Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Punishment Field Work Photos

For the first time this year (as far as I can remember anyway), someone in the blog pact failed to update on time. So, lucky for you guys, you get an extra post from me this week! But I just got home from doing field work today, so I ran around doing errands all day, taking a friend of mine out for drinks since he’s about to graduate (yay!),catching up with my roommate after her bachelorette party,preparing to go to the wedding for the weekend, AND getting ready to begin the new school year. Needless to say, a punishment post could not have come during a worse week so far this year.

So you get more photos!

Here is a beautiful coal bed that is a little interbedded with some muddy bioturbated sandstone. Figure that one out.

 

photo 1

 

 

So I stumbled upon this in my field area on the last day. It seems relevant to note that this was on the land belonging to a country club. There were lots of trails and things, but residences are all far away. A bottle of toilet bowl cleaner appearing here is a complete mystery. If you have any insightful theories, please leave them in the comments!

photo 2

When I got home, this gorgeous golden dog was super happy to see me, and just wanted to hang out and follow me around. I missed her terribly the last several months, and I am thrilled to hang out with her for the next year! She’ll stop me from buying my own dog before I graduate.

photo 3

Read Full Post »

Recently, a good number of my writing friends have been blogging on tour about their writing processes, and a couple weeks ago one of them nominated anyone who wants to answer these questions. As I have recently decided I need to get back in touch with my writing life, I have accepted that challenge. Going to grad school greatly diminished the time I had to write for many reasons, and it’s time I rearranged some of my extracurricular priorities. I figured Blogging on tour! would be a good place to start.

What are you working on?

Currently I have 2 projects in the works. The first is an urban fantasy trilogy involving witches, vampires, demons, angels, and nephilim. The overarching plot of the trilogy has been planned, and a draft of the first book has been written. I’ve written an outline for the second draft of the first book, and now I’m going into research mode so I can improve the world-building in my story. I might be building off the Greek vampire myth of Vrykolakas, but I’m in the early stages yet. I know the world is supersaturated with vampire novels, but I don’t care, because I still love reading them, and I know lots of people who still love reading them, and honestly, I’ve been working on this story since before the most recent surge in vampire popularity began. I just want to tell a good story.

My second current project is a steampunk novel about two sisters, an inventor’s daughters, who grew up in an orphanage, are obsessed with science and desperate to find Atlantis, the secret city of the scientific world. Or something. It was a NaNo novel, several years ago, and it was really fun to write. It has a complete draft, but I haven’t touched it since I finished it.

How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

Hmm… well, I haven’t read everything in either of the above-mentioned genres, but I will say I haven’t read anything where you have varieties of angels and demons that originated from the same place. There is no heaven and hell in my urban fantasy trilogy, only some form of Netherworld where supernatural creatures come from. I am largely developing the world my novel is set in from scratch (though I will try to weave in some of the myths surrounding the creatures I’ve chosen to coexist in my world), so I would hope there isn’t one quite like it out there already.

As for my steampunk story… that’s harder to say as I’ve only read a few steampunk novels so far. I’m obsessed with Atlantis, but my version of it is one that I haven’t ever encountered. The towers and buildings are all made of shipwrecks with crazy bridges between them, and that’s my favorite part.

Why do you write what you do?

A long time ago I realized that the books I read didn’t always turn out the way I wanted them to. Specific characters didn’t do the things I wanted them to, or they didn’t fall in love with the characters I wanted them to end up with. So I decided it was time to write the things  that I wanted to read. That’s the simple, vague answer. I am also obsessed with supernatural creatures, especially vampires. I’m kicking myself for not finishing my urban fantasy novel before vampires became so popular again and everyone got tired of them… again… If I’m lucky, I’ll catch the next cycle (or maybe even start it?).

With steampunk, it is very much about the aesthetic of the setting, and it’s about doing some real historical research. I try to find information about failed inventions, and come up with a fictional way for them to work. Writing steampunk feels more like an adventure than writing urban fantasy. I had an incredible amount of fun during NaNoWriMo when I wrote this story of two sister thieves obsessed with science. Not that writing urban fantasy isn’t equally enjoyable, it’s just a different kind of fun.

How does your writing process work?

Hmm… Well, usually I start with a single scene in mind. In this case, both of these novels grew out of some pretty vivid dreams I had – the kind where you wake up in the morning and it still feels real. The scene is also usually an interaction between two people, maybe three.

Then I think about the characters involved in the scene – how do they know each other? Where are they from? What’s they’re background? Their motivations? Why are they here, together, at this particular moment?

Once I have that, I start to look at the bigger picture, develop some kind of plot around this one scene and these two or three characters. Eventually, I start actually Writing The Thing. Sometimes I’ll go through it linearly, sometimes I’ll skip around, if there’s a particular scene I get stuck in my head and need to find somewhere for it to go. I also work on world building, but I don’t focus on it too much.

If I like the story enough, I finish a rough draft. Then I let it sit for a bit before I go through it  with a red pen and pick out all the things I liked, the things I didn’t, plot holes, and write down things I think might fix the problems. I’ll also talk about it with my writer friends.

Then, I write an outline for the second draft – a very detailed outline. The one I’m currently working on for the first urban fantasy novel went from 14 pages to about 20 after I re-wrote it. I like to take that to my writer friends and force myself to answer their questions about the plot holes I didn’t catch or chose to ignore.

When I feel like the outline has taken care of the plot holes from the first draft, and makes some kind of logical sense for the story I’m trying to tell, and the characters I’m trying to portray, I dive into the second draft. Right now, I’m at this stage, and this is mostly consisting of nailing down some of the world building facts that I need to know before I start writing a new draft. This is also the furthest I’ve gotten with a novel.

What I intend to do once I have a second draft written is send it to a select two or three writer friends who would be interested in, and whom I trust enough, to give me some honest feedback. Once I have that, I’ll do a third draft, and at that point, maybe try it out on some beta readers. That’s the plan anyway. Wish me luck!

Nominations:

Jesi Lea Ryan, @Jesilea on Twitter. I have probably talked to her about my novels more than anyone else, so I value her friendship and opinions very highly. She has also published several books already, most notably the Arcadia Day trilogy (book 3 is coming out later this year!!). Jesi is brilliant and funny and I am proud to call her one of my best writing friends.

Laura Taylor, @LS_Taylor on Twitter. Another of my best writing friends, also brilliant, and also funny. I cannot wait to read a story she’s written!

Ladies, you are by no means obligated to do anything with this, but the two of you are the writers on Twitter I interact with the most (and occasionally in real life!), and I am therefore the most curious about your writing process! And if you haven’t been nominated for Blogging on Tour yet, and you want to be, feel free to answer these questions on your own blog and keep spreading the writerly love.

Read Full Post »

So here’s the thing: my dad came to visit me on Wednesday and he didn’t leave until Sunday morning. In that time, he decided he wanted to see everything worth seeing in Houston while he was here. Plus there was some soccer watching and lots and lots of food consumption. I have spent the day trying to recover from non-stop action. As a result, I forgot that a blog post had to happen by 9am on Monday, and I have no idea what I want to write about.

Well, no, that’s not true. I had a few ideas and discarded them all for one reason or another. I’d love to write a post about everything we did this weekend (we saw alligators! Three of them! One of them was very angry at us!), but that requires photos, and they are not on my computer yet… So that will be next week.

Then I thought about blogging about the book I just finished reading this morning, but I realized everything I had to saw I already said on Goodreads. Repeating that here seemed like a cop-out. And yet I just posted a link to it…

Because I am feeling rather boring right now, and I really want to eat some chocolate, finish my glass of wine, and crawl right back into bed (work tomorrow, ew), I am giving you another spam poem. My spam comments have begun to sound really funky, and I feel as though it’s been long enough since the last one.

I am also in the mood for book recommendations. I have a handful on my kindle, and I’ll start picking through them tonight, but if you just finished reading something that you devoured, I’d love to hear about it! I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy and sci-fi, so suggestions in those realms are most welcome!

ganhe dinheiro

They have this attitude like,
they’re simply up and down in order.
trade value for your time
as you work from one to
many.

Boulder Six at Track Rock Gap
the Itza Maya glyphs for Great Sun
~ Lord Quetzal-Serpent.
The Russian apparently didn’t predict
exactly when the U.

million wanted
to fix rebel place
a burden for arguments

briniest brioches brionies briquets brisance
briiskest briskets brisking.
Gospels of Blood
words.
sandhis  sandhog  sandier  sanding  sandlot
sandman  sandmen  sandpit.

If you consider straiight back
chat too the parents,
after you got going
nibbling the nails.
memory And he’s going to prove
tgat you don’t need a bunch of Play -Station 2 ports appear on Android
and been like,
oh wow,
oh yeah,
that was awesome.

Technically, that was 6 spam comments (the title came as a single comment), which goes slightly against my self-established rules, but it’s late and I’m tired and I don’t care.

Read Full Post »

If you read a lot of books, or if you’re a writer, you are probably at least aware of what’s been going on between Amazon and the publishing company Hachette. Possibly, you are also confused by it, or maybe just conflicted. I fall into this latter category, and I’ve spoken with a couple of my author friends about it, so my goal in writing this post is to facilitate some kind of discussion about what’s going on between Amazon and Hachette.

To start us off, here’s an article (clearly biased in the anti-Amazon direction) that lays out the situation pretty well and should answer any immediate questions you may have. Basically, Amazon is making it really difficult for customers to buy Hachette-published books because the two companies can’t come to an agreement about how to sell these books. Amazon finally spoke out a little bit at the end of last month, and this article sums it up without any bias one way or the other.

As a person who has never actually had a problem obtaining books from Amazon, and as an as-yet-unpublished writer (either traditionally or independently), I personally do not have any qualms with Amazon. I am not going to boycott them until I understand this situation more. But based on what I’ve read so far, I understand why some people are choosing to boycott Amazon. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a personal choice. Author Neil Gaiman pointed out recently in an interview that we don’t REALLY know what’s happening, because all the details are under non-disclosure.

These articles I’ve linked to show the perspective from some of the big authors who are affected by these business proceedings. But what about independent authors? What about writers who can’t get the time of day from these enormous publishing companies? How does this affect them?

Author Frank Schaeffer defends Amazon because he believes he would not have been as successful without Amazon’s help, and he’s not the only independent author who feels this way. My writing partner told me she wouldn’t be a writer today it it weren’t for Amazon, and that for every J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, there are 500 authors like her. The jury is out as to how this affects unpublished authors seeking traditional publication.

My conclusion is this: it’s a business war between two major corporations. Many people seem to be forgetting that Hachette is ALSO a big company, and I think that’s important to keep in mind. I will never understand the ins and outs of it because I don’t have any expertise in business, so I’m going to wait to pass judgement until everything is settled. But maybe some of you reading this have a better grasp on the situation. Is Amazon really the big bad that so many people are quick to claim? What do you think about what’s going down between Amazon and Hachette? If you’re boycotting, why, and if you’re not, why not?

Read Full Post »

Well, I appear to have survived my first week in Houston, TX!

This place is not at all what I expected, and I haven’t reached a decision about whether or not I could see myself living here for a couple years. Luckily, I have 2 more months to think about it and get to know the place.

If you’ve never been here before, this is what it’s like. There is green EVERYWHERE. All along the bayou, on the boulevards, the sidewalks, in yards and gardens. The plants here are absolutely amazing. I imagined a desert or industrial type landscape, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Many parts of the city I’ve seen so far are actually very beautiful. The humidity is real, though. I’ve hardly spent any time outside since I’ve been here, because the air is not very comfortable to just sit in. I’m learning that less cloudy days have lower humidity, and one of these days I’ll be brave enough to go lounge by the pool while I read. But then you have random 5-minute rainstorms come through, and you must run for cover. I’m used to bi-polar weather, but this is on a different level. I’m also learning the joys of air conditioning. I’m from Seattle, where we usually must fight against the cold to find a house temperature that doesn’t cost too much on the electricity bill, but still keeps us warm enough to function. Here, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out how much warmth I can stand before I desperately need the air conditioning to keep me at a reasonable temperature. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s also nice to be comfortably warm for a change. A bonus for this climate, though, is the amount of volume it adds to my hair. I keep it short, so a little climate-controlled volume is actually pretty awesome.

photo 5

Being from Seattle, I’m used to everyone ignoring each other when they pass in the street. When I moved to Montana, the opposite was true. I got used to politely nodding and/or smiling at people as I passed them in the street (though less so on the college campus). Houston is a massive city. Once again, everyone goes back to ignoring each other. I ran into someone at the gate to get into the apartment complex, he was struggling to open the gate. He finally opened it just as I made it to the gate to try to help, and as we passed each other, I tried to smile at him, because hey, he’s probably my neighbor. No response. So, it’s weird going back to that after being in Montana for so long.

As for my job, I’m an intern for an energy company. So far, my job has essentially consisted of looking at squiggly lines all day and trying to interpret them. I’m not even kidding. Squiggly lines. Theoretically they mean something, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

This internship has so far been an interesting experience, and not so much for the job itself, but for the… setting. For one, I’ve got a swanky office all to myself. My name is even on the door! I have two computer monitors and a huge desk! I’ve never experienced an office job like this – the Google office I worked in was all open plan, no cubicles or anything, and tiny desks. Not that that was bad or anything (it was much easier to talk to my friends that way, or lean over to my neighbor to ask for help on a difficult task, etc.), just different.

I’m also used to jobs that keep you to the clock. You clock in when you arrive, you clock out for lunch, you clock back in after, and you clock out when you leave. No cell phones or personal calls or fun internet breaks while you work (those were the rules, anyway). This internship, though? Totally different. As long as you get the work done, and can show you’re making progress, there’s actually a lot of freedom. It’s taking some adjusting to get used to. I mean, I made a phone call to set up my internet installation at my home during business hours and NOT on my lunch break! I was allowed to leave a few minutes early to go to happy hour with the office mates! I’m not going to lie, I could get used to a job like that. Plus, I’m actually using my geology knowledge and skills, which is more than I can say pre-graduate school.

The one weird thing about this job that bothers me is the lack of women in science-related positions. Maybe it’s just this company, but I’m the ONLY woman on my team. Most of the men are much older than me, too. Almost all the women I’ve met are in administrative or assistant-type positions. It’s really strange to be sitting in a big meeting, and be the only woman in the room. Every other job I’ve held, and all through school, the gender divisions have been pretty well split down the middle for all positions. I suppose the fact that I’m a woman in an internship position should be encouraging for the future of the company, but it’s still a little hard to get used to.

I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to sleep on an air mattress. A friend of mine was successful with this for his entire 3-month internship. But my air mattress? Somehow magically developed a pin-hole puncture after two nights. Pro-tip: Three layers of rubber cement plus tens of layers of duct tape won’t work.

photo 3

 

Rather than fight with the mattress for the rest of the summer, or straight up buying a new one, I decided I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I was in a water bed for any more mornings/middles of the night. So I went to IKEA and bought the cheapest roll-out foam mattress I could find, and I have slept well the past few nights. I do not regret the expense.

On the major plus side of doing this internship over the summer, I have no school work to deal with. Sure, I should probably type up my field notes (which I will, I promise), but other than that – I’m basically on vacation when I’m not at work. So, I’ve started working on my novel again! Typed up 3 pages of edited outline material. It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting through it. 11 more pages to go! I forgot how much fun I have while working on it, and how excited I am to begin re-writes. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get through these outline edits, send them to my writing partner, and get started writing some scenes before the summer is out.

I’ve also got time to cook delicious things like butter chicken with broccoli and mushrooms.

photo 2

AND I’ve had time to have a bath. With a candle, a glass of rosé, and my kindle.

photo 1

I am, of course, also taking this time to catch up on some TV shows and fiction reading (The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead just arrived and it is SO good and I’m only 50 pages in!). Which brings me to the next thing I want to share with you all…

I know I already wrote a post about book-shaming, and how it infuriates me when someone tries to tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I should be embarrassed about the books I like to read, an article recently came out from Slate that has me swearing at my computer screen as I read. Don’t read it unless you want to get angry about something. I firmly believe that you should read whatever you want to read, regardless of other people’s opinions. What you read literally has zero effect on them, and if they’re going to judge you for it, you probably don’t need them in your life. Since I’ve already articulated how I feel about this, I suggest taking a look at these two responses to the Slate article that made me really happy.

Read Full Post »

Well, I made it to Houston, for my second adventure of the summer! While here, I’m going an internship with an energy company. It’s all rather hush-hush as to what I’m really doing, but basically I will be using my geology knowledge to figure out where some oil might be in the rock formation they’ve assigned. I promise I haven’t sold me soul yet, and yes, there is the whole environmental issue, but the point is, we still need oil. Until we can mass-produce sustainable energy, and people are willing to buy it and go cold turkey off petroleum, we still need it. But I don’t want to get into that right now, because I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on the issue.

Anyway, Houston! It’s a strange place. I was expecting desert, but instead I got tropical rain forest? Seriously, it feels EXACTLY like the tropical rain forest exhibit at my hometown’s zoo. It freaked me out when I first got here. I’ve also experienced 2 thunderstorms, and I’ve only been here for less than 48 hours. The wildlife is obviously different as well. I’ve seen a couple new birds already, and I can’t wait for my zoologist dad to visit me next month and tell me what they are.

On my first drive through the city (my friend picked me up at the airport, I didn’t feel safe bringing my ancient Jeep with me on this trip – I don’t think it would survive the climate), I saw a church sunk into the ground.

photo 1

Um… what? Why? No signs anywhere? I was immediately reminded of a Sunnydale-style apocalypse, circa Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6. A friend of mine joked it must have been satanic, and was trying to get closer to its leader. Make of it what you will, but not an hour into my stay in this city I had decided it was a strange place.

That night I had my very first crawfish, and was instructed on how to consume it.

photo 2

I made a huge mess, but I actually thought it was pretty good. I saw a few people order platters of them. I wouldn’t say no to splitting one with someone, as it turns out.

photo 3

 

So far, the food I’ve had here is pretty delicious. I wasn’t lied to about that. I’m currently in this funky little breakfast cafe that functions a bit like a cafeteria. Mostly I’m here because they advertise free wifi, and I don’t have wifi set up in my apartment yet, but the food is actually pretty delicious (despite the fact that my “fresh fruit” came in a pre-wrapped dish…).

My apartment is adorable. It comes with air conditioning (yay!), a tiny office nook, and a bedroom that’s almost as large as the living room. I even bought a little “dragon tree” from IKEA so it would look more lived-in. But it’s a cute little spot, even though I have to live very minimalist while I’m here (two and a half months isn’t long enough to be worth really settling in, especially when you don’t have a car to haul everything back in).

photo 5 photo 4

The bathtub is also enormous enough to make bubble baths a possibility. I already bought the bubbles for it. Oh, and did I mention it has 2 pools and is a gated community? I’m like a poor person living in a rich person’s body!

While I am here, I will have very little school work to do, though I will be working something like an 8-5 job. This means that I’ll have evenings and weekends to do what I want. Hopefully, this means more writing and definitely more reading is in my near future! Honestly, this is probably the part of this adventure that I am most excited about. But I’m also looking forward to seeing what my future after grad school might look like. This heat and humidity will take some getting used to though!

Read Full Post »

Spam Poetry 3

I’m super busy in the field, so today you get a short Spam Poem. Next week I’ll be in Houston, so hopefully I’ll have something interesting to report! I apologize for the shortness of this one, but hopefully you can get a laugh out of it. Must get back to work!

I Have Always Disliked Moving

You need targeted visitors
VERY POWERFUL
7 days free of charge
back up to the public!

Why people
everything iss existing

I’m out of league here
Too much brain power on dilpasy!

convince me to move
I have always disliked the idea
But he’s tryiong none the less.
The proven fact
doesn’t imply its collapse
would’ve ended in losses

Read Full Post »

Today I am setting out to do field work for about ten days. I’ll be creating measured sections, or stratigraphic columns of the rocks I see, collecting samples to analyze later in the lab, and taking lots and lots and lots of photos. Hopefully I’ll also be taking really great notes.

Immediately after I return home from the field, I fly out to Houston to begin my energy company internship. I don’t really know what to expect with that, but I’m looking forward to the experience and thinking about it as a potential future job. I’m mostly looking forward to the two pools in my apartment complex and all the food Houston boasts to have.

But before I get to either of these adventures, I have much packing to do, rocks to sort, shopping to do, lists to make… So many things.

So I will leave you with a photo of what sorting rocks into their stratigraphic units looks like, and a spam poetry haiku. Enjoy!

Rock Sorting

 

Winter Avatars

It’s winter some time

everyone is gathered

avatars online

Read Full Post »

So if you’re a slightly insane Joss Whedon fan like I am, you might have heard that he recently wrote and produced an independent film called “In Your Eyes.” A few friends and I decided that, since we are total Whedonites, we had to check it out.

The premise of this film is a very different take on the “boy meets girl” story. For one, they don’t actually meet. They are merely connected by some freak psychological event – and when they’re connected, they can see through each others eyes, and they can talk to each other, though they can’t read each others’ thoughts.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a good blend of drama and humor and supernatural weirdness – pretty much what you’d expect from a story written by Joss Whedon. I laughed, I wanted to cry, I gripped the edge of my seat, barely preventing myself from biting my nails when things got really tense. It was an emotional roller coaster, but in a very good way.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with the casting. No one was terrible, and I thought the leads played their parts exceptionally well. And here ends my discussion of the acting, and begins my critique of the story.

We first meet Rebecca and Dylan as Rebecca is sledding for the first time, and crashes into a tree. This is the first time they see each others’ world. Flash forward twenty years, and Rebecca is unhappily married to a total douchebag who treats her like an incompetent child, living in a mansion as a housewife, and Dylan is a convicted felon on parol, living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, working at a car wash. It’s pretty tragic. Naturally, once they see each others’ world, and discover they can communicate, they develop a pretty great friendship. As you might imagine, their constant talking to each other starts making them look like crazy people, and conflict and drama ensues. What I really liked seeing was how Rebecca changed from a timid, delicate flower with her husband, to a happy, laughing young woman when she spoke to Dylan. Dylan gave her a strength that she didn’t think she had, and a large part of the movie is about her discovering that, and coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t owe her husband anything just because he stayed with her while she was in a mental institution. Dylan, on the other hand, struggles to get away from the guys whose influence got him locked up in the first place. Rebecca and Dylan’s friendship makes them want to be better people for themselves, and that was the focus more than the building romance, which was refreshing.

While I really enjoyed this movie, I do have a few problems with it. For one, they never actually explain how or why these two particular people are connected the way that they are, and that was disappointing. I mean, I understand that it wasn’t the focus of the story, but they didn’t offer any real explanation. It just sort of happened to them, starting when they were children, and then many times after that, and into adulthood. However, they did do a great job of explaining the rules of the supernatural stuff very quickly.

I also wish Rebecca had been a little stronger. It grated on my nerves every time she said she owed her husband for staying by her side while she was in a mental hospital. The guy is a doctor, and the fact that he’s a total douchebag should have been a huge hint that he was basically using her as a charity case/medical experiment. She was in serious denial, and it bothered me that she needed a random almost stranger to point it out to her. But to her credit, when it came time to need rescuing, she did play a large role in her escape, and her douchebag husband got what he deserved.

The other thing about the douchebag husband – he had no redeeming qualities. Normally the “bad guy” has a redeeming quality or two, but we didn’t see any of that, which meant she had no guilt over having a relationship with Dylan. Seems like a bit of a copout, but I wasn’t as annoyed by this as a few other things.

My favorite part of the humorous side of the story was the girl that Dylan fancies. This girl has zero sense of humor, and Dylan makes a bunch of jokes at her, and they just go straight over her head, which in itself was hilarious.

So, in short, I think In Your Eyes is very worth watching, it’s fun and exciting and tragic, but it is not a perfect story. I would give it four out of five starts, if I had a rating system.

Read Full Post »

My roommate and I are fans of the young adult science fiction and urban fantasy genre, which means we share a lot of books and like to go to the same movies and watch the same TV shows. I think I have the best roommate ever. The most recent stories that fall into this category are Divergent, The 100, and Star-Crossed. I enjoy all of them for different reasons, but mostly I want to focus on the female protagonist/main character in each of these, because I’m starting to see a trend of strong, young, female leads that I like.

Divergent-movie-poster-4

I would just like to note how happy I am that I found a movie poster that didn’t do the stupid female pose that is so common with action movie posters. This one is much better.

Divergent was recently made famous by the new movie, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. It is based on the first book in a trilogy of the same name by Veronica Roth. My roommate read the books ages ago, and loved the movie. I loved the movie, and immediately started reading the books. I’m currently almost finished with Insurgent, the 2nd novel in the series. Divergent is in the same realm as The Hunger Games trilogy, as far as themes go. It’s set a little ways into the future, after the world has theoretically been destroyed by a crazy war. Details of this war have not been given, and the entire story (what I’ve read so far) takes place behind a giant fence that encloses what remains of Chicago. These days, everyone in the city is divided into 5 “factions”: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, and Amity. Each has their own purpose, and the goal is the keep the peace. The cool thing is, everyone is allowed to choose their faction at age 16 – after they take an aptitude test. Most stay in the faction they were born in, but a significant number will transfer to a different one. Once they’re chosen a faction, they have to pass initiation in order to stay there. When they fail initiation, they become factionless. The factionless wander the seedier parts of town, relying on the goodwill of Abnegation to get food and clothing. They’re completely ignored by the rest of the factions. So we have Beatrice, born into Abnegation, and given “inconclusive” aptitude test results – she is Divergent. Being Divergent is a big scary thing, because it means you have a broader personality, you aren’t happy doing just one thing. Some people (the antagonists, in this case) think this is dangerous. So Beatrice chooses Dauntless, because it’s much more exciting – they jump off moving trains, zip line off the roofs of buildings, climb ferris wheels… I can see the appeal.

Now, I know there are some rumblings about having to be special in order to save the world and whatnot (seeing as the two main characters of this story are both Divergent), but I decided not to care about that, because I think the rest of the story is more interesting, and I am not really all that philosophical about this kind of thing. It’s a story. Stories are often not perfect. Moving on.

I find her a lot more interesting than Katniss because Tris (as she calls herself when she joins Dauntless) appears to have more of a personality. I always thought Katniss was a bit boring because she always just let things happen to her. She doesn’t try to lead a revolution, the people around her essentially make her do it (maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I felt about her). Tris, on the other hand, has some agency. Like the tagline says, she makes choices. She chooses Dauntless after being told she has aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She’s the first one to jump down a big dark hole to enter the Dauntless compound. She works extremely hard to become strong enough to stay in the Dauntless faction. She makes it all the way through initiation, only to be thrown into a war with mind-control and crazy simulations.

A lot of really bad things happen when that war starts, and it results in some serious PTSD for Tris. She can’t even hold a gun, she has intense guilt, and no one acknowledges that she has PTSD. She can’t catch a break from the people who are supposed to care about her and be her friend, and she spirals. It takes capture and near-death at the hands of the antagonist faction (I’m trying to avoid major spoilers here) to snap her out of it, force her to start feeling like herself again.

In short, Tris is a very dynamic character, and I continue to watch her pull herself out of the chaos around her.

star-crossed-dl

At first glance, my roommate and I were extremely skeptical about Star-Crossed, one of the CW’s latest sci-fi creations. I mean, first of all, it comes from CW, which means it has to really impress me to get me to keep watching. Currently, we only watch Vampire Diaries and The Originals on that station. Granted, we were less than impressed with the first couple episodes of this show. It was hard to see where it was trying to go. But I kept at it (because I’m a sucker for sci-fi romance, ok? Deal with it), and I think it’s actually turned out pretty interesting. Before I go on, though, I’d like to point out that things are not looking good for a second season of Star-Crossed.

Once again, this show is set in the future, but only by ten years (it’s 2024). In 2014, a spaceship full of Atrians (humanoid aliens with random black “tattoos” all over the place) crashes into Earth. Battle ensues, and humanity locks them up in a sector, much like District 9, where houses are made of box cars.

My roommate and I think this intense segregation would not really be our first reaction to a bunch of humanoid aliens showing up. The Atrians crash landed – they weren’t intending to take over. But now that they’ve been segregated for ten years, some of them are a little pissed. Several of the leaders have their own agenda regarding humans, nevermind the fact that humans greatly outnumber them. But the story centers on two people – a human girl, Emery, and an Atrian guy, Roman – the origin of the name of the show. There’s a lot going on in this show at the point I’m at, but I want to focus on Emery.

At first she seemed like a delicate flower – in the hospital for most of her life because cancer (?), her first experience with public school is when she finally gets to leave the hospital and join the rest of society. But then she starts developing this relationship with Roman, and he pushes her away “to protect her” from the human-hating faction of Atrians, but he doesn’t properly explain himself. Eventually she comes out and says she doesn’t need protecting, it’s not what she wants out of a relationship. She shows time and time again that she’s brave enough to stand up for equality between Atrians and Humans, and yet he continues to try to keep her in the dark. To her credit, she tries to move on with someone else. Eventually, though, Roman gets the hint – she doesn’t need to be taken care of, she wants to be his equal. When he figures that out, they get to start again, and it’s a much healthier relationship than what they started with.

There are a lot of other things going on in this show that are beyond the scope of this post, but I just have to say I love all the interesting things they do with their native plants. The friendships that develop between these characters are really well done – things seem to progress naturally, and I really like how the younger generations especially are more open to friendships with the aliens. It’s not the best show ever, but I definitely like it. Also, Taylor is to Star-Crossed what Caroline is to Vampire Diaries. The popular girl doesn’t always have to be the stereotypical mean girl. Though it’s not focused on, it was implied at one point that the aliens are all bisexual, and the fact that most humans base their attraction on gender is laughable.


the-100-wondercon1

Yes, those are bodies falling out of the sky. The CW’s new show, The 100, is based on The Hundred by Kass Morgan. Sometime in the near future, humanity went through a nuclear war. A small fraction of humans survived on a space station, now called the Ark. 97 years later, the Ark is failing – there are too many humans to support. They made laws like only one child per family. If you were under 18 and broke any kind of law, you were locked up. If you were over 18 and broke a law – you got floated into the black.

The people in charge decide to send the 100 child prisoners to the ground, to see if they can survive. At first, it sound ridiculous – sending a bunch of teenagers to a radioactive-recovering Earth, and letting them fend for themselves. Honestly, I still struggle to get past the plausibility of that, mostly because what you’d expect really does happen. It’s chaotic. There are a few sensible people, and there are a few bull-headed assholes who just want control, and declare that there are no rules, which is rather contradictory. Six episodes in, they’ve started to rally together, and the intergroup chaos has died down a bit. But they’ve also encountered things like mutated deer, “grounders,” and glow-y things.

creepy mutated deer

Despite my problems with some of the decisions of the characters (if everyone on the space station is going to die anyway, why don’t they just send everyone to Earth to have a fighting chance at survival?), I find the premise pretty engaging. Like I said, I’m a sucker for sci-fi like this. But once again, I want to focus on Clarke, the main character. She hasn’t dazzled me with her personality yet, but she is the most mature person down on the ground, as far as I can tell. She starts a relationship with a boy on the ground, and when his girlfriend from the space station arrives, she steps back, completely understanding that he never expected to see his girlfriend again. Inevitably, the girlfriend finds out about them, and Clarke is very mature about what happened. Amazingly, they both move on (the boy is still hung up a bit on Clarke, so yes, there’s still drama, but the girls are ok). The problem I have with Clarke is that she almost seems too perfect. She’s always the voice of reason, she’s very mature for her age. In the last episode I saw, though, she finally had a mental breakdown, and it made her seem more like a real person. I’m surprised it took as long as it did – being stranded on a broken planet away from the only life you ever knew would be traumatizing. I have hope she’ll get more interesting. Granted, I haven’t read the books this show is based on, but that’s a project for this summer.

What I’m trying to get at with these three shows is that I’m seeing a more consistent trend of strong, mature young women emerge in popular culture. We’re catching on, especially on the CW, of all places. I’ve talked about this kind of thing in the context of the Vampire Diaries, which is full of strong female characters. These CW shows may not have the most coherent plots, but at least they’ve got female characters I can relate to. It’s a step in the right direction. Besides, Vampire Diaries turned out really well, I think. If you’ve got anything to add about these shows, or want to defend your favorite female heroes as well, feel free to do so in the comments!

More of this please!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »