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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
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Thursday 26 April 2012

Space Boobies: Sexy Aliens, the Pros and Cons (Yes, There are Cons)

Hello again, flock!

Today's post is brought to you by Facebook. A most excellent male friend often posts a question of the day, and they are generally geektastic opportunities for all of us on his friend list to riff and crack witticisms as we answer. Today's question was focused on sexy alien races, and which were the most appealing. It led to predictable hilarity, but, as these things so often do, it got me thinking.

Now, when I say 'sexy alien', you probably thought of the Asari race from Bioware's Mass Effect immediately. If you didn't, shame on you. And I'm about to show you why.

Source. Warning: contains shrill feminism.

You probably also thought of Twi'leks, from Star Wars. Here is the famous Oola, the chick who refuses to give Jabba sexual favours and is then eaten by a Rancor in Return of the Jedi.

Source. Warning: contains Wookiepedia's writing style and the beautiful Femi Taylor.

There are other examples, of course, but given that I had to turn Safesearch on just to find images that weren't pornographic, especially for Oola, I'm going to skip ahead. Point is, there are a lot of Sexy Alien Girls, from races named and unnamed, and Captain Kirk has slept with most of them.

This may surprise you (unless you actually read my blog regularly), but I'm not going to complain about the proliferation of hypersexual female aliens everywhere. Exaggeratedly large breasts, slim waists, full hips, juicy lips and wide eyes, long legs, elegant hands and feet--chances are, if you have a sexy alien race, they will be female and they will have all of these traits. The eyes sometimes change, and hair is usually the first thing to be modified or lost--along with skin tone, which is almost always blue for some reason--but the rest remain. And, again, in addition to finding these girls attractive myself, I don't have a problem with their designs. Blatant fanservice is fine, because males in zap-gun, zoom-pow sci-fi are inevitably pretty attractive and virile. Also, I fail to see how sex, and sexualization are a) new in human history, and/or b)OMG SO EVIL U GUYS!!!1!11

So, what's the big deal, again? If you like the sexy, why did you mention cons, SciFiMagpie?

So, sexy content is fine. It would be nice if it wasn't in every single bit of fiction ever, as that gets repetitive. In a general way, it would also be nice if the universes that include a Sexy Fanservice Female Race would compensate more by averaging some hideous and 'normal'-looking females into those races as well. There's also the issue of having one unrealistically attractive race making everyone else seem ugly, and therefore imposing a higher standard of physical beauty on every race/species involved in the universe, just to compensate. For example, Bioware allows players to create a muscular fat male player character in the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG while withholding that option from female player builds. And, sure, ugly alien females exist in Star Wars, but when was the last time you saw an ugly female Twi'lek outside a convention? Didn't think so. In fact, just the fact that my joke was funny shows that Twi'lek beauty standards are annoyingly unrealistic. The boyfriend, who actually plays the MMO, claims that some do exist, but I haven't seen them myself, and you'd probably have to look pretty hard.

And, sure, it annoys me that all sexy alien girls are sexy in the same, somewhat Americanized way, but that's something that may improve with time. I can't blame the various science fiction authors and creators for giving us pretty, exotic girls: exoticism is always interesting, due to our biological imperative to mix genes.

(This is why foreigners are "always" sexy, if you were wondering: you're attracted to their hardy immune system and varied genetic stock. Doing the horizontal tango with someone from a different region or country means that your offspring will, in theory, be hardier and more genetically diverse. This is also why I have to beat away chicks with a club from my Russian boyfriend. I digress, here's the link to back it up.)

Proof of that immune system thang.

So, exotic girls with idealised beauty: all good, gives you something nice to look at while you're cruising around the galaxy. But...where are the sexy male characters? This is the crux of my problem. Having defended the reasons for feminine eye-candy, I find myself utterly unable to explain why the 21st century hasn't brought a bunch of equally delicious male species. Apart from various iterations of elves with a science fiction-flavoured twist, and, depending on what you're into, tentacled species, there aren't really a lot of sexualized male species out there. There are a few with outstanding charisma, sure, but even Bioware's Turians and Drell in Mass Effect are respectively a) really hard to sleep with and likely to cause an allergic reaction in humans and b)amphibious. There's a tendency to modify 'male' races more, give them more peculiar traits that are less attractive or more dangerous. Women are exactly as shallow as men when it comes to reactions to visual sexual stimuli, and it would be nice to see that reflected in character design. For example, broad shoulders, full lips, and well-shaped legs and chests are easy ways to keep our eyes on the guys. Then take that and add some creativity. Come on, visual designers, I know you can do this. And you can't say you're afraid of being called 'gay'. Gay guys play games too, and I'm pretty damn sure they'd love a little fan service. It's pretty damn sad when Googling 'sexy male aliens' yields nothing but...human males. And this.

Source. Warning: contains awesome. This chick has a good sense of humour.

I'm well aware that it's highly unlikely that Hollywood or the big game studios will give a crap about a few feminist blog posts asking them to a)tone down the exaggerated attractiveness of their female characters or b)scale up the physical attractivenss of their non-human male characters, but for the sake of argument, let's follow this through. Games are starting to show less hyper-sexualized chicks--compared to, say, Grand Theft Auto (different genre, I know, shut up) games such as Dark Souls, Skyrim, and films such as--oh wait, there weren't any science fiction movies last year that involved aliens. Never mind--are making a conscientious turn away from forcing all alien/exotic females to be sex toys. This is good, but we need more. Literature, of course, is fine, because authors can do whatever the hell they want, and there are enough books out there about alternate gender issues and that sort of thing that we don't need to worry. Visual media, however, are slow to catch up.

And the point is...?

Sex is okay. Being sexy is okay. Sexy girls are great. We just need a little more variety and more balanced representation of eye candy between the genders. Failing to do this not only bores us, it addes to that repetitive message about the unacceptability of physical flaws in this or any other universe. Also, boobs are great.

Well, that's our show for today. For more gamer jokes, analysis, and adorably witty insights, follow me on Twitter at SciFiMagpie. Don't forget to share this page and come back for more!If you don't, Oola will be very, very sad. And you don't want that, do you?

This is the SciFiMagpie, peacing out!

Friday 20 April 2012


you know it's exciting because I'm using capitals....

And the Stars Will Sing is now out on Smashwords! Go buy it! Now! Here is the link:

And the Stars Will Sing

Enjoy! This is the SciFiMagpie, over and out!

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

Hello, flock!

We interrupt our usual science fiction programming to bring you an important, if obvious message: pop music sucks.

Now, I can hear 90% of you crying, "why have you bothered to interrupt us with this terribly boring statement?" I'll keep this one short for the sake of not going over a topic that's been written about far too often. Still, there's something to say about it, and I want you guys to give it a few minutes of airtime on your own brainwave broadcasts.

You can blame Robyn for this thought trend; listening to her eponymous album, and a bit of Body Talk Pt. 2, I wondered why this Grammy-winner wasn't hitting the airwaves more often up here in The Great Multicultural North, Canada. Now, pop music being what it is, and retail zombiehood being what it is, I end up being subjected to popular music day in and day out when I'm at work. Virgin Radio is an especial culprit for overplaying the most recent big hits several times a day. When Gotye's Somebody that I Used to Know came on, I would breathe a sigh of relief before the next onslaught of Nicki Minaj hit me like an obnoxious tidal wave of cheap perfume and loud, poorly-applied make-up.

Now, I should clarify: I don't hate pop music.

Quite the opposite. There have been a few songs I couldn't help enjoying, of course--I am a sheepish Lady Gaga fan, I actually enjoyed Ke$ha's second album Cannibal a lot, and Usher's DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again is a song that makes me smile every time I hear it. I also enjoy old-fashioned hot jazz, Led Zepplin and other classic rock faire, punk, 90s alt rock, Leonard Cohen and other guitar poets like Neko Case, British soul-pop and rock (both Invasion era and modern), Canadian independent music, and a nice helping of Bizet every now and again. A pinch of thrash or some hip-hop complete my day. Point is, my tastes are at least somewhat diverse, and I'm willing to give almost any artist a fair shot.


Can't read her, can't read her, no we can't read her duck lip face. D-d-d-duck-face d-d-d-d-duckface muh-muh-muh-muh. I'm not even going to comment on the Justin Bieber I'm subjecting you to.

So why is it that Nicki Minaj, Bieber (shudder) and Pitbull make me homicidally annoyed and depressed about the fate of humanity? Well, it's not because people buy their mediocre work, or that they're successful. It's the fact that they are megahits. Now, the Spice Girls (anyone under the age of 15 might have to use Google to find out who they are) were almost equally mediocre, and they have not lasted. N'Sync also comes to mind. However much of a relief it is that these artists have had little-to-no staying power, their megahit contemporaries may be a bigger menace. No-one is saying that Nicki Minaj, for example, is a Great Artist, but to look at music stores and magazine covers, it's hard to find anyone capable of competing with her. The big companies are marketing her hard, and I think I've figured out why.


Simply, the issue is this: stupid artists, who can sing and perform but aren't smart enough to cause trouble, are easier for them to advertise. Pitbull is never going to cause trouble by demanding to be seen as a legitimate artist in his own right. These singers are auto-tuned to death, and don't care about being taken seriously as creators of new ideas. We haven't had very many new ideas or approaches come out within the last few years that caught the limelight. It may be to early to tell--I hope--but the club music that's followed in the wake of that five-minute indie craze and the preceding wasteland of hardcore gangster rap we had in the early-to-mid 2000s hasn't given us anything new. In fact, quite a few artists who made their names in the 90s have been recycling their sound to make a comeback. And that is bad news for producing a good

Katy Perry, in contrast, may be heading in a different direction--for all the poppy sugar-coated fun and brainlessness of most of the Teenage Dream album, a good half of the album, which didn't hit the radio, was really dark and quite meaningful. Her most recent single, Part of Me, has an empowering, non-sexploitational portrayal of a woman joining the female division of Marines after a bad breakup. Given that this is coming in the wake of a nasty divorce from her husband Russell Brand, we may be in for a treat involving a new artistic direction and more than the bubblegum pop she's produced up to this point. if we're lucky, Katy Perry is going to be trouble.

Adele is another artist who holds some promise. If she can get over her general trend of hating on her ex-boyfriend(s?) we may see some interesting stuff come out of her. Either that, or she'll wash up badly. I give it ten years to go in either direction.


...I hear you cry. And it's true, to a certain extent. A good friend of mine brought up a decent point: the stuff that I think isn't all that challenging or controversial, such as Lady Gaga's music, could be a lot more so for someone else. And, we've had stupid popular music for years--why would having stupid music now change anything? I should point out that the friend in question has taste even more eclectic and generally exquisite than mine, so it's not as though she's a radio robot.

And frankly, it's a good point. This said, though, there's a lot less work involved in a Justin Bieber song than, say, an Offspring song, or even a James Blunt song. And no, not everything has to be either a) classical music, b) deeply emotionally moving and oh my god what is this, or c) the most musically or lyrically complex shizzle ever to rock the block. Sometimes, mindless, fun music is a good thing. But still--cheap, easy to make crap is easy to put out, and some intellectual and emotional challenges with our daily serving of beats would be nice.

Well, that's all the time I have for today. Hit me up on Twitter at SciFiMagpie for more funny, updates on new posts, and general fuckery. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, checking out!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Missed It: The Illusionist Review

Hello, flock! Thanks for checking out another Missed It review. I've been reading a lot this week, but sometimes, Netflix teases me with old releases I could never find in stores. This was one of them. Tonight, we have The Illusionist, released in 2006, featuring Edward Norton, Rufus Sewell (he's following me, I swear) and Paul Giamatti.

Summary: The Illusionist is a movie about a woo-woo magician who may or may not have real magical powers. He falls in love above his station and causes some trouble. When the lady-love is revealed to be the darling of both the magician, Eisenheim, and crown prince of Vienna, shit hits the proverbial fan. There is a murder and a growly Chief Inspector of awesome on the case, and the rest of the film is just delicate suspense and pretty cinematography.

Pros: Once again, Rufus Sewell from Dark City plays a villain. His angry intensity and subdued portrayal of a man on the edge is increasingly interesting as the film goes on. He does wear the "goddamnit, I suffer fools not gladly" facial expression far too often, though. If you're not familiar with it, picture an angry but very patient sheep and splice in a little wolf. He gets the "goddamnit" look on his face so often, I was tempted to start taking a drink every time he gave old Eisenheim the Sewell Method Glare of Doom. Unlike A Knight's Tale, though, he was at least paying attention for this one and was actually somewhat scary.

Paul Giamatti does a fine job as Chief Inspector. I have a liking for Giamatti and his whole-hearted performances, and this performance was really excellent. It's fun to watch him sleuth out the murderer, even if he's far more Dr. Watson than Holmes. I often wished I could transport him to a better film, but at least he doesn't seem like a total hapless mook. He even gets to growl at people instead of whinge, and wears a nice suit in this movie!

Also it has this locket in it:

Here's an action shot that should explain my squealing noises.

Thanks to Jim, the creator of these wicked awesome movie-realistic lockets, for letting me use his image and the site. Buy one of these for your partner and he/she/it will think you're the coolest boyfriend/girlfriend ever, srsly.

The focus on jewellery appealed to this little magpie for sure. Am I shallow for enjoying the locket far more than I enjoyed the heroine who was wearing it? Yes? Well, anyway, it's a beautiful locket, and I'm going to go buy one now.

Cons: the love interest, Sophy, is a bland girl who just isn't interesting or even noticeable enough to carry the film. She has a mildly outspoken personality, sort of, and...actually, I can't think of any defining traits of her personality other than 'locket' and 'subdued grey dress with lots of buttons'. And as well,


When she died, I gave approximately one third of a shit, not even half. Not good, movie.


The wavering accents are also a minus, and they go up and down like a hooker working two waterbeds. Alas, Eisenheim is very flat. He lacks the magnetism of the two magicians in The Prestige and is far too reserved. His performance was praised, but ot's too far off the 'understated' side of the curve for my taste, and far less than angry sheep Sewell and sheepdog Giamatti.

My biggest gripe involves the mystical approach to magic. It's very annoying to anyone who enjoys either stage magic or proper fantasy settings. Nothing is explained and the "it's only a trick" thing is pretty flimsy. If you are going to have a "speculations on the nature of reality" film, a less drowsy pace and actually trying to convice the audience that science was possibly involved is necessary. Casting your rationalist scientist as the villain is pretty dull. As enjoyable as it is to watch Sewell get his nuts in a knot over Norton's tricks, the tepid pace sucks the life out of it. (Also, blurry and tepid sex scene for the lose.) There is another easter egg, though; the ginger actor from Moulin Rouge shows up as a sidekick. It is as though they are giving us a buffet option with overactors.

Final prognosis: 6 out of 10 for making me fidgety and mumble 'GET ON WITH IT' under my breath. Worth a watch for the aesthetic value and fine muscial score. I liked the twist at the end, much as it was sort of predictable, but the rest of the film is a trial of patience at times, However, its potential for drinking games gives it far more interest for the future.

That was two reviews put out in a single night! Aren't you some lucky people. Follow me on Twitter at SciFiMagpie or be square. And failing that, check out Jim's site; he's extremely friendly. See you soon!

Monday 9 April 2012

Missed It: Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad

I have been meaning to read Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad since it came out 8 years ago (in 2004). Finally this weekend I found a copy and put down the cash. There were a couple of Chuck Palaniuk-y moment that made my stomach go squish garble urk, and some stutters and falters in tone and such. However, the tone is good, characters are witty and self-aware without being precious, and the atmosphere is addictive. Time for the breakdown! Also a greasy yet cute picture of the most common four-legged predator in the Canadian praries.

Thanks, Wiki!

Summary: A couple of young North African kids, one a school dropout and the other a mad scientist, spend their days making neighbourhood children happy and being quietly awesome. That is, until their peaceful Edmontonian existence is disrupted by a mysterious chick, the drug ring chasing her, and some epic WTF surrounding an ancient artefact jar of ulimate McGuffin power. Also there is a bit of cannibalism and some emotionally resonant struggles with growing up/dealing with 'sad violin' topics in one's personal history.

Pros: Likeable main characters. Hamza and Yehat are different guys and although the story is centred on Hamza, Yehat isn't fully relegated to the role of a sidekick. They are pretty well-developed, idiosyncratic, and memorable.

The goons are also a lot of fun to read about. Pow-Zap character profiles preceding each new first person character keep the muliple narrators relatively easy to follow. The villains themselves are surprisingly well-developed specimens of ordinary human evil, complete with Feelings, Ambition, 'n' Stuff!

The atmosphere is probably the best part. The bizarre mix of Norse and Egyptian mythology with a North African backbeat works surprisingly well. The technology sections show their age, but practically everything works. It is hard to find African/non-American/Eurocentric sci-fi, so the vibe is very cool. Also I really want Ethiopian food right now.

Cons: Sheremnefer is also interesting, but what happens to her is predictable and kind of disappointing. A coupke of things here wer, such as


McGuffin desctruction and NO Happy Endings For Immortals rules coming into effect.


Yehat's intriguing mechanical fuckery wth the R-Mer gets exploration, but not as much as I would have liked, somehow. Also, Hamza is trapped in the past, but development of this is wobbly amd in retrospect it sometimes feels uneven. At least it feels like the character forcing himself to sulk and whimper rather than the author forcing him.

The only forced bit is the wacky sci-fi tomfoolery with the FanBoys and the new recruIts. The book went a lttle too far into the comic book side there. Too much POw-zap during an emotional peak detracted from the poignancy. Its hard to worry for characters when crazy Australians and fascists are tHrowing around swastika boomerangs.

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10. Totally worth a read, and Minister Faust has a really cool and unconventional style, but there were some hard-to-identify yet definite flaws. Still, it is a refreshig change and the Canadian setting is a lot of fun. The thing that would have bumped this novel to an 8 or even a 9 would have been a comic book or graphic novel format.

Well, that's our show for tonight. For more fun, reviews, writing teasers, and general lulz, be sure to come back, or follow me on Twitter at SciFiMagpie. And don't forget to link me to people, because your mother always told you it was polite to share. See you later!

Tuesday 3 April 2012

I Admit I Snacked A Lot: The Hunger Games Book Review

Yes, it's finally here.

After a week off while I recovered from a work-induced productivity slump, I have a treat for you: time for another review!

As most of North America is more than aware, The Hunger Games debued this weekend in theatres. I am keen to see it, but I never watch a film that I have not read the book for unless I am unaware of the book's existence.

Comparisions to Twilight (a series that will get its just desserts in a rant in the future) had me worried. Would another three or four years of idiotic fascination with hideously poor writing and cardboard characters grip the nation? Would another set of equally bland male babes and an anifeminist heroine serve as the newest and hottest role models? Would the prose be slipshod and poorly written enough to finally make me lose my shit?

Thanks, memebase! You can describe my feelings on almost anything!

Initial Prognosis

Fortunately for my 19th century novel-reading, academic, feministic-egalitarian little magpie soul, the answer is a solid and comforting 'no'. The Hunger Games are not perfect, but they are no vampire softcore romp. Let's start by breaking some hearts. I warn you in advance that this will be a fairly critical review, and I am going to focus on the things that don't work. That said, you're welcome to fanrage in the comments below. Cool? Cool.

The plot is not the most original, but I am not going to dock too many points for that. The impact of the games and the reality TV analogy are blunt and they work beautifully. I want to digress and go on about the well-constructed psychological awareness of both viewers and characters, and metagaming by Katniss and Peeta, but right now I am poking holes.

What's Love Got To Do With It

Gale: Gale is flat and uncompelling as a love interest. Her mother and sister are given actual personality and in contrast he falls flat. The love story that follows is well explored enough, especially in Katniss' mind, but t feels forced. Peeta's sweet nature makes him a serious contender and the audience is given some variety from the old home court best friend advantage trope, but the conflict feels forced. Someone give this boy a cookie.

Katniss: Katniss also seems over-powered and overly competent at first. (This is developed very well later and her skills are realistic, and her bravado and confidence are too realistically teenage for me not to like her.) Her recollections of her father are also forced, but so genuinely felt and moving that I enjoyed them very much. I look forward to seeing how she is developed in the next two books. I admit I like the way she's extremely mature and yet frequently impulsive and rebellious: if that's not a realistically portrayed teenage trait, I don't know what is.

Peeta: I absolutely love the way the author limits Katniss' perspective on Peeta and gives him complexity from the get-go. He's a better human being than Katniss is, but in no way is he an Edward, described as too good for the heroine while lacking the skills or cred to back it up. That said...the name. Was the spelling really necessary? It's a little detail, but it made my eyes itch.

Please, Sweat the Technique

Finally, the exposition. Oh god the exposition, IT BURNS. Not unlike salt, my favorte seasoning treat, a bit is great, but less is more. Too much of either results in an upset stomach, dehydration, and heart problems. The tangients and exposition are sometimes distracting and annoying. A barrage of detail here works better than elsewhere, and is often very heartfelt without too much maudlin violin solos or mawkishness,but it is still used too heavily. The prose itself is pretty rocky at points, but this is more bearable than usual for such cases. Still, a little more polish for prettier sentences wouldn't've gone amiss.

...But the descriptions of food and natural beauty made me forgive a lot. I had to make soup and boil some baby golden potatoes (no, not boil babies, what were YOU snacking on?) while reading this book. It made me famished; for good hearty food. Mmmm...foood....I need a minute.

Okay, back after a sammich.

Ahem. Katniss' emotional descriptions are no less conpellig than her meals and snacks. The death of Rue moved me to throat lumps. It was not quite on par with, say, the death of Hamlet or Mordin (10/10) but it got an 8 for sure. Shakesperian grandeur is a sure-fire winning element in the book. Cato's death seemed rushed, I have to say, and he doesn't really live up to the sinister reputation he's given, but the nasty ending here was also very satisfying.

Finally the pacing. Oh god the pacing. Speaking as an author, this book schooled me. The editing was probably great, but a natural flow that is smooth as glass made all the other little faults work.

Final verdict?

A solid 8 out of 10. I was talking about this book all night and I rushed off to write my review the moment I'd finished it. A great hook and a thought-provoking read about economic circumstances in the modern day got me interested, the dry wit is well-used, and it's about time we had a satire on reality TV as self-aware as this one. Now, if you will excusr me I need to call the speciality butcher about rabbit to roast for this weekend.

Oh, and Happy Easter, everyone!

Love me, share me, read more about me on Twitter at SciFiMagpie and back here on the blog. Coming soon: more about dystopias, why they are the best subgenre of sci fi, and soon, a Hunger Games movie review. Plus more teasers about the end of civilization through love!