lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
Diana and the Amazons of Themyscira


On Saturday night, I finally watched the Wonder Woman movie. It's been highly anticipated in general, both because of Gal Gadot's short but redeeming performance in last year's appalling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but also because of the revolving-door rumors about a WW movie, and its many years in so-called development hell. It took me a long time to become a fan of the character myself, given the nature of creative work on a shared universe like DC Comics' universe. Writers and artists come and go, each one wanting to leave their mark on the character. With each change in creative teams, you never know what version of your favorite character you're going to get next. At the end of the day, every fan has their own idea of what Wonder Woman is, or should be.

Fortunately, this is an idea that the movie takes a strong stance on. Wonder Woman is a character full of contradictions. She's a superhero, a princess, a warrior, a mythological figure and an ambassador for peace, and none of these roles, no matter how conflicting they might seem, can be elided and still remain true to form. An explicitly feminist character from her inception, Wonder Woman was initially conceived as a superheroine who fights evil, "not with fists but with love". There's a great deal that might be said about William Moulton Marston and his ideas of gender, and how they gave rise to the Diana we know. Whatever else might be said, though, what persisted is a profile of a heroine combining strengths stereotypically both masculine and feminine.

Read more... )

Instead I will close with this: Wonder Woman is a five-star summer action film which approaches its subject matter with a little more finesse than is typical for the superhero genre. It fulfilled every expectation I had for it and then some. I fully see myself rewatching it, and finding more to see and love in it than I did in the first viewing. I recommend it whole-heartedly and have high hopes for a sequel.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I tried out the prologue for the new Voltage game. It’s technically a period piece, which is mildly interesting, and it’s prohibition-era, which under different circumstances would probably intrigue me more. Except that there’s already The Blind Griffin, and while it’s very short and has no female love interests, I enjoyed it tremendously the three or so times I played it through. Plus, the heroine of TBG is just fantastic.

Anyway, the new game. Only the first few routes have made their appearance, but the prologue handily introduces all the many, many (many!) love interests. A little clumsily, but at least it’s super clear on what’s going on. There are about seven or eight male love interests, and one woman.

This is the story of a brash and outgoing girl of indeterminate age (if I had to guess I’d say no older than twenty) whose overprotective mother was worried about her hard-partying ways. So she sent her to live with her stern uncle. In Chicago. Which is clearly the best place in which to protect a young girl from the seedier aspects of life, such a good place that they even named a musical after it.

The MC is full of vim, and is meant to be quite clever and qualified. She doesn’t super sell it, though. It takes her the entire prologue to figure out what was immediately obvious to me as a reader, which is that her temperance campaigner uncle is secretly running a speakeasy under his shop. But anyway, she’s a lively and strong-willed girl, and that has its appeal. Runs a little close to “feisty” for my tastes but it’s hard to tell from such a short sample.

Verdict: I don’t know if I’ll get into it. Then again, it’s definitely better than L&L and I read almost a dozen episodes of that before I gave up. The background art is beautiful. The sprites are nice also, a style much more favorable I think than L&L’s had. It also remains to be seen whether there’s an overarching story to the different routes. Bottom line is, Astoria is still the best. If you can’t get more of that, fanfic is the only way to go.

Crossposted to Tumblr.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
On most work days, I liven up my commute by listening to podcasts. They’re easy to listen to, because I can drift in and out of focus without too much trouble, and put together whatever I miss from context. Listening to audio fiction isn’t so easy. I need to focus on every word, or the thread of the plot is lost, and my enjoyment of the words themselves is lessened. I listen to short fiction on audio only rarely, and then only to very short things, twenty minutes or less. Still, I’ve found some remarkable stories online. These are three of them.

That hilariously short attention span aside, and ignoring for a second that sometimes depression prevents me from focusing on anything interesting, I like listening to short stories on audio on my phone. While waiting for the bus, on my commute, on lunch breaks, on the line at the supermarket… wherever I can squeeze in those twenty minutes of peace.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
After having been playing it pretty regularly for about a month and a half, I believe I might finally be ready to make my review of Kisses and Curses. There are 5-6 routes (depending on how you count) and I played two of them to the end, then quit halfway through another. Now I'm dipping my toes into a fourth with hopes of clarifying something about the reasons why I DNFed the last one. I've been trying to review this game for ages so getting this out of my system will be real nice.

In other game news, I made a thread for Wreath of Roses on the Lemma Soft forums, the mythological birthplace of so many OEL visual novels and dating sims. My concerns about text games and game writing and etc. are more or less validated, but it's okay.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
The game's full title is Niche: a Genetics Survival Game, and thank Darwin fish for that, because "niche game" is the worst Google search term in history.

Anyhoo. Niche is an eco-bio-something sim that charges the player with raising a pack of vague mammalian critters, collecting food, breeding, fighting off predators, and exploring their surroundings. The game world's science is a biological grab-bag of sorts. Differently colored tiles represent different "biomes" with different physical characteristics. Each critter has its own genome, where some traits divide to dominant versus recessive, and others mix interestingly, like fur color. A "mutation menu" lets the player pick specific traits to introduce into their newly-bred nichelings, rolling the dice and letting the odds determine the outcome. "Immunity genes" exist to discourage consanguinity. Later in the game's life cycle, "alpha/beta" status for critters was also introduced.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1

Wednesday, 4 January 2017 15:00
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
My fall's reading has been not nearly so prolific as the summer or spring had been. Since Icon wrapped up in October, I still haven't finished the small pile of graphic novels sitting on my shelf, gazing at me, forlorn. NaNoWriMo happened and I was focused on trying to break barriers in my own writing and, frankly, November had been a rough month for everyone.

It's a good thing I started out with Lumberjanes, then. This comics series, bound up in four-issue trade paperbacks, hovers somewhere between young adult and middle grade. Though nominally a fantasy adventure book, it's a little more unrestrained in its fantastical exploration than I'm used to seeing in YA. The art style is vibrant and compelling, but the human figures are stylized enough that the age of the protagonists stays ambiguous. The summer camp environment and the bright and cheery atmosphere give it an overall middle grade vibe.

Read more... )

Lumberjanes is a delightfully chaotic adventure, and I recommend it heartily to anyone looking for something bright and beautiful to read.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
The world of Fallen London was yet again enriched this month with the release of the long-awaited Zubmariner DLC for Sunless Sea. A stretch goal of the Sunless Sea Kickstarter campaign, Zubmariner promised to expand on the hints of sub-aquatic travel lore already present in Fallen London, and take players to a deeper and darker place than ever before. As the surface of the Unterzee already features sea-urchins from space who speak the language of stars, and a malevolent living mountain that’s can’t be permanently killed, it seemed a tall order. Still, the early promotional materials were intriguing to say the least, so as a KS backer myself I was very ready to be hyped.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)

The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation runs a yearly competition for interactive fiction called IFComp. Though it’s been flourishing for many years, I hadn’t heard about it before this year, and too late to be able to plan and execute a worthy submission. Still, nothing’s preventing me from browsing the 50-odd submissions and looking for something to catch my eye. As a novice to IF I’ve only had hands-on experience with a very few platforms for writing or playing it. IFComp, though, exposes a whole array of techniques and manipulations that I wasn’t previously familiar with. Needless to say, this affected my play experience significantly.

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending – K.G. Orphanides

This was the first entry I played. Eight characters is a parser game, where commands can be entered in the text box or through navigation links. Some of the commands are helpfully explained in the in-universe manuals. Some are fairly intuitive, once you catch the trick of it – another effect of my being a novice player. I fussed for a long time over trying to open a simple chest before I learned to adjust to the game’s expectations.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.


lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Basic: Science)
Medical history can be fascinating, depressing and hilarious in more or less equal measure. A few of my smarter teachers have touched on it here and there, and it always helps to contextualize the material. It also puts things in perspective, when you’re learning about historical beliefs that represented the best medical thought of the time, alongside the best modern understanding of certain scientific mysteries. Makes you feel like maybe we know as little about the human brain as our antecedents did about germ theory. Someday, future podcasters will laugh at us.

Read more... )

"Sawbones" is a Maximum Fun podcast hosted by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and Justin McElroy.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Greatest Hits

Wednesday, 7 September 2016 12:00
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
Some of the posts on this blog receive very regular hits, regardless of how old they are. Hits from Google, or from social media of the shareable kind, where someone might decide to revive an old-ish post and give it second wind. It’s easy enough to trace my most popular posts through this method, as well as by the hit-count which WordPress provides. It’s almost as easy to get to the bottom of why these posts in particular receive more attention than others.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
Disclosure: I received an ARC of Stay Crazy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The most important thing to note about Stay Crazy, of course, is that the protagonist is insane. Well, yes, of course. It says right in the blurb that she was discharged from a mental hospital. And yet, she is also at the center of a vast conspiracy. It would have been so easy to make this the story of someone who only appears to be insane, when they are in fact the only ones who see the truth. Most often when I see spec fic stories involving characters confined in mental wards or the like, the story is one of false imprisonment, and draws a sharp line between the POV character and all those other people, the real crazies.

Em is as real-crazy as they come. Despite her unflattering descriptions of her fellow patients, she explicitly sets herself among them, the other psychotics. The book is written in a very subjective and often claustrophobic first person narration, dragging the reader deep into Em's periodic bouts of hallucination. It's difficult to immediately determine, during each episode, whether is is delusional or merely trans-dimensional. The silver insects crawling over her boyfriend's plate at the restaurant, the swallowing brown smoke at the bowling alley, even the TV psychologist's hidden messages. Which of these are conspiracy, and which are artifacts of the mind?

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
The Cloud Roads is the first installment of Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura series, a vivid and imaginative secondary world fantasy populated by a wealth of strange and fascinating creatures. Primary attention is given to the Raksura, a species of reptilian shapeshifters with a curious insectile social structure. This book is driven by worldbuilding, and as such, it must introduce a point-of-view that can ease the reader into the rich vitality of the setting, one piece at a time. Moon’s backstory as it is given is far from original, but as a vagabond traveler orphaned at a young age, he serves the book’s needs perfectly.

A well-rounded review requires revealing to the reader some things that the protagonist himself is initially ignorant of. Moon begins the story as a solitary being, camouflaged among strangers and unable to answer even the simplest questions about what he is or where he came from. The only others of his kind who he knew are long-dead. He does know a few things about himself, some of which he reveals to the readers, and others which he holds back. But the first turn of the plot is stated in the very beginning of chapter one, before doubling back to expose the transition in full.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
I’ve been obsessed with mermaids since I first watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was six years old. Reportedly, after the movie I menaced my father with complex natural science questions like ‘what do mermaids eat?’ Fairy tales never really stopped having an appeal for me, even as a teenager when I grew frustrated with their simplistic and formulaic nature. It’s a good thing, too, because studying fairy tales taught me more about writing than almost anything else. To this very day, there are some words that, if I see them on a book cover, will spark an immediate interest: "dragon", for example. Or "mermaid".

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
One of the delightful things that happened at Olamot Con 2016 is that I happened upon a copy of the first Rat Queens TPB at one of the stands. The name rang a bell, so I flipped through it and eventually surrendered to temptation and took it home with me. This title has been vaguely on my radar for a while, but the scarcity of comic book stores and my general disengagement with the medium produced an obstacle of availability. What am I gonna say, there is so much entertainment media out there, you have to work hard to catch and keep readers' attention.

Conventions, however, exist to circumvent the barriers that make mass media vastly more available for consumption than more niche markets, and I took full advantage of this fact. I bought the first two TPBs, covering Rat Queens #1-#10, and a full story arc with a satisfying conclusion. Frankly, that's already more than most comics can boast.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
This is a story of how Person of Interest worked three long seasons to earn its surveillance dystopia, when other shows of the genre failed to show their work.

This week, Person of Interest returns to the screens for its fifth and final season. After a four season emotional roller-coaster, fans are eager but understandably apprehensive about the conclusion. No one promised us a happy end. In fact, as the show wore on, it became clear that its premise, which initially relied on crime drama with a thin dusting of ambiguous sci-fi, had become radically transformed. Viewers entering the fourth season now knew that the show's world presents a freshly budding dystopia dominated by a conscious and independent artificial intelligence.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
Masques and Murder is a dark historical revenge fantasy taking place in Renaissance Italy. The historical setting lends the game a richness of language, combining with the art and music to give the game its particular aesthetic. The plot is as grisly as requisite. You play a young woman whose family was murdered in a power-grab, where the combined goal of the game is to extract vengeance, as well as escape the prospect of marriage to one of your family's murderers. The game's atmosphere is meticulously put together.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
I made a professional call that I have to seriously step up my self-promotion efforts, if I want to continue nurturing my writing career. Like a lot of people I know (a lot of people in the creative milieu) I find this daunting. It's something that I have to keep insisting to myself that I must do and I will do, or else I will easily let it fall by the wayside while concerning myself with other things.

By far my largest following right now is on Tumblr, so that's where I'm concentrating my efforts.

I want to drop some links here, too, because I know that there some bloggers on Dreamwidth who never took to the fandom style of social media.

My blog: Hazel Gold, science fiction and fantasy reviews. Also found for easy following on Facebook and Twitter. My unfiltered personal Twitter account is anthologyofwhat (the name of my old Tumblr blog), and of late I also have a Pinterest board. Please click the links if you wish to support my writing endeavors. Cross-posting to Dreamwidth is not automated, so following the main blog really is the best way to stay up-to-date on my new reviews.

Speaking of which, I should get back to generating content...
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
Queen at Arms, a strategy and romance visual novel, first became known to me under the working title 'The Silent Princess'. Thankfully this title was dropped pretty quickly since, despite being accurate in the literal sense, it gives an entirely false impression of the game's content. Read more... )

Ultimately I would say QAA is a compelling game, although not an excellent one. What recommends it is that it tries to bring something new to the table, and in the experience it can offer to the player. Despite multiple romance paths, achievements and hidden secrets to discover, it has limited replayability value. Recommended with reservations.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I read Sorcerer to the Crown, beginning to end, in under three days. Not a usual occurrence for me, not since my high school years. There's a particular joy to be had in devouring a book and not being able to set it down, and this is exactly the sort of book you want for this type of adventure. Light without being frothy, romantic without being cloying, and effortlessly funny. My favorite stories are the ones that have well-balanced measures of comedy, drama and action. It's a pretty difficult trick, but I think this book manages it remarkably.

Read more... )

Sorcerer to the Crown came highly recommended to me (from various sources), but I can honestly say that it exceeded my expectations. An instant classic, and one that I'm certain I'll want to reread on a regular basis.

Crossposted to hazelgold.com.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a secondary world fantasy novel, taking place in an unmagical world dominated by a sprawling colonial empire.

Baru Cormorant is a brilliant native child, taken from her family by the Empire of Masks in order to be raised in a residential school on Imperial values. Her voracious mind devours everything they teach her, mathematics and astronomy at the price of doctrine and propaganda. Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

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