Tag Archive | fantasy

Loki “For All Times. Always.”

Copyright © Disney+

Short review for now. I hope to post a longer one later.

The season finale of Loki, entitled "For All Times. Always." is… well, what I texted a couple of friends who are also fans was, "That… that actually worked."

Does the ending answer the questions raised at the beginning of the first episode (specifically, What is the Time Variant Authority, Who are the Time Keepers, and Why are they preventing alternate timelines?): Yes, yes it does.

Is there a fun fight scene near the end: Yes, yes there is.

Do we see bad guys get what’s coming to them: Yes. Not everyone, but yes.

Did I feel that the time spent watching the series was worth it: Oh, my f-ing goodness, YES, YES, YES!

Following Loki through his “Journey Into Mystery”

Our Loki, Kid Loki, and Classic Loki. Copyright © Disney+

I’ve been failing to finish blog posts for a couple of weeks now, not just my Loki reviews. There are reasons that might turn into another blog post as I try to do a bit of catch-up.

This is going to be a combination review, then, of the third, fourth, and fifth episodes of Loki: "Lamentis", "The Nexus Event", and "Journey into Mystery".

Sort of.

We have seen five of the six episodes of the series so far, and I think the most important observation I can make is that all five have been fun. They’ve been entertaining. We’ve had fights and hijinks. All of the actors seem to be perfectly cast for the roles. The interaction between the characters is engaging and witty.

And hilarious.

Thus far it differs greatly from the previous two Disney+ Marvel TV shows. WandaVision was a complex and layered mysterious that was full of charm and a lot of meta. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was more straightforward and many portions were deeply flawed.

Loki has a mystery at its heart, and there is even more charm than WandaVision but the mystery is almost secondary to the emotional journey of the central characters. Yes, I do want to know what is behind the Time Variant Authority, but I’m really more concerned with what is going to happen, individually, to the characters.

I realized when I reached the end of "Journey Into Mystery" (which is a great title for several reason, not the least of which is that Marvel’s versions of Thor and Loki were first told in a comic book called "Journey Into Mystery" long before Thor got his one book), that the one story this series reminds me of are the two Douglas Adams books about Dirk Gently. The series has a similar dream-like feel. At least to me.

There are a few specific things I want to comment on, but to do that involves spoilers.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now.


Seriously! Spoilers ahead!


Okay, here we go.

Episode three involved Loki and the female variant Loki (called henceforth Sylvie) arriving at the TVA, where Sylvie tries to get to the Time Keepers themselves, but it’s not as simple as she hoped, and Loki uses the stolen TempPad to jump them to another apocalypse. The new apocalypse is a colonized planet called "Lamentis" which is able to be impacted by a moon.

They sneak onto a train taking wealthy people to an escape ark, but things go awry (because Loki can’t resist partying and having a good time on the train), and they get thrown off the train (literally).

The emotional center of the episode was Loki and Sylvie getting to know each other. It unfortunately ends with them apparently trapped on the doomed planet with no way to escape.

The next episode, "The Nexus Event" picks up right where episode three ended. The two of them realize they are trapped, and Sylvie finally tells our Loki that she had been a child playing with some toys in Asgard when the TVA agents had taken her away. The hunter who captured her was Renslayer, who is now one of the TVA judges. They form an emotional bound, and it appears that the two Lokis are falling in love.

Back at the TVA Mobius is trying to figure out where the Lokis went, and all seems lost until suddenly a new nexus event happens, bigger than any TVA agents have seen. Mobius guesses that the event is caused by the Lokis, and the TVA agents show up to arrest them. Thus rescuing them from death.

This episode had some poignant moments. Loki (thanks to being stuck in a time loop reliving one of his painful memories over and over) seems to have an epiphany about himself. One of the TVA agents has a memory of her life before being mindwiped.

Even with Mobius and the other TVA agent deciding that Sylvie and Loki are correct, and even though Sylvie gets to behead one of the Time Keepers, nothing really goes well for any of the characters the audience is rooting for by the end of this episode. Two of them appear to get killed rather permanently, in fact.

Episode four was the first time that we got an after credits scene, and it’s a doozy.

Episode five, "Journey into Mystery" opens with our Loki, believing he was just killed, finding himself on a nightmarish planet being met by four other Loki variants. The four are Classic Loki, Kid Loki, Boastful Loki, and Alligator Loki.

Classic Loki is based on Jack Kirby’s original drawing of the character Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery comics, and is played by Richard E. Grant. In the series, Classic Loki managed to survive the confrontation with Thanos instead of dying like he is supposed to, and eventually was arrested by the TVA, tried, and prunes. Kid Loki is based on a more recent Marvel comic series. In the comics Kid Loki is a clone of Loki that eventually gets possessed by the soul of the original Loki. In this series Kid Loki managed to kill his brother, Thor, while they were both young, and was promptly arrested by the TVA, tried, and pruned.

We never get a full explanation of either Alligator Loki or Boastful Loki.

They are all trapped on the Void, which is supposedly the end of time. Everything that the TVA prunes from the time line winds up here and is eventually devoured by this smoke monster called Alioth.

We meet one other alternate Loki from the comics: President Loki, who in the comics ran for President of the U.S. and caused various troubles.

While our Loki is learning about the Void (which is populated by a lot of Loki because in addition to frequently causing new timelines Lokis are extremely good at surviving), Sylvie is also learning about the Void.

Sylvie becomes convinced that the real creators of the TVA are hiding in a spot beyond the end of time, and prunes herself to get there. She almost immediately teams up the Mobius, who she convinces to help her try to confront Alioth to try to get to the place beyond the Void.

Out Loki, meanwhile, has convinced Classic Loki, Kid Loki, and Alligator Loki that Alioth can be destroyed and they also go off to confront it.

Which means all our principals get together again, and a plan is hatched.

I really want to know what happens in the finale!

I mentioned above that I’m not as invested in exactly what the answer that Loki and Sylvie find. And that’s mostly true. I’m less invested in what the specific answer is than whether the answer we get feels like a fitting ending to the journey.

I’m going to go out on a limb here… there are two main possibilities I’ve been able to imagine.

First theory: it turns out that the being who set up the TVA and is trying to control reality to preserve the Sacred Timeline is Kang the Conqueror (or one of his incarnations). From the point of view of the comics, this makes sense, because Kang is a villain in the comics who runs up and down the timeline trying to keep history on track for his future where he’s emperor of the universe. Kang has already been announced as a character appearing in the third Ant Man movie, and in the comics he has had multiple connections to the TVA. The character of Rennslayer in this series is named after one of Kang’s lovers.

The problem with this ending is that it only makes sense to dyed in wool comic nerds such as myself. There has been no mention of Kang in any previous MCU property that I can recall, and certainly none in this series. I’m not sure how the writers could make him the answer to the mystery and at the same time give us a satisfying ending.

Second theory: it turns out the being who set up the TVA and is trying to control reality to preserve the Sacred Timeline is another Loki variant. Exactly why a Loki variant would be so intent on preserving a timeline in which he dies without ever achieving his glorious purpose, but that ending does have an emotional resonance with the rest of the series. In the first episode Mobius told Loki that the TVA has had to arrest a lot of Lokis, so you could say it was foreshadowed.

What I’m hoping is that the writers have something completely different than either of my theories up their sleeves.

We’ll know in just six days!


Edited to add:

You might find these reviews informative:

Cora Buhlert: Loki Visits “Lamentis” and Talks to Herself

Camestros Felapton: Loki Episode 3: Lamentis

Cora Buhlert: Loki Experiences “The Nexus Event”, As the Plot Heats Up

Camestros Felapton: Review: Loki Episode 4 – The Nexus Event

Camestros Felapton: Review: Loki Episode 5 – Journey into Mystery

Cora Buhlert: Loki goes on a “Journey Into Mystery” Cora’s review made me realize I was remiss in my own review. I really should have mentioned what a stupendous job Richard E. Grant did in the role of Classic Loki. I’ll quote her review:

"Richard E. Grant’s Loki is awesome. Not only does Grant wander around in one of the most ridiculous costumes Jack Kirby ever designed and manages to look dignified, he also brilliantly portrays an aged Loki who’s disgusted both with himself and the universe. Honestly, give Richard E. Grant an Emmy/Bafta/Golden Globe/whatever."

Grant is incredibly funny when called on in this episode, and yet he also has the most poignant scene in the episode near the end. Just an all-around fantastic choice for the character.

Loki is Set on the Trail of ‘The Variant’

Copyright © Disney+

The second episode of Loki dropped last week and I quite enjoyed it again. The first episode spent so much time setting up the premise of the Time Variant Authority and establishing where in the sequence of the existing Marvel movies and series this story sits on the timeline.

The dialogue was fun. Owen Wilson is a good foil for Hiddleston’s Loki. The other Time Agents remain entertaining in their lack of being impressed or awed by Loki. And Loki is his tricksy self.

If they can keep this chemistry going, I think the series will be just fine even if it turns out to be a typical kind of timey-wimey battle of wits adventure. I can’t say much more without spoilers, so…

There Be Spoilers Hereafter!

Turn back now if you don’t want to be spoiled.


I noticed that several reviews of the first episode of Loki called it a “clip show”which is slang for one of the cheap episodes that television series sometimes do where they film only a small amount of framing material and spend most of the episode showing scenes from previous episodes.

I think that’s an oversimplification.

To be fair, the reviews that I saw make this claim have also said that it makes sense to do that since the Disney+ shows have (thus far) attracted an audience that includes lots of people who have seen either none of the MCU movies, or very few.

But…

There was a substantial amount of episode one that was new material. Some of it quite well-done, such as the Miss Minutes narrated orientation cartoon. One bit of it looked like it was a clip from something else (the DB Cooper Escape bit), but wasn’t. And also, the number of clips they picked were not focused on recapping Loki’s entire life, but rather to set the stage (and allow the audience to see how devastated Loki is to learn that not only does his mother die, but he is somewhat to blame).

That said, by episode two they are done with the set-up. Loki knows his only hope for any kind of continued existence is to keep being useful to the TVA. And right now the TVA is trying to capture another Variant of Loki that not only broke the timeline, but is out to do something else—we just don’t know what. There is a lot of fun back and forth as Agent Mobius tries to manipulate Loki, and Loki literally replies to one such attempt, “It’s so adorable you think you can manipulate me.” And Mobius demonstrates that he is good at sniffing out Loki’s lies.

Loki figures out that the other Variant Loki has been impossible to track down because they’re hiding inside Apocalypses. Not full-on end an entire world Apocalypses, but moments in history when no one in a particular region survives. The reasoning being that the presence of the time-hopping variant can’t leave any ripples in the time line, because none of the people the Variant interacts with has any impact on the future.

I want to note that as Loki explained this I had a flashback to Connie Willis’ 1992 science fiction novel, Dooms Day Book, as that bit about a time traveler’s presence at a point just before everyone dies can’t change history is an important plot point. I’m sure Willis wasn’t the first person to do this, but I was thinking about the time traveler who was trying to figure out why she landed an English Medieval village just weeks before the entire village will be wiped out by the Plague when the time machine was supposed to take her to a different period.

Anyway, there is a hilarious scene where Loki proves his theory by getting Mobius to take him to Pompeii moments before the volcano erupts, and he jumps up on a cart and shouts out in Latin that he’s from the future and they’re all going to die. And his actions don’t cause Mobius timey-wimey tricorder like thing to register anything.

They next pick a spot based on the pack of bubblegum that The Variant had given a little girl in the scene from episode one, and they find themselves a few decades in our future in a kind Walmart with a hurricane bearing down about to kill everyone.

Loki finds The Variant, has a bit of a fight and some banter. The big reveal here is that this Loki is female. Our Loki doesn’t bat an eye, but anyone really familiar with Norse Mythology knows that Loki as swapped genders a few times as part of a scheme in some of the old legends (in one of them he even gets pregnant, and gives birth to a magical horse). So this isn’t some newfangled woke thing that SJWs are forcing onto Marvel. (I’m sure somewhere out there people are writing angry tweet about it).

The Variant escapes and Loki leaps through the time portal after here, apparently leaving Mobius and the other Time Agents behind. Oh! And The Variant has built a bombs or bombs out of all those Reset Charges earlier, and may have just broken the Sacred Timeline altogether.

And I’ve been on the edge of my seat for days waiting for episode three!

Loki Loses His “Glorious Purpose”

Copyright © Disney+

So I’m watching Disney+ series, Loki and the second episode is about to become available any minute, yet I haven’t posted a review.

The series, what it seems to be tackling, and what if delivered in the first episode gave me a lot of things to write about, and I’ve started, scrapped, and re-started this review several times.

It’s too much.

So, first, let me sum up: Fun! Funny!

Some more details would be nice, and I’ll try to do that in a reasonable word count below. I must warn you: *After this there be SPOILER!

So turn back now if you don’t want to be spoiled.


First, want to say that I’ve enjoyed the way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has handled the elements of Norse Mythology they’ve used for the Thor and the Avengers movies. Often when American producers delve into mythology they go the cookie cutter route of portraying the leader of the gods as the Good Guy, kind and wise and so forth, one of the other gods as the Bad Guy (usually a take on the Devil), and the other gods are mostly sorted into the two camps of the good gods and the bad gods.

Therefore, Odin is the leader of the good gods, Loki is the equivalent of the devil, and Thor is the loyal son of the leader of the good gods.

If you’ve actually read Norse mythology, you know that this isn’t how things are. Odin in wily and is not above cheating another supernatural being out of an agreed upon payment for a large job, just to get one example.

Some of the most interesting of the Norse stories involve Loki very cleverly getting Thor or the other Asgardians out of trouble that their carelessness or arrogance get them into.

Particularly in the move Thor: Ragnarok we saw that Odin has definitely not always be a "good guy" and that when push came to shove, Loki will do the right thing.

It is true that Loki is often portrayed as a master of deception, and clearly he’s never going to be a Knight in Shining Armor, but the way he’s been portrayed in the movies by Tom Hiddleston over the last decade or so has always given us moments where you feel for the guy.

In Avengers: Infinity War Loki died trying to kill Thanos and save the remnant of Asgard’s population. In the next Avengers movie, End Game the surviving heroes pull of a series of Time Heists to get the Infinity Stones (which Thanos destroyed after using them to kill half the population of the universe). And during one part of that heist they jumped into a portion of the very first Avengers movie, but things don’t go according to play, and the Loki of that time period (who had been captured and was in restraints) grabs the Space Stone (aka the Tesseract) and escapes.

Thus messing up both the plans of the heroes (who later in the movie put all the stolen stones back into the place and time they had come from).

The series picks up moments after that Loki vanished. He finds himself in the Gobi desert. Some kind of portals open up and heavily armed people come out, incapacitate him, make some comments about the broken timeline, then set something called a "reset charge" and take the captures Loki through the portal.

Loki has been arrested by the Time Variance Authority (TVA). The TVA appeared in a lot of Marvel comic books over the years. They are, essentially, an extra-dimensional time police. And look for events that break what they call "the sacred timeline," they find the person who caused the change in history, (who they call "variants") they prone the branching timeline, and bring the Variant back to their extradimension city/giant burueacracy to be tried and then erased from reality.

Most of this is explained in a very cute orientation video that Loki is forced to watch early in the first episode.

Pruning the branches from the timeline isn’t always as easy as the opening scene of the episode makes it appear. And the viewers learn that there is someone who is ambushing the crews of heavily armed time agents, killing them, and stealing the reset charge.

But much of this episode involved Loki trying to figure out how to get out of this predicament. One of the best recurring bits is he keeps making his grand eloquent speeches about how he is the God of Mischief and to be feared, and absolutely none of the bored looking pencil pushers he keeps meeting even bats an eye.

One time agent, Agent Mobius, wants to spare Loki from immediate erasure because he thinks Loki might be able to help them with the new problem. Mobius is played by Owen Wilson, and he seems to be the perfect foil to Hiddleston’s Loki in this episode.

Mobius tries to explain how in the main timeline, Loki did not escape, and he is destined to go on to inadvertently cause his mothers death (Thor: The Dark World), and die by Thanos’ hand without ever achieving the glory he’s always believed was his. The title of the first episdoe, "Glorious Purpose" is a phrase Loki used in the first Avengers movie when he began his attempt to conquer the world.

Hiddleston isn’t limited to generating laughs. There’s a point in the episode where he tries to escape, and winds up hiding out in the room Mobius had been briefing him in earlier. He watches those parts of his future Mobius told him about that he didn’t want to believe. The look on his face when he sees his mother’s death, and then later is own was just heart wrenching.

Loki realizes that he is powerless in that place, that the infinity stones are also powerless, and that the glorious purpose he always believed was is is just a pile of bitter ashes.

Before the episode ends, we see one of the groups of time agents get ambushed and killed, and we see a mysterious cloaked figure take the reset charge.

Presumably Mobius is about to try to pit Loki’s wiles and scheming against the mysterious cloaked figure. How will that work?

I’m really looking forward to finding out!


Some reviews you may find useful:

Loki Finds His “Glorious Purpose”

Review: Loki Episode 1, Glorious Purpose (Disney+)

What is the TVA, the Time Variance Authority in Marvel’s ‘Loki’?

We Have the 2021 Hugo Ballot… and a really looooooooooong time to fill our our ballots!

This year's trophy, base designed by John Flower.
The 2020 trophy, base designed by John Flower. More pictures and an explanation of the design of the base are here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-trophies/2020-hugo-award-trophy/ (or click on the picture)

Hugo 2021 List

The Hugo finalists were announced on Tuesday on the DisCon III YouTube channel, and it is a really good ballot, again. I’ll first just give the list, then follow up with my comments.

Best Novel

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Novella

  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tordotcom)
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tordotcom)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

Best Novelette

  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 7-8/20)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (Big Girl)
  • Helicopter Story, Isabel Fall (Wyrm)
  • “Burn or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 5-6/20)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/20)
  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com 6/17/20)

Best Short Story

  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny 1-2/20)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny 9-10/20)
  • “Little Free Library”, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com 4/8/20)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 2/27/20)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 6/15/20)

Best Series

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Lady Astronaut, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor; Solaris; Audible; F&SF)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor; Tor UK)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Related Work

  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City)
  • Beowulf, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals)
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis, Brent Lambert, Iori Kusano & Vida Cruz
  • “George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible 8/20)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan & Alasdair Stuart

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Die, Volume 2: Split the Party, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans (Image)
  • Once & Future, Volume 1: The King Is Undead, Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora (BOOM!)
  • Monstress, Volume 5: Warchild, Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Ghost-Spider, Volume 1: Dog Days Are Over, Seanan McGuire, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, Rosie Kämpe, and Ig Guara (Marvel)
  • Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything, G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Christian Ward (Berger)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  • The Old Guard
  • Palm Springs
  • Soul
  • Tenet

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “Fugitive of the Judoon”
  • The Expanse: “Gaugamela”
  • The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Jedi”
  • The Mandalorian: “The Rescue”
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: “Heart” (parts 1 and 2)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Nivia Evans
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Sarah Guan
  • Brit Hvide
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Rovina Cai
  • Galen Dara
  • Maurizio Manzieri
  • John Picacio
  • Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Escape Pod
  • Fiyah
  • PodCastle
  • Uncanny
  • Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine

  • The Full Lid
  • Journey Planet
  • Lady Business
  • nerds of a feather, flock together
  • Quick Sip Reviews
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent
  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Kalanadi
  • Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists

Best Fan Writer

  • Cora Buhlert
  • Charles Payseur
  • Jason Sanford
  • Elsa Sjunneson
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist

  • Iain J. Clark
  • Cyan Daly
  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Laya Rose

Best Video Game

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Blaseball
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Hades
  • The Last of Us: Part II
  • Spiritfarer

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (Not a Hugo)

  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (McElderry; Simon & Schuster UK)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

  • Lindsay Ellis
  • Simon Jimenez
  • Micaiah Johnson
  • A.K. Larkwood
  • Jenn Lyons
  • Emily Tesh

In every category other than the Artist, Video Game, and Editor – Long Form, at least one item from my nominating ballot made it to the final ballot. And in eleven categories two or more items I nominated made the final list.

On the one hand, I suppose this means I have similar enough tastes to much of the regular Hugo nominating community. On the other hand, this means that in a whole bunch of categories I have a lot of reading/watching to do. On the gripping hand, well, that means I have to read a bunch of stuff for the next few months! Which, as a bibliophile, that’s a good thing.

Let’s get a little specific: in the novel category, two books I nominated made it. All four of the other titles that made it to the ballot were already on my radar to read. In fact, two of those four I’ve already bought, I just hadn’t started reading them, yet.

I should mention that four of the six people who made it to the ballot in Fan Writer are people I nominated. And honestly, the other two are people whose works I’ve read and if I could have nominated more than five people they very well might have made it to my nomination list. Which means that much like last year, this is going to be a very painful category to rank. Some of these I read some much that they basically feel like extended members of my family, so I want to put them all at position number 1 on my ballot. Dang it!

I feel like one particular entry in the Best Short Story list requires an entire post or more on its own — and it already got a post on this blog 13 months or so ago! So I’m not going there.

The only book that I nominated for the Lodestar Award, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking is a book I loved so much last year that I bought many copies of it to give to various friends and family members for Christmas and birthday presents. I also wasn’t absolutely certain it belong in the Young Adult category, so I nominated it for both Best Novel and Beat Young Adult Novel. In addition to how awesome I think the book is, full disclosure, I should mention that while I don’t expect the author to remember me, the two of us have had dealer’s den tables across from each other at certain conventions, so I may have an extra level of bias in regard to her work.

Finally, thanks to the uncertainties of the pandemic, the committee running this year’s WorldCan has decided to reschedule to convention for a date when they are certain they can host an in-person convention. So instead of being in the latter half of August or the first bit of September as has been tradition for a number of years, this year’s WorldCon will begin on December 18 in Washington, D.C. Way too close to Christmas and in the middle of Advent season for a lot of people.

Bucky and Sam try to find their place in the “New World Order”

© Disney+

I’m going to try to give a review of episode one of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier without doing a recap and avoiding plot spoilers until the end. This episode is a good opening act, establishing where are characters are emotionally and situationally since the end of Avengers: Edngame. The trailers I had seen had made this seem mostly like a action adventure not unlike one of the theatrical Avengers movies, with more than a bit of the buddy cop vibe that some of the solo MCU movies pulled off. That isn’t quite what we get in the first episode.

I have to admit, while I have been looking forward to this show, I was wondering really what the writers had in mind for these two characters. What do they have in common other than they were each, at different stages of Captain America’s life his best buddy and sidekick. Which doesn’t seem like enough to build a good character repartee.

The first episode acknowledges this by showing us that the two characters are not interacting with each other at all. Bucky his working with a psychiatrist to try to recover both from years of being a brainwashed assassin, and the trauma of being one of the people snapped out of existence by Thanos, only to suddenly come back into existence five years later, to find a world that has moved on.

Which is another thing that he and Falcon/Sam Wilson have in common. In Sam’s case, he’s come back from the blip to find his parents dead, and his sister struggling to keep the fishing business that has been in their family for generations afloat, on top of being a single mother.

Before I talk about any of more of the set up, I should pause here to talk about the opening. On certain parts of the fannish internet a lot of women are losing their minds over the very opening where Sam is seen using and iron and an ironing board to iron a button-down dress shirt. There are memes out there already about how sexy women find it when a man knows how to iron his own shirt. As a man who owns an iron and an ironing board and has been known to iron dress shirts and slacks and such before going to certain important social events where one is expected to dress up, the scene didn’t quite have that effect on me. It seemed, to me, perfectly in character based on how self-sufficient Sam had been shown to be in the first MCU we ever saw him in, Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Sam was ironing the shirt because he was attending a ceremony at the Smithsonian related to the Captain America exhibit there. The scene’s purpose in the story is to establish that, despite having Cap himself hand over his shield at the end of Avengers Endgame and telling Sam to take over the role of Captain America, Sam doesn’t believe that he—or anyone else—should take up that mantle.

We next see Sam in an incredible aerial battle, where he is working with U.S. government forces to try to rescue an US Air Force officer from terrorists. It is an incredible scene that looks good enough to appear in one of the theatrical MCU releases. It clearly establishes that despite his misgivings, Sam is more than capable of stepping into Captain America’s shoes. The sequence will remind you a lot of the opening of Winter Soldier, and not just because the leader of the badguys is Batroc, who was the leader of the bad guys in that fight, as well.

Bucky’s sequences with his psychiatrist and some people he has tried to befriend do a great job of showing you how much of a struggle it is for him to try to lead an ordinary life. He’s trying to make amends for as many of the bad things he did during the years he was brainwashed by Hydra as he can. And his scene include a couple of particular heart wrenching moments in that regard. While Sam is working for the government as a contract operative, Bucky is apparently just working under conditions of a pardon. Regularly meeting with his psychiatrist is one of those conditions.

The first episode also sets us up with at a terrorist organization and at least one antagonist that we can assume will be the source of conflict for the rest of the series.

I was a bit worried when we reached the end of the episode, because I had assumed this series was going to be eight to ten episodes long, and they had done a good enough job putting pieces on the board in this one that I was worried the middle episodes would drag. I have since learned that the series is only six episode long, and presuming more of them with be about 43-minutes long as the first episode was, that probably is just enough to tell the story without needing any filler.

I do have a few spoilery comments on this one, which will be behind the cut-tag below. Before we get into that: may I remind you that this show appears on Disney+, and the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVisions Wraps Things Up in the Awesome “The Series Finale”

© Disney+

Having now seen the entire series1, I can sum up my feelings quite succinctly: It’s f-ing awesome2!

It did not end the way I thought it would. Thank goodness it didn’t end the many weird ways that some fans, fancasts, and so-called leakers were predicting. The show ended much, much better than any of those predictions.

The last episode took the meta of all the earlier episode titles all the way to 11: “The Series Finale.” It was fun, it didn’t have plotholes, it didn’t introduce wild twists (but it had more than one surprise3). Most importantly: it is a complete story. It did not feel as if it was just setting us up for the next show4.

It also is exactly the kind of story I, for one, needed right now. But I can’t explain why without spoilers. But before I warn you not to click through or otherwise read further, may I remind you that the Disney corporation is still refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Anyway…

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision gives us some answers and fills in Wanda’s backstory

© Disney+

The penultimate episode of WandaVision gave us a lot of answers, revealed a lie or two, and set the stage for a big battle. I think it also showed us that this show should not be thought of as a spin-off. It has leaned into the things that television does well, telling a story more nuanced that any of the big movies are able to with their set pieces and epic battles. Not that next episode won’t have a battle, because that seems inevitable at this point.

Episode eight, “Previously On” is not as delightful as episode seven, nor as fun as episodes one through six, but we’ve reached the point where answers must be forthcoming, and since the show centers around Wanda’s trauma, that means things have to be a bit more serious, at least for no. I can’t say more without spoilers, so the rest of the review will be behind a cut-tag

Before I get into it: this show appears on Disney+, and may I remind you that Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

Spoliers ahead!

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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.

I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision goes Modern while really breaking all the walls

© Disney+

Things really got moving in this episode, “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” I think we may have learned enough that it’s possible to start making some judgement calls on some of the plot and delivery decisions made in earlier episodes. Despite the fact that there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth during the first about hour after the episode became available for streaming. Disney+ was experiencing problems. For some people the service crashed completely and didn’t come back for a while. A lot of others experience multiple long pauses in the middle of the action. Many are inferring that a lot more fans of the show are waiting up on Thursday night until the episode becomes available, and simply overwhelmed the system.

This episode gave us a couple of answers to questions swirling around the underlying mystery and hinted at more to come. I’ve seen a few people already claiming that the reveal near the end of this episode completely eliminates a few other fan theories, and I think those people are jumping the gun. Which I will get to below. But before I get into any spoilers, I think it is worth mentioning that for the first time in the series there is a post-credits scene. I won’t tell you what it is above the break, but just in case you’re one of those people who stop playing or skip to another show once the credits start, you might want to stick around this time.

One more thing before I get into it: this show appears on Disney+, and may I remind you that Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

I can’t say more without spoilers, so…

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Seriously, every single sentence below is full of spoilers…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

WandaVision Brings Tricks, Treats, and a Growing Menace

© Disney +

Last week brought us the 6th episode out of 9 of WandaVisiom, entitled “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” I’m still enjoying the series a lot. But I realized after I finished my review last week, that if the answers to the various mysteries they are aiming to aren’t close to my guesses, the series may have gone completely off the rails. Two of my favorite fan writers have commented that it’s nearly impossible to review this series because you can’t tell whether things make sense if you don’t know the ending. So maybe it’s okay that I’m somewhat conflicted. This review is so late because I kept trying to write it without it being a long recap of the episode.

Before I begin my spoiler-heavy review, because this show appears on Disney+, I am morally obligated to tell you that the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.

This is the first episode where I was completely clueless as to who they were doing an homage to during the opening credits. I mentioned previously that due to various life events I watched virtually no television in the 1980s, right? So, due to very different life events1, I wound up missing a lot of television and other pop culture events in the 1990s.

Other viewers, more knowledgeable than myself tell me that the show skipped over the 1990s entirely to make a full-throated embrace of Malcolm in the Middle which aired from 2000 until 2006. And I’ll take their word for it.

The rest of my review/partial recap is rife with spoilers, so don’t scroll down or click below if you don’t want to be spoiled!

I can’t say more without spoilers, so…

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Seriously, every single sentence below is so full of spoilers you need a vomit bag…

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Seriously, turn back now!!!

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I warned you!!!

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Seriously, spoilers ahead!

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Read More…

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