they formed. It's easy to take the biases from our culture and insert them directly into your writing without examining them closely, but it's also lazy writing. If everyone in your culture can have any body they want at any time they desire, why would they all be skinny? Why would a bias that we built in order to sell diet products persist into a future where the push of a button can get you any body at all?


Please be aware that disability will still exist in a BodyMod magitech setting.

Disabilities are complicated. Some disabilities would cause pain and anguish for the owner even if our society were perfectly outfitted to accommodate the person's needs. Other disabilities can intertwine with identity until the person may not want to give up something which they see as an integral part of their self. I would happily give up my chronic pain conditions because I dislike being in pain, but I don't really feel a need to "fix" the part of my movement disability which requires a cane (I have a really good one that works well for me!), and I can't imagine parting with the neurodiversity which makes me who I am.

In short, disabled people are not all going to rush into the BodyTron5000 to "fix" themselves. Some of them may seek a cure. Some of them may try out a "cured" body only to decide they liked their old one just fine. Some of them will not seek any "cure" at all, and will find the suggestion that they ought to change themselves to be offensive. None of these reactions are right or wrong; our bodily autonomy gives each of us the right to decide what sort of body we want to inhabit. How do you need to deal with this as an author?

Easy answer: Populate your setting with disabled people who stay disabled! They don't need to be a big deal; no one needs to pontificate for pages on why they're using a cane instead of curative magitech. Let it be normal that some people don't seek a cure. Part of our ableist culture is the widespread assumption that not seeking a cure is abnormal and must be justified. Consider having characters who simply are disabled and aren't asked to explain their existence. Then don't cure or kill them. Let them continue existing happily with their disability after the book ends.

Harder answer: Think long and hard about how well your society accommodates people who keep their disabilities. The downside to "magical cures" is that sometimes they increase stigma in society against those who refuse to participate. Does your society refuse to provide disability accommodations because they're "expensive" and "unnecessary" on the grounds that the people who need them could jump into the BodyTron5000 but are refusing to do so? Be very careful with this! Understand that this sort of society is one that is deeply ableist and profoundly hostile to bodily autonomy. It is a dystopia which is committed to wiping out disabled people entirely--and that should scare both you and your readers. If you don't have experience with disability, I would recommend not going this route; if you do, understand that this is not a utopia.


Let us start with one thing: I am white and am not qualified to tell you how race is different from gender.

I can tell you that they are not the same thing. I can tell you that neither race nor gender are a simple function of appearance, though many cisgender white people assume they are. I can tell you that while race and gender are both social constructs, that does not mean they are constructed the same way or are interchangeable. I can tell you bad faith actors have co-opted the trans description of dysphoria as being "trapped in the wrong body" in an attempt to apply that to white people who want to be Black.

I can tell you that there is such a thing as transracial identity, but it is a concept and label for people who are a different race from their parents or guardians, which can happen with adoptions. Transracial children often experience difficulties when their guardians do not know from experience the lived reality of growing up as another race, and therefore cannot prepare their children for those realities.

I can tell you there are better voices than mine to read on this topic. As a starting place:

- The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black. Ijeoma Oluo. The Stranger.

- I am Black. Rachel Dolezal is Not. Rebecca Carroll. Dame Magazine.

- An Open Letter: Why Co-opting "Transracial" in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic. Kimberly McKee. Medium.

- Yes, Race and Gender Are Social Constructs. No, They Are Not Alike. St. Ridley Santos.

Go read those articles and sit with them for a while before you come back to me and my little essay about world-building. When crafting a society with magitech which can give someone any body they want, you must grapple with how race works in your society. You need to understand that race is not just a function of appearance, that it is generational and can involve heritage, community, culture, and (in our world) past injustices which continue to this day and have been built into the systems which govern and police our society.

Stepping into the BodyTron5000 to receive differently-colored skin will not change a character's race, just as an accident with the BodyTron5000 which attaches an unwanted penis will not change that character's gender. Those changes of skin color or genitals might affect how society treats the character, but you as the author must understand why those systems are in place--and what value this adds to your story. Why would you have characters changing their skin color in the narrative? What does that bring to your tale? What are you trying to say as the author, and what are you hoping the reader will hear?

If you are a white author, ask yourself whether or not you should be saying anything at all about race, or whether it's your job to talk less and listen more! As with gender, your story can include race without being about race and your opinions thereupon. I would recommend putting effort into crafting a BodyMod magitech society wherein people don't use those capabilities to modify their racial appearance. Why not? Well, why don't more people do so now? Because many people in our society are sensitive to the fact that such modifications are cultural appropriation and thus inappropriate behavior.

Just because your characters can do something doesn't mean they will. Write sensitively on this matter.

Film Corner: Merlin

Merlin and the War of Dragons

*quiet whisper* It's amazon prime movie time, but in a quiet indoor voice because ana didn't sleep last night because anxiety attacks. shhh.

Today we have MERLIN AND THE WAR OF DRAGONS. "An army of dragons invade the crippled English countryside and the apprentice wizard Merlin must confront the fire-breathing beasts." I honestly can't remember any legends about young Merlin, though surely there must have been some. It's just weird thinking of him as an apprentice. We start off with a young man on a horse galloping away from a dragon while an opera loses its shit. BOM BOMP BA BAHM!!!

Sorry for the delay. Both my parents are having medical crises, because this week is hell week from hell. We carry on as a distraction. It's kinda funny that the prologue is all "Britain is in turmoil after the Romans left, tribal chiefs are fighting for dominance, Saxons are invading, BUT MERLIN" but the plot is about dragons rather than any of that. Unless, like, the Saxons brought the dragons.

A princess is having a baby that apparently has a spirit-god daddy. Druids argue about whether to keep the child or kill it. One of them tries to Force Lightning the other but it doesn't work. Twenty years later, Merlin is the blandest young man ever. He has a co-apprentice. I'm sure they won't be rivals. Their druid master is one of those teachers who really resent being expected to teach. He's like "why use magic when you could NOT use magic" and look I didn't enroll in Charles Xavier's School for Stolen Babies to develop a chill attitude.

His advice for how to read minds is basically if you know someone well enough, you don't need to; his response when Merlin asks how to create magical light is to say that light can attract unwanted attention. He casts a little light ball and the boys pass it around. Boys and their light balls, just having fun. The Master has a spell book that he won't share, and the boys are conspiring to steal it. Merlin wants to know who his daddy is, as an orphan. No mention of his mom, because patriarchy? (He definitely doesn't seem to know she is a princess!!)

It's always interesting to me when characters in a setting which OUGHT to have lots of orphans still consider orphanage to be a weird/unusual thing. You'd think you'd see more "lol, NOBODY knows who their dad is, Septimus!" or whatever. (Dude's name is probably not Septimus, do not try this at home. Ask your doctor if you are pregnant or might become pregnant before using any magic books.)

The boys wingardium leviosa the book away and it wakes up Tom Riddle style and asks what the fuck they want. "Show Merlin his father." gets them a vision of a cloaked dude with satyr horns and Merlin collapses screaming with a tummy ache. A familiar mood. Master runs after the non-Merlin boy and after a petulant YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD conversation, the boy refuses to come back home. I guess he's going to run away? I don't know. He feels like Merlin is the favorite.

Master begs for help and curses the gods nearby a lake and a girl appears to tell him to watch his mouth. Possibly she's the fabled Lady of the Lake? There's only so many lake-girls in this mythos. Yup, she's Nimue. She breathes clipart into Merlin's mouth and he wakes up. (It was fire or autumn leaves or fiery autumn leaves, I think.) Viviane is also mentioned. Huh.

Merlin isn't thrilled about being the son of a demon or possibly a god (I WANT EVERYONE TO DEFINE THEIR TERMS, PLEASE) and Nimue is looking at him like he's a meal she's going to eat for dinner, but, like, sexfully. SMASH CUT TO A LAKE, and I guess we don't get to see how they got out of Master's secret cavern (not a double entendre). Nimue disappears into the lake and Master tells Merlin she's a god and to not get on her bad side.

Meanwhile, Apprentice Petulant walks through the rain and takes refuge in a cave which has a GIANT HECKING DRAGON EGG. BUT ENOUGH OF THAT, Master and Merlin are dueling with swords because that's what I think of when I think druid. Elsewhere, the other apprentice saves a lady and her son from a fire breathing dragon, then kills it with one shot from his bow and the BIGGEST ARROW IN EXISTENCE. That was easy?

The thought occurs that the villain in these movies is always the one who got fed up and dropped out of portentous home-schooling with the master. ALWAYS the good kid is the one who stays behind and patiently waits to be given secrets, and the bad one is the quitter. I don't think I like that! I keep saying we need to glamorize quitting more, because it's often the right choice. And teachers aren't all infallible gods. Has anyone ever written a story where the teacher being all "be patient and I'll teach you the ultimate secrets on my death bed" is WRONG and the student who is like "no fuck you I want to use my powers to help people while I'm still young" is right?

Well, Star Wars, I guess. But I'd like to see a story where the apprentice who quits goes on to have a meaningful life helping people and his impatience wasn't a marker of being evil, he just had different priorities. And for all that Master insisted that he doesn't have favorites, I'm pretty sure Merlin God-son was getting premier treatment that Human McMortal wasn't, you know? And that would suck.

I'm back with foods!

Everyone is congratulating Sir Pettypants for killing the dragon and he's all AWW SHUCKS, IT WEREN'T NOTHING, HERE DRINK THIS RED LIQUID and uhhhhh. They all choke and fall over, and the dragon opens his eyes, so I can only assume that he's feeding it and this is the former egg, now hatched. He now has at least four dragons. Was that egg carrying a litter?? Anyway, he joins a dude's army and says they have lots in common. Always a good sign.

SOMEWHERE ELSE, another king is told by his druid that Merlin is going to destroy the kingdom or something, it's probably not important. SMASH CUT back to Master and Merlin, in which a dude and a gal walk up with crossbows and say they're here for Merlin. So popular, this boy. Smash cut to Merlin riding with them. I have no idea why. Where's his master? Did they agree to this?? A Pict woman with woad face paint shows up to attack them. Movies are so interactive when you can make up your own plot! Merlin scares them off with badly aimed magic. It's fine. They probably won't be relevant again.

Now they're just walking up to the king who might or might not be his granddad. The royal druid--are there even supposed to BE royal druids? I thought movie druids were supposed to be hermits and shit in the woods--says they're going to sacrifice Merlin to the gods in order to repel the Saxons. Master shows up (did he teleport? walk? YOU DON'T GET TO KNOW.) to be all like "sure, great idea, definitely do that if you want to kill your only hope against the Saxons, I approve, here's a slow clap." That's the gist, I'm paraphrasing.

Merlin has a vision of a white dragon appearing, exactly two seconds before everyone else sees it for real. I laughed. I sense a Dead Master milestone approaching. Master is engulfed in flames and Merlin uses light magic to blind the dragon so everyone can run away. Master is fine, though, he's right here. Master tells him to go to Viviane, Nimue's sister, and get Excalibur. Ah!! That's how they've managed to split the Lady of the Lake into two different women. They're sisters. Ok, cool, I'm down.

Master is like "you must not let her.......detain you" in the MOST ifyouknowwhatImean growl ever.

Actually I don't think this king is the king who was Merlin's mom's dad. I'm not sure. There's a subplot with the Guy Sent To Get Merlin being someone special and the king doesn't know but the Master does. I was gonna guess that the girl is Guinevere and then I remembered that we're presumably about 40 years prior to her birth, so I don't know.

Merlin runs back home in, like, an hour (movie economy of distance) and yells politely at the lake until a girl appears. They actually have a good dialogue I like, ha. She wants something for the sword Excalibur: "what's in here" as she caresses the sides of his head with her hands. "You're not going to find a lot," Merlin demures.

The blade was "forged in the Hyborian age" and I was pretty sure that's a Conan thing? Not a real thing? They kept the humble magic scabbard and I like that. A lot of Arthurian fiction forgets that. The royal druid mugs Merlin for the blade, draws it, and dies on account of being judged unworthy by Excalibur. Exxy, to her friends.

Merlin is just having visions willy nilly, and I feel like having visions of the future without being able to CHANGE the future is the definition of anxiety. Apprentice Vendiger uses a glamour to look like Merlin and to try to get the Book of Secrets from the Master. He crossbows the Master and it's very sad. Force Lightning happens, Merlin rides up, and Master flings himself onto the horse so they can ride off and have a touching deathbed scene.

I'm far from an Arthurian scholar, but I'm impressed by the fact that this FEELS appropriate to mythos? In a way that most Arthur movies, well, don't. Master says to take his dead body to Viviane for the book, but again not to trust her because the gods aren't like mortal men and she's not the human she appears to be. (If you know that Viviane is eventually the death of Merlin, and takes his power--I.e., what's in his head--this is all very foreshadowy in a good way.)

I think the king was captured but I'm not really sure. King A (the captured one, and possibly the Apprentice in disguise) has lined up his army against King B (the Apprentice's employer) and is telling his own troops to throw down their weapons and leave. Mysterious Dad and Daughter are like what the actual fuck. The rest of the army is like, uhh, ok, and throws down their weapons. Mysterious Dad is having a Braveheart speech to rouse them.

Well, the captions just helpfully prepended his off-screen reply to the king as "UTHER:" so I guess the mystery of his identity just collapsed, lolsob. THERE ARE A LIMITED NUMBER OF UTHERS IN THIS MYTHOS. Oh, ok, he just yelled I AM UTHER PENDRAGON so the subtitles didn't spoil too far in advance. HOLY SHIT, his daughter is doing AMAZING with sword-and-horse.

Back at the lake, Nimue and Viviane sing over the Master's dead body. They're going to take him to Avalon. Merlin is trying to figure out how to unlock the book. Viviane is trying so hard to learn all his magic. She's trying to trick him into saying his spells out loud, which is a much cooler attempt than trying to seduce it out of him, which a lesser movie would do. Nimue is like, Merls. You need to leave. If you don't, Vivs will imprison you here for your knowledge. Just saying. If she's so dangerous, you'd think Master would've been in danger from her, but I guess this is the gap between master and apprentice.

(Ah, the red liquid was dragon blood and turned the humans into dragons.)

WAIT, NIMUE IS THE BAD ONE?!? TWIST I DID NOT SEE COMING!! And totally legit, since they were split from the same person, so that's allowed!! And very cool. How often am I surprised by plot twists anymore? I am delighted.

Merlin jumped on one of the dragons and stabbed it. That's one down, and somehow he survived the fall-- THE SCABBARD!! YES!! He's gonna turn Pendragon into a dragon, omg omg omg omg omg how appropriate?!?! OOOOOOOOH. Pendragon is a little alarmed after watching the first guy transform. His daughter is SO ENTHUSIASTIC about this, because she's a fearless badass. Oh, Uther needs to stay human to lead the troops. His daughter and volunteer dragon army, though, are awesome.

Aww, Merlin defeated a guy in combat, but he can't bring himself to kill. I love him.

OH. Apprentice McFucky has the same demon-dad! That's why the royal druid kept whittering on about cursed birthmarks. And Exxy comes from behind with a THOU ART NOT WORTHY win, the crowd goes wild!!!!! Uther killed the Saxon king, whomp whomp.

All the dragons are ok again and human! Including the baby!

Awwwww, that movie had no right to be as good as it was!! I give it a solid 4 stars and it's easily the most Arthurian-feeling Arthurian movie I've seen? It maintained that feeling of mystery and magic without being grimdark? Viviane and Merlin flirt wholesomely, while Nimue resurrects Apprentice Fucky and they make the cutest evil couple EVER. DRAMATIC SMASH TO CREDITS.

Aw, it's always so cool when one of these movies turns out to be good???