Picoreview: Alita: Battle Angel : This was much better than I expected it to be. OTOH, I expected it to be very, very, very, very bad indeed.

I thought the story might be okayish but that the CGI would be–I was not convinced by it in the trailers. It just looked creepy, the anime face. The proportions looked wrong. I thought they’d landed squarely in the uncanny valley and had been unable to do anything about it. So I was really surprised to find that the CGI is by and large very good. It’s not…*real*. Or realistic. I don’t know how many years out we are from realistic anime CGI like that, but this year wasn’t it, and I’m not sure if they were really trying to achieve it or not. Either way, it’s largely pretty good CGI.

The story, OTOH, is a hot mess.

Now, I don’t know the source material (except for being aware it exists), so I can’t say how well it matches the story presented on the screen. But what I want to talk about is the story structure, because from a writer POV there were things they were obviously *trying* to achieve, and it’s very clear to me what went wrong and caused them to fail.

Spoilers after the cut. If you stop here, you can take away the knowledge that actually I’d go see another one, so despite the hot mess-ness of it, I overall enjoyed it pretty well. :)
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Last year I tried to make a Thinks To DoDONE post every month to keep myself from feeling like I was drowning under work and not accomplishing anything. I think I managed to post…twice…which wasn’t enough to make me feel very accomplished. :) Trying again!

I finished the second Dublin Driver murder mystery, which was great. I wrote the next section of my REDEEMER/Captain America fan fiction for my Patreon.

(A few days after I posted it, Dad, suddenly, said, “I wish you’d write more of that Captain America story, it’s great.” *laughs* It’s got at least two more sections before I wrap it up, and I’ve set both part one and part two out for public consumption to tantalize you with. :))

I began final edits on STONEMASTER, and got some of the swag (postcards, bookmarks) laid out for it. I got the book jacket cover written and the back cover laid out.

It’s something. It’s not enough, because it never is, but it’s something.

(Oh, I also collected and emailed my comic artist with stuff I was supposed to send him in like November, filled out a long author questionnaire for my new publisher, did a little photography at the zoo, and contracted with a cover artist for new Strongbox Chronicles covers, so that adds up!)

I posted this cartoon (with sincere apologies to cartoonist Sidney Harris) over on Facebook, and an American friend said they’d been trying to follow some of the Brexit news, but frankly it was all a bit confusing (and as if there’s not enough confusion to sort through in the States), so I wrote a very brief primer and answered some follow-up questions, all of which got a nod of approval from some British friends, so I’m going to post it here, too, for those who are baffled but would like to try to understand a little better. :)

The Brexit Vote & Article 50
In June 1016, the United Kingdom held an advisory referendum vote on whether they as a unit should leave the EU. It narrowly passed, to the shock of absolutely everybody, especially those who voted to leave under the assumption the referendum would fail but wanted to lodge a protest against the government in general. This departure immediately got nicknamed “Brexit”.

In order to actually leave the EU, Britain had to trigger an article in the Lisbon Treaty, an EU-wide initiative, that allows a member state to leave the union. This article is known as Article 50. British Prime Minister Teresa May invoked it on 29 March 2017; the United Kingdom leaves the EU two years from that date, like it or lump it. There are, at the time of typing this, eight weeks until Brexit happens.

The UK believes that there are currently negotiations going on about how gracefully Brexit will happen. (They’re wrong. The negotiations are over, and have been for some time.) They currently have three options: the deal, which means “it will go extremely badly”; No Deal, which means “it will go mind-blowingly, incredibly, unbelieveably, staggeringly badly”; and revoke Article 50, which means “never mind, this is a terrible idea and we’re not going to do it.” No one appears to be seriously considering the final option, which means staying in the EU, although the EU has indicated repeatedly that they will pretend this All Never Happened as long as Article 50 is revoked before midnight, 29 March 2019. However, Article 50 has to be actively revoked; they cannot just let the clock run out and say “whoops, we didn’t mean it, we’re gonna stay in!”, although it appears that many British people wrongly believe that’s what will happen in case of a “no deal” Brexit.

Once the clock ticks over to March 30th, if Britain wishes to change their mind, they’ll have to reapply to join the EU, which will almost certainly and with good reason lose them every bit of the special, favored status that they’ve maintained over the past forty years (like keeping the British pound as its currency, among many, many, many other things).

There are obviously huge massive amounts more to it, economic devastation to Britain, huge economic knock-on effects across Europe, surreal levels of difficulty with customs and trade agreements and food and medical supplies and anything else you can imagine, but at the most basic level, that’s what we’re looking at.

So Why In God’s Name Is It Happening?
On one level Brexit is almost identical to what’s going on in the States. The Tory political party (re: GOP) has laid all their bets on the percentage of their supporters who are actual Leavers (Wall supporters) because without that percentage, they lose power.

So they can’t back down without losing political power and they have huge amounts of personal profit retained or made by either maintaining the status quo (see: GOP Senate) or by actually leaving (tax havens, etc; again, think GOP Senate). It’s exactly the same situation. The details are different, but the situation is the same. And not sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but both scenarios are literally exactly what Russia paid for.

The Irish Border
The thrust of the thing with the Irish border is that the DUP, who are the tiny, hard-right-wing, pro-United-Kingdom, Northern Irish political party currently propping up the Tory government, refuse to accept any kind of border agreement that lies outside of the physical island of Ireland, like, in the Irish Sea, for fear it will help movement toward a united Ireland.

In the meantime, the Good Friday Agreement, negotiated and supported with the help of the EU and which ended the ongoing sectarian war between Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics (“the Troubles”) here in Ireland, means that there *cannot* be a hard border (with check points, customs checks, passport control, etc) between the North of Ireland and the Republic. The backstop basically means there’s no internal border until post-Brexit trade agreements (which could take years, even decades) have been settled on.

The thing that really horrified me about the backstop was that when it was announced, it really almost literally read “So we’ll put in this backstop, and then a miracle will happen, and then it’ll all be fine.” I mean, I read the agreement several times when it was published in December 2017 and it’s really astonishing magical thinking. But the DUP hates the backstop, half of the British MPs (congresspeople) think Ireland should stop making such a fuss and just exit the EU along with them so THEY HAVE no more problems and don’t understand why Ireland is being so obstreperous because it’s not like England has ever done anything mean to Ireland(!), and the Brits keep saying “We can get a better deal on our exit” despite the EU saying in no uncertain terms that they’re really quite done negotiating.

Follow-up Questions From The Audience
Is [Teresa] May [Britain’s current Prime Minister] a Leaver or a Stayer? Has she been handed a raw deal and is making the best of it?

Ironically enough, May was a Stayer, but has ended up in charge of Leaving.

I think suggesting May’s making the best of a bad deal is unnecessarily generous. She could have refused to invoke Article 50 or pointed out that the Brexit referendum was advisory, not binding, and that she was not going to lead the country into this shit show, or, indeed, simply not entered into a coalition with a bunch of Catholic-loathing misogynistic racists in the form of the DUP and therefore not become PM or had to deal with this whole question at all. But holding power was too tempting to pass up, and here we are.

What about Scotland? Do they want to stay in the EU?
Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in, as units. Wales and England voted to leave, as units. Everyone assumes that if Brexit actually happens (and there’s no evidence it won’t), there will be an almost-immediate referendum held in Scotland regarding declaring their independence from the UK. There are some loopholes (they need a central bank, which they don’t currently have because they’re part of the UK, for example), but given that the LAST referendum, a handful of years ago, came very near to passing, and that the EU has made positive noises about the potential of Scotland’s application, it’s to be assumed that they will succeed in their referendum and apply for EU member state status.

I mean, this also opens the question of what happens if they declare their independence, because I can’t really imagine England sending an army up to Hadrian’s Wall, but at this point, God Alone Knows. And don’t get me started on Gibraltar.

Nobody has a clue what’ll happen in the North of Ireland, although poll last year indicated that for the first time in history there’s close to a majority willing to consider unification as an option. The romantic in me has great hopes for that result, but there are enormous numbers of emotional, historical, religious and political hurdles to clear before it happens. In the meantime, the Republic considers Northerners to be citizens of the Republic already, and over the past two years so many people from the North (and from the island containing England, Scotland and Wales) have applied for their Republic-of-Ireland passports (because having them means they’ll still be able to travel freely around the EU) that the passport people have repeatedly run out of applications.

It’s a total shitshow. It’s very exciting to be an American in Ireland who has as much emotional investment in the mess over here as the mess over there, and by “very exciting” I mean “the absolute worst”. :/

For a few years there I was keeping up on a TBR shelf posting pretty regularly, but the last couple years I fell off badly. However, inspired by

1. an ever-growing TBR shelf (againstillalways)
2. an EMBARRASSINGLY low number of books read last year, and
3. a conversation with a friend

I have decided to declare 2019 the Year Of Clearing The TBR Shelf.

I may also declare it the Year of Re-Reads, as I really want to re-read John Lee’s Unicorn Saga to see if I still need to be carrying those books around in print (not that I can find them available in e-book). Same with Julie Dean Smith’s Caithan Crusade, which ARE available in e-books (with lovely covers, too!), and…well, I’d like to re-read Michelle Sagara’s whole Cast series, but perhaps I shouldn’t be overly ambitious right now. :)

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People have asked me, as they do every year, to put together a list of what I had published last year that could qualify for a Hugo nomination. I don’t normally get my act together enough to do this, but a combination of elements, including

1. Worldcon is in Dublin this year!
2. I’m very proud of last year’s novel! and
3. Somebody else did the hard lifting and I’m able to use that for the basis of my post

means I’m doing a proper one this year. I’ll put the cold hard facts up front, and then go into greater detail below.

The following books & stories are suitable for Hugo nominations in the listed categories.

Best Novel:
REDEEMER by C.E. Murphy
Kobo || iTunes || Amazon || Barnes & Noble

Best Novella:
Kiss of Angels by C.E. Murphy
Kobo || iTunes || Amazon || Barnes & Noble

Best Short Story:
Family Ties (collection: KISS OF ANGELS)
21st Century Ghost (collection: KISS OF ANGELS)

Best Novelette
Threnody (collection: KISS OF ANGELS)

Best Series:
The Old Races by C.E. Murphy (KISS OF ANGELS qualifying collection)

Best Cover Artist:
Tara O’Shea (for KISS OF ANGELS art, & for REDEEMER design)
Lindsey Look (REDEEMER art)


Okay, that’s the cut & dry version, up above. What follows are more details and my own thoughts about the works, I guess.

REDEEMER
Suggestion for Best Cover Artist nominee: Lindsey Look

The war is over…but for Rosie the Redeemer, the homefront battle is just about to begin!

It’s July 1945, and more than just the boys are coming home from war–monsters are coming with them, and Rosie Ransom learns she can redeem a damned soul–but she may lose her own in the process. And yet, without her Redeeming ability, the scare started by a few demons may turn into a full-fledged nightmare…

This was a very difficult book to write, partly because I challenged myself to several things that I’d never done before in terms of writing (not just ONE, oh no, but SEVERAL, because let’s NEVER DO ANYTHING THE EASY WAY, CATIE), and also (not to lean in to a personal sob story in awards season or anything @.@) because my mom, after whom the main character was partially named, died while I was working on it.

I honestly didn’t think, while I was working on it, that I had done well, or that I would ever want to return to the Redeemer world. Then my copy editor emailed, 3 chapters in, and said, “If the rest of this is as good as the opening, WOW,” which is not…normal. :)

Then my book designer, who is normally very, very fast, took *weeks* to lay the book out, because she was actually reading it as she laid it out, which, she says, she never ever does.

Despite all that, honestly, I still wasn’t at all sure of the book until I did the final round of copy edits on it, and I gradually realized I’d done what I wanted to with it. The writing challenges I’d set myself–no semi-colons! (the horror!!!!) limited use of ‘was’ in non-dialogue prose! (oh god that’s hard) improving my descriptions!–had succeeded, and the kind of story I wanted to tell, one about female friendships, one that reflected not just the social expectations and restrictions of the era but also shone light on the same problems today…had made it onto the page.

And then it turned out that because the book was so very late, with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, with the huge surge of women elected to Congress, with the upheaval of the past few years…REDEEMER had become timely in a way it wouldn’t have if I’d turned it in when it was due. Heh. Go figure. :) So in the end I’m actually really proud of this book, and I’d honestly love to see it nominated for a Hugo.

REDEEMER is available here:
Kobo || iTunes || Amazon || Barnes & Noble

 

KISS OF ANGELS
Suggestion for Best Cover Artist nominee: Tara O’Shea

The laws that governed the Old Races for time immemorial have been broken. Ancient rivals are scattered. Friendships are ended. What was hidden begins to step out of shadow and into the light.

And after millennia of imagining this moment, even the Old Races discover they are unprepared for what it brings….

KISS OF ANGELS is covering a loooooooot of territory for this year’s Hugo nominations, carrying, as it does, the possibility for nomination of the titular “Kiss of Angels” as best novella; for best short story with “Family Ties” and “21st Century Ghost”; best novelette with “Threnody”, and, finally, best series for the entire collection as part of the ongoing saga of the Old Races, which, with the publication of KISS OF ANGELS is now some 650K words long.

The KISS OF ANGELS collection is set after the Old Races trilogy, and the titular novella, Kiss of Angels, is the teased-at and long-promised story of Grace O’Malley (yes, that Grace O’Malley). I think it stands alone reasonably well, but it also brings the entire Old Races saga to a point where I could, and someday will, write more full-length books in the world. (!)

“Threnody”, at an 8800 word ‘novelette’ length, is possibly my favourite of the collection. I think it stands alone pretty well, and I’d be thrilled to bits to see it nominated. ♥

“21st Century Ghost” is a first date story about the difficulties of dating the supernatural, and amuses me. :) “Family Ties” is a short Janx story and honestly belonged in the BABA YAGA’S DAUGHTER collection, but I didn’t write it for like two years after that book was published, so… :)

Seeing the whole book nominated as part of the Old Races series would be REALLY COOL, I’m not gonna lie. That would be…REALLY COOL. :) :) :)

And I would really, really like to see Lindsey Look and Tara O’Shea nominated for their cover art work, which is reliably fabulous! ♥