You Deserve This: The Handmaid’s Tale, “The Last Ceremony”

The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review

What’s worse: Thinking that you had endured that awful thing for the last time, only to have to go through it again without any emotional preparation? Or unexpectedly getting to experience something truly wonderful, and then not knowing if it is the last time you’ll do so? The Handmaid’s Tale poses these wrenching questions as it heads into the final arc of season 2, something of a ticking clock based on June’s soon-to-be-born baby.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×10 “The Last Ceremony”

First off—fuuuck, I hate it when I’m right about a plot point on this show. I was trying to parse out whose Last Ceremony it could possibly be, and at first it seemed as if that misfortune would fall upon poor Emily, who has already been through enough before having a Commander croak while inside her. But that would have been too easy, and when the ...

The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review Hannah
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review Hannah
The Handmaid's Tale 210 The Last Ceremony television review

Hereditary is the Rare Horror Movie That Feels Oh So Human

Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette

The moment that I knew we were in for something special with Hereditary was the scene where miniaturist Annie Graham (Toni Collette) thinks she sees her mother’s spirit in her workroom. It’s a typical horror-movie shot of a shadowy figure ominously lurking in a darkened corner, distinct enough to elicit gasps but indistinct enough that it could just be a trick of the light. A scene later, there’s no wringing of hands from Annie, no self-denying rationalizations: Instead, she’s googling hauntings, because she saw something, dammit.

I loved that the heroine of a horror movie didn’t second-guess her instinct, that we got to skip the requisite scene where someone tells her “there is a dark presence in this house” and she doesn’t believe it. Annie knows that her life is saturated in darkness, because she survived a dysfunctional family. Even before the death of her estranged mother—an event which kicks ...

Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette
Hereditary movie review spoilers ending Toni Collette

We Believe the Women: The Handmaid’s Tale, “Smart Power”

The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review

It is frankly astonishing timing that this is the very week in which The Handmaid’s Tale sends Commander Waterford, Serena Joy, and Nick to represent Gilead up north for diplomatic talks with Canada. Fred cites Ofglen’s bombing as an “opening”—of course he would call it that—for both sides to speak, though it’s unclear what, if anything, Gilead realistically thinks it can offer to a conversation in which it is clearly at a disadvantage. For all of Fred’s bravado, it seems to be damage control, maintaining the fiction that they suffered a terrorist attack, that Gilead is still very much a useful neighbor and maybe even ally.

But to do that, he needs Serena Joy to do what she did at that university years ago: show that women in Gilead are neither oppressed nor voiceless; “show them a strong Gilead Wife.” Her dilemma is a fascinating reversal of Offred’s last ...

The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 209 "Smart Power" television review

Gender, Disability, and Prophecy: Jacqueline Carey on Writing Standalone Epic Fantasy Starless

Starless Jacqueline Carey duos bound by fate

When I asked Jacqueline Carey if a particular aspect of her new fantasy novel Starless had required extensive research, she laughed and pointed out that this was her eighteenth novel—which is to say, she has amassed a lot of background research over the years. The standalone epic, about a fierce warrior destined to guard a courageous princess even if it means going to the ends of the earth to return the stars to the sky, hinges on a Scattered Prophecy: each character possesses a piece of it, and can only solve it by bringing the different parts together.

Talking to Carey, author of the Kushiel’s Legacy books and other series, about the influences behind Starless is like piecing together the Scattered Prophecy: there’s the practice of bacha posh, octopus gods dreamed up at parties, YouTube videos on proper bola throwing, a dash of Lovecraft, and a spin on Le ...

Cloak and Dagger Infuses Superhero Origin Story with Existential Teen Drama

Cloak and Dagger pilot series premiere television review

For a TV show called Cloak and Dagger, there’s not a lot of “and” yet: Except for a few key scenes, Tandy and Tyrone rarely interact in the two-hour series premiere; which begins to set up why these two very different New Orleans teenagers are connected by powers beyond their control. However, considering that Cloak and Dagger’s very essences are inversely proportional—all-consuming dark versus piercing light—the narrative choice to pull them apart, and then thrust them together when it counts, mostly works.

It does make for a slow-moving pilot, one that prioritizes building up their respective motivations over a more typical superhero origin story. By the end of it, there are no formal costumes nor choosing of names, but Tyrone and Tandy’s existences have forever been altered.

This is a non-spoiler review of the first two episodes, though it touches upon minor plot points.

Though to be fair, these ...

Cloak and Dagger television review
Cloak and Dagger television review
Cloak and Dagger television review
Cloak and Dagger television review

“Women’s Work” is Men’s Problem on The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review

A father and a son are in a car crash that instantly kills the father. The wounded boy is taken to the hospital. The surgeon exclaims, “I can’t operate on this boy—he’s my son!” How can this be?

I couldn’t help but think of this aggravating riddle that I first heard in the ’90s during this week’s The Handmaid’s Tale, when Serena Joy tells Fred that Gilead possesses the best neonatologist who might be able to help poor baby Angela/Charlotte, and he asks, “Who is he?” That’s the setup, and Serena gets the punchline: She is a Martha. His assumption that the only actually important members of society are male hews too uncomfortably close to the attitudes that make this riddle a stumper, even as recently as a 2014 gender bias study. (The doctor is the boy’s mother, come on people.) So by “punchline,” what ...

The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review
The Handmaid's Tale 208 Women's Work television review

Charlie Jane Anders, V.E. Schwab, S.L. Huang, and Seth Dickinson Talk Queerness in SFF

The recurring theme of Tor Presents: LGBTQ+ Authors on Gender and Identity in SFF (one of the first panels to kick off BookExpo America 2018) was about how every artist’s identity informs their art. In the case of the four authors present, it’s not just a matter of which words wind up on the page: It’s what point in life their personal experiences became more prevalent to their creative process. It’s the kinds of identities they believe are currently lacking in fiction. It’s their preferences about metaphors and other coded ways of communicating queerness. It’s their decision whether to tell a story about a character whose queerness directly impacts the plot, or about characters who just happen to be queer.

But to start, Charlie Jane Anders, Seth Dickinson, S.L. Huang, and V.E. Schwab had to look at the default.

 

On Prototypes and Universal Experiences

The “default” being ...

Whispers Will Bring the Walls Down on The Handmaid’s Tale: “After”

The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review pen

“It’s about time things started getting back to normal around here, don’t you think?”

When Serena Joy says this to Offred near the end of this week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, it ostensibly sounds as if she’s guiding their household back to its regular rhythms after the disruption caused by last week’s suicide bombing. Yet there is extra weight to the Wife’s words, not to mention the weight of a pen in the Handmaid’s hand. If you’re looking for subtext, it could be Serena Joy subtly pushing not just for Gileadean normalcy, but for the return to the state that existed before the Sons of Jacob.

That could completely be wishful thinking on my part, but what’s undeniable is that the women of Gilead have begun to change how they talk to one another. Wives confiding in Handmaids about their insecurities and rewarding such confidences with little ...

The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review funeral Aunt Lydia
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review Moira Luke Canada
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review
The Handmaid's Tale 207 "After" television review Emily Handmaid real names

I Wish Solo’s Female Characters Could Find Better Escape Routes

Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3

Early on in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Tobias Beckett tells an eager young Han Solo that “if you come with us, you’re in this life for good”—a final warning before he seals his fate as a smuggler. The film’s female characters are not afforded the same courtesy; the systems in which they are trapped—a droid’s existence, a life owned by Crimson Dawn—lack the same opportunities for either turning back or abandoning entirely. But that doesn’t stop Elthree or Qi’ra from looking for a way out.

Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Although this is an origin story about a Corellian scumrat chasing down the life that will put him as high up into the stratosphere as he can go, I was much more intrigued by members of the supporting cast: the droid, and the other scumrat whose chains are a lot shorter. Whose ambitions aren’t as arrogant as ...

Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3
Solo: A Star Wars Story female characters ownership slaves autonomy droids rights Qi'ra Elthree L3

Everything You Need to Know About Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers & Other Stories new collection Tor Books George R.R. Martin

“Some of the fans of A Song of Ice and Fire seem to believe that I burst onto the writing scene full-grown with the publication of the first book of the series,” George R.R. Martin writes in the “Oldies But Goodies” section of his official website, “but actually I had been a professional writer for twenty-five years when A Game of Thrones was published in 1996.” Before he set sail for Westeros, before he had even begun constructing the intricate history of ASOIAF, Martin was exploring the far reaches of space writing sci-fi/horror hybrids in another self-created universe known as the “Thousand Worlds.”

In this GRRM-verse exists Nightflyers, a “haunted spaceship” novella that is being resurrected as a television series on Syfy. If you’ve never heard of the Nightflyer, the manrealm, the volcryn, or Melantha Jhirl—that’s where this primer comes in handy! Since its publication ...

Nightflyers movie ship
Nightflyers movie adaptation George R.R. Martin poster
Nightflyers Catherine Mary Stewart Melantha Jhirl
Nightflyers George R.R. Martin novella reissue Bantam Spectra

How Do You Measure A Resistance? The Handmaid’s Tale: “First Blood”

The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy

Forgive the RENT reference, but “Seasons of Love” came into my head when thinking about all of the little moments and factors that build up something so massive as Gilead, or its undoing. It’s not quite 525,600 minutes, but there were several that stuck out from this week, about halfway through the season. The best way to talk about this episode (THIS EPISODE), then, is to focus on the moments. Some refer to the “First Blood” of the episode title; others I just can’t stop thinking about.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×06 “First Blood”

First of all, Offred’s baby is fine. June’s baby is fine, and she’s going to make sure she—she seems determined that it’s another girl—will not grow up in Gilead and suffer the same fate as the other Handmaids, or young Wives like Eden. But first she has to bide her time and get through this ...

The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy
The Handmaid's Tale 206 "First Blood" television review Serena Joy

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding on The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza

After last week’s crisis of faith, The Handmaid’s Tale engineers an emotional reset with a more low-key, worldbuilding-centric episode. That is not to say that it lets up on any of the dystopian horror, because that would be too gentle. But while June retreats into Offred, other female characters from both sides of Gilead’s hierarchy get to move the needle on their respective storylines. And what better way to look into women’s minds and hearts than with a double wedding??

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×05 “Seeds”

Am I the only one who shouted “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU BITCH” when Offred started burning the other Handmaids’ letters? I fear that I am not sympathetic enough to her emotional breakdown from last week, probably because it reads more like the Hollywood version of a break from reality: the blank eyes, the bland Stepford voice, the complete lack of irony ...

The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza
The Handmaid's Tale 205 "Seeds" television review Nick wedding Eden Prayvaganza

Ship It is the Fandom Book I Wish Had Existed When I Was a Teenager

The highest compliment I can pay Britta Lundin’s Ship It is how many times while reading that I caught myself thinking about how I would write a certain moment differently. Protagonist Claire, awkward 16-year-old fanfiction writer and diehard shipper granted the opportunity to make the case for her OTP to the creatives behind her favorite TV show, brings back almost visceral memories of my own coming-of-age within the early days of Internet fandom. However, she exists not in the ’00s but in the ’10s—an age of Tumblr influencers and unprecedented fan/creator access. Her straddling of the divide between fandom and canon is both intensely familiar and discomfitingly alien, as she represents an entire fandom but also one fan’s particular crusade, making her both relatable and not. More than once, I was tempted to rework the plot, to say “well, that doesn’t feel like the right move, I bet Claire would ...

When Do You Decide to Give Up on The Handmaid’s Tale?

The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up

Gallows that buckle but don’t burst open in fake hangings, escape planes that get shot before they can even lift off the runway, victoriously and gruesomely cutting out an ear tag only to get it stamped back in three episodes later… Is this how Gilead breaks you? Asking both for the sake of June/Offred (as we’re back to calling her) and for the sake of The Handmaid’s Tale viewers like myself. This whiplash is getting nauseating.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×04 “Other Women”

What’s most horrifying about “Other Women” is how June being returned to her household and pre-Mayday Handmaid life isn’t just retreading the same ground from season 1. First, this is a trial period; if neither she nor the Waterfords cooperate, she’ll wind up chained to a stained bed like poor Ofwyatt until she gives birth and is then discarded, according to Aunt Lydia:

“You see, June ...

The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up
The Handmaid's Tale 204 "Other Women" television review giving up

The Handmaid’s Tale Checks “Baggage” on the Underground Femaleroad

The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review

Last week I came across an illuminating tweet: “The Handmaid’s Tale is really a white woman imagining herself on the Underground Railroad 😭” I admit that on my first and second reads of the book, I was too amused by Margaret Atwood’s wordplay, with Gilead’s Underground Femaleroad, to consider how Mayday smuggling (mostly white) Handmaids to freedom might appropriate the language of American slavery rather than put the dystopia in conversation with that era. Watching the latest episode of Hulu’s adaptation, I paid closer attention for signs that their take on the Underground Femaleroad might be more intersectional than the book. While it was still a white woman being led to freedom, the tracks on which the Femaleroad was laid operate on a fascinating gender divide: As June reflects, “Raise your daughter a feminist, she spends all her time waiting to be rescued by men.”

Spoilers for ...

The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review
The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review
The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review
The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review
The Handmaid's Tale 203 Baggage television review

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Begins Between Darkness and Light

The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale ends on a note of ambiguity: Offred steps into the Eyes’ car, “into the darkness, within; or else the light.” This open-ended farewell from the Handmaid narrator leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about Offred’s fate, either optimistic or pessimistic, hopeful or bleak.

There’s never the option of the shadows. The in-between, the liminal space between captivity and freedom. Purgatory. Finishing the book, we imagine that Offred finally gets out of Gilead, whether that’s smuggled out in a car or in a noose on the Wall. But as the television series, starting its second season entirely off-book, reminds us, Gilead is always within you.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×01 “June” and 2×02 “Unwomen”

How is it possible that The Handmaid’s Tale got even bleaker? Looking back through last season’s reviews, I completely forgot how the Offred in the pilot had a ...

The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 Begins Between Darkness and Light

The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale ends on a note of ambiguity: Offred steps into the Eyes’ car, “into the darkness, within; or else the light.” This open-ended farewell from the Handmaid narrator leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about Offred’s fate, either optimistic or pessimistic, hopeful or bleak.

There’s never the option of the shadows. The in-between, the liminal space between captivity and freedom. Purgatory. Finishing the book, we imagine that Offred finally gets out of Gilead, whether that’s smuggled out in a car or in a noose on the Wall. But as the television series, starting its second season entirely off-book, reminds us, Gilead is always within you.

Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale 2×01 “June” and 2×02 “Unwomen”

How is it possible that The Handmaid’s Tale got even bleaker? Looking back through last season’s reviews, I completely forgot how the Offred in the pilot had a ...

The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review
The Handmaid's Tale season 2 television review

Dream Casting Y: The Last Man

Yesterday, FX announced that it had ordered a pilot for the TV adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man—meaning, we’re one step closer to seeing Yorick, Agent 355, Allison Mann, the Beths, Hero, and everyone else onscreen! Obviously, this is incredibly early in the process, but seeing as I’ve been taking notes for a dream cast post since last year’s update, I figured why not play the casting game.

One note: While the majority of the characters are in their early-to-mid-20s over the course of the series, I had trouble pulling enough good options from young Hollywood. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the series ages everyone up a little bit. So, if not all of the ages match up, the point is to find actors who channel the same vibes of these characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if FX cast mostly unknowns, though ...

Y: The Last Man dream cast Yorick
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast
Y: The Last Man dream cast

Y: The Last Man TV Adaptation Moves Forward as FX Orders Pilot

Y: The Last Man TV adaptation update FX orders pilot

FX has ordered a pilot for Y: The Last Man, a television adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s landmark comic book series about a plague that wipes out nearly every organism with a Y chromosome except for amateur magician and escape artist Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand. In addition, FX has brought on writer/producer Aïda Mashaka Croal (Jessica JonesLuke Cage) as co-showrunner with Michael Green (American Gods). They will executive produce alongside Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson (The Hunger Games), as well as Vaughan.

While a TV series has been in development since late 2015, the last update was over a year ago. The pilot itself has also gone through many iterations, as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out in its writeup: The 2016 presidential election forced Green to “reassess it tonally,” he said in an interview last year, ...

Ideal Spaces: Virtual Realities in Cyberpunk Fiction

Ready Player One Wade Watts

Since its inception in the early 1980s, cyberpunk has established two distinct kinds of worlds. There’s the post-industrial dystopian cityscape, like modern Japan on crack but shaded with enough darkness to be appropriately noir-y; and there’s cyberspace, the virtual world running parallel (or sometimes perpendicular) to the real one. With corrupt corporations calling the shots, it makes sense that the punks would retreat into the digital space, an idealized version of their downtrodden daily lives malleable enough that they can create their own private universe. When you can look whatever way you want and challenge the laws of physics, why would you want to return to the real world?

When a cyberpunk novel was published says a lot about the virtual reality it depicts; while VRs share certain key elements, what they mean to their characters and their particular world is very dependent on the larger context. Looking at 10 ...

True Names Vernor Vinge virtual reality cyberpunk evolution
cyberspace the matrix Neuromancer virtual reality cyberpunk evolution
Synners Pat Cadigan virtual reality cyberpunk
Metaverse Snow Crash Neal Stephenson virtual reality cyberpunk
Otherland Tad Williams The Net virtual reality cyberpunk
Altered Carbon VR virtual reality download centers Takeshi Kovac
Accelerando Charles Stross VR virtual reality cyberpunk
Ready Player One VR virtual reality OASIS Easter egg hunt
Tomorrow and Tomorrow Thomas Sweterlitsch virtual reality VR cyberpunk
Lock In the Agora virtual reality VR cyberpunk John Scalzi
Futurama-GameOver