Adventures in Star Wars EU Reading – Part 1

Although I’m part of the mad-at-Disney-for-discontinuing-the-Expanded-Universe fandom, one advantage I’ve had in recent years is that I finally have the chance to read every novel/short story collection/series in the 1978-2014 Star Wars Novel timeline. I even photocopied the timeline so that I could check off each book as I go along. It also helps that I have a copy of The Essential Reader’s Companion by Pablo Hidalgo for EU reference. So far I’ve enjoyed some titles. Others….eh….not so much. As I go through each book, I type down which ones I liked so this list is not your typical “best of EU” list. I also have to split my list at 20 per post because there are *takes deep breath* over 145 full length novels, more than 100 YA novels and over 170 short stories. *Phew!* Today we’ll look at novels that take place before the events of Heir to the Empire. If your mad that your favorite title isn’t listed – well, write your own list. Different strokes for different folks, right?

Here I go.

Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories (2012)

John Jackson Miller

Five thousand years ago. After a Jedi ambush, the Sith mining ship Omen lies wrecked on a remote, unknown planet. Its commander, Yaru Korsin, battles the bloodshed of a mutinous faction led by his own brother. Marooned and facing death, the Sith crew have no choice but to venture into their desolate surroundings. They face any number of brutal challenges—vicious predators, lethal plagues, tribal people who worship vengeful gods—and like true Sith warriors, counter them with the dark side of the Force.

The struggles are just beginning for the proud, uncompromising Sith, driven as they are to rule at all costs. They will vanquish the primitive natives, and they will find their way back to their true destiny as rulers of the galaxy. But as their legacy grows over thousands of years, the Sith ultimately find themselves tested by the most dangerous threat of all: the enemy within.

Originally an e-book series that chronicles the arrival of the so-called “Lost Tribe of the Sith” to the planet Kesh 5000 years before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) and the power struggles within the tribe. You may even find some of the sith characters – *gasp* – likeable!

Knight Errant (2011)

John Jackson Miller

A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane, in a galaxy far, far away . . .

The Republic is in crisis. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality—with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.

Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies—including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?

Maybe this is why I didn’t get all the adulation over Rey. You want to see a butt-kicking female lead in Star Wars? Kerra Holt did it first and did it better. A lone Jedi up against a squabbling Sith dynasty with no master and no fellow Jedi to help her. Kerra uses cunning, stealth and the Force to defend those who can’t defend themselves. Miller also reveals to us a galaxy split in half between Sith and Republic rule. That explains why the Jedi were so intent on participating in the Clone Wars.

Darth Plagueis (2012)

James Luceno

Darth Plagueis: Like all Sith Lords before him, he craves absolute power. But like no Sith Lord ever, he possesses the ultimate power—over life and death.
 
Darth Sidious: In secret he masters the power of the dark side, while publicly climbing to the highest government office.
 
One desires to rule supreme; the other dreams of living forever. Together, they will destroy the Jedi and rule the galaxy. Unless merciless Sith tradition becomes their undoing. . . .

A must-read novel for anyone who loves the prequel trilogyIt gives a backstory to the mysterious Darth Plagueis mentioned in ROTS. It explains why Naboo was chosen by the Trade Federation for the Blockade. It reveals how Sidious met Darth Maul. It gives us an early glimpse of Padme Amidala before she entered politics and much, much more.

Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter (2001)

Michael Reaves

After years of waiting in the shadows, Darth Sidious is taking the first step in his master plan to bring the Republic to its knees. Key to his scheme are the Neimoidians of the Trade Federation. Then one of his Neimoidian contacts disappears, and Sidious does not need his Force-honed instincts to suspect betrayal. He orders his apprentice, Darth Maul, to hunt the traitor down. 

But he is too late. The secret has already passed into the hands of information broker Lorn Pavan, which places him right at the top of Darth Maul’s hit list. Then, in the labyrinthine alleyways and sewers of Coruscant, Lorn crosses paths with Darsha Assant, a Jedi Padawan on a mission to earn her Knighthood. Now the future of the Republic depends on Darsha and Lorn. But how can an untried Jedi and an ordinary man, stranger to the powerful ways of the Force, hope to triumph over one of the deadliest killers in the galaxy?

Our first glimpse into the mind of Darth Maul, how he operates and executes his assignments. We are also introduced to the uber-intelligent droid I-Five, who’ll later make an appearance in the Coruscant Nights duology.

Maul: Lockdown (2014)

Joe Schreiber

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.

Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

Forget those zombie books Schreiber wrote. This is his best SW work and its every bit as dark and eerie as his previous books. Darth Maul goes to prison. Need I say more?

The Approaching Storm (2002)

Alan Dean Foster

The Republic is decaying, even under the leadership of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who was elected to save the galaxy from collapsing under the forces of discontent. On the tiny but strategic planet of Ansion, a powerful faction is on the verge of joining the growing secessionist movement. At the Chancellor’s request, the Jedi Council sends two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luminara Unduli, along with their Padawans Anakin Skywalker and Barriss Offee, to stabilize the planet’s population. To succeed, the Jedi will have to fulfill near-impossible tasks, befriend wary strangers, and influence two great armies, stalked all the while by an enemy sworn to see the negotiations collapse and the mission fail. . . .

Foster’s 1st SW novel since Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Just at the beginning of AOTC, Mace Windu quips that Anakin and Obi-Wan had just returned from a border dispute from Ansion. This book goes into more detail about what happened on Ansion. It’s also fun to see the different personalities that bounce off each other when Obi-Wan and Anakin are joined by Luminara Unduli and her apprentice Bariss Offee. Look forward to an exciting chapter when each jedi performs a specific talent for the natives.

The Clone Wars: Wild Space (2008)

Karen Miller

The Clone Wars have exploded across the galaxy as Republic forces and Separatists struggle to gain the upper hand. But while the Jedi generals work tirelessly to defeat Count Dooku and his rebels, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is hatching his own dark plans.

The Separatists have launched a sneak attack on Coruscant. Obi-Wan Kenobi, wounded in battle, insists that Anakin Skywalker and his rookie Padawan Ahsoka leave on a risky mission against General Grievous. But when Senator Bail Organa reveals explosive intelligence that could turn the tide of war in the Republic’s favor, the Jedi Master agrees to accompany him to an obscure planet on the Outer Rim to verify the facts. What Obi-Wan and Bail don’t realize is that they’re walking into a deadly trap concocted by Palpatine . . . and that escape may not be an option.

Senator Bail Organa’s opportunity to be a hero. Now we know where Leia gets her courage from.

The Cestus Deception (2005)

Steven Barnes

Ord Cestus, a planet mostly barren and inhospitable to life, was first colonized as a prison world—until a handful of hardy pioneers discovered its rich ore deposits and managed to build up a successful droid-manufacturing industry. But when the Clone Wars erupted, bringing a Republic ban on the production of battle droids, Ord Cestus was threatened with imminent economic collapse.

Enter the Confederacy of Independent Systems—the Separatists—with a life-saving offer to purchase a generous quantity of the planet’s most lucrative export: bio-droids. Possessed of tactical capabilities that rival the fighting abilities of even the most advanced Jedi, these sophisticated, techno-organic hybrid units would prove a most formidable weapon if ever deployed for military use. And now the Confederacy’s intention to invest in what amounts to an army of bio-droids has sent ripples of alarm through the highest echelons of the Republic government.

Determined to halt the bio-droid sale—but fearing a show of force will result in a political backlash—Supreme Chancellor Palpatine dispatches a team of envoys, led by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Their mission: persuade Ord Cestus’s government to abandon its dealings with the Confederacy . . . while secretly stirring up revolution among the planet’s struggling underclass. Diplomacy is paramount. But if all else fails, the Republic will not hesitate to launch a full-scale attack—and wipe out not only the means of bio-droid production, but countless lives as well, to demonstrate the consequences of disloyalty.

For Obi-Wan, the prospect of such wholesale slaughter only serves to fuel his growing suspicions about the sinister path the Republic seems to be taking. But the brash Jedi Master Kit Fisto and the detachment of clone soldiers assigned to the mission are ready and willing to do the Supreme Chancellor’s bidding. As the leaders of Ord Cestus refuse to capitulate and Palpatine rapidly loses patience, Obi-Wan’s hopes of a peaceful resolution are dwindling. Now, facing a crisis of conscience, Obi-Wan must find the wisdom and strength to prevent a bloodbath and safeguard the Republic— while abiding by the ancient code to which he has pledged his life.

The 1st SW novel to be written by a black author. Who never tweeted accusations of racism against Lucas. He also created an insectile character who – per biology – slowly changes from male to female – without confusing the reader.

The Medstar Duology  (2004)

Michael Reaves & Steve Perry

It’s M*A*S*H* meets Star Wars – but without the comedy of course. Aspiring healer Bariss Offee joins a medical unit on the planet Drongar to heal wounded soldiers during the Clone Wars. Comes in two volumes.

Yoda: Dark Rendezvous (2004)

Sean Stewart

The savage Clone Wars have forced the Republic to the edge of collapse. During the height of the battle, one Jedi Knight escapes the carnage to deliver a message to Yoda on Coruscant. It appears that Dooku wants peace and demands a rendezvous. Chances are slim that the treacherous Count is sincere but, with a million lives at stake, Yoda has no choice.

The meeting will take place on Djun, a planet steeped in evil. The challenge could not be more difficult. Can Yoda win back his once promising pupil from the dark side or will Count Dooku unleash his sinister forces against his former mentor? Either way, Yoda is sure of one thing: This battle will be one of the fiercest he’ll ever face.

Want to know more about Yoda’s life in the Jedi Temple when he’s not sitting on the Council? Want to hear a philosophical debate between Yoda and his former apprentice? Read this book.

Kenobi (2013)

John Jackson Miller

Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
 
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
 
Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice.

One of the few SW books that chronicles day-to-day life on Tatooine. Despite Luke’s protestations about the “backwater” planet, Tatooine sure has some interesting inhabitants.

Coruscant Nights Trilogy  (2008, 2009)

Michael Reaves

If you’ve read Darth Maul-Shadow Hunter, you’re already familiar with Lorn Pavan and if your familiar with Lorn Pavan, you know that his son Jax was taken to the Jedi Temple as a baby. Now Jax Pavan is all grown up – but he’s one of the few jedi to survive Order 66 and now he’s working as a private eye in the slums of Coruscant. Too bad he has to constantly stay one step ahead of Darth Vader – who’ll stop at nothing to destroy one of “the last jedi”. The GFFA’s homage to hardboiled detective fiction.

The Han Solo Trilogy (1997, 1998)

A.C. Crispin

Who needs a Han Solo movie when you can save your money and buy A.C. Crispin’s tales of the early adventures of Star Wars‘ most beloved scoundrel from his days as a space pirate to his early involvement with the Rebel Alliance (before A New Hope, mind you).

The Force Unleashed (2009)

Sean Williams

The second non-movie, multi-media project Lucasfilm released to the public to bridge ROTS & ANH (eat your heart out Rogue One): it consisted of a video game, a comic book, a novel and lots of toys. I didn’t play the game but I read (and enjoyed) the book which is what I told a flea market vendor when I purchased a Maris Brood action figure from him.

Dark Disciple (2016)

Christie Golden

In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to pair brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku’s side still runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. She’s more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos’s quest.

Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.

OK so this one isn’t a “Legends” book. It’s “canon” according to Disney. But let’s face it: like the EU, Disney gave The Clone Wars the short end of the stick. This novel is based on some episodes that never made it to the airwaves. That’s why I’m including it here. This is the only “new canon” book that’s worth a look. Plus there’s a touching forward by Katie Lucas about the positive impact Star Wars has played in her family’s life.

Honor Among Thieves (2014)

James S.A. Corey

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

The last Expanded Universe novel to be published with yet another memorable female character to add to a long list of awesome SW ladies.

Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine (2004)

Voronica Whitney-Robinson & Haden Blackman

Hidden in the Jedi ruins of Dantooine is a Holocron containing a list of high-level Rebel sympathizers. If that list were to fall into the hands of Darth Vader, the Rebel Alliance would lose its most valued support—and possibly the war itself.

As an Imperial bio-engineer who frequently visits other worlds, Dusque Mistflier is the perfect cover for a Rebel who needs to travel far and wide without arousing suspicion. And so she agrees to help Rebel spy Finn Darktrin in his quest to recover the crucial Holocron. Despite help from Han, Luke, and Leia, the mission is fraught with peril. And as their journey takes them into the fiery belly of the beast that is galactic civil war, Dusque and Finn will learn that the hardest part of all is figuring out whose side you’re on—and how far you’re willing to go to win. . . .

A SW novel with another awesome female character who knows a lot about animals. And a character named Finn… who isn’t what he seems.

Shadows of the Empire (1996)

Steve Perry

A story set between TESB & ROTJ.

OMG, this one is FAMOUS for being the first non-movie, multi-media project Lucasfilm released to the public: it had a novel for adults, a novel for kids, a video game, a trading card collection, an toy line, a comic series and a flippin‘ soundtrack composed by Joel McNeely – which is really good by the way. It also introduced three new interesting characters: cynical pilot Dash Rendar, assassin assistant Guri and so evil he’s sexy Prince Xizor, a Falleen who wins the respect of the non-human hating Emperor and draws the ire of Vader – no easy feat.

The Courtship of Princess Leia (1995)

Dave Wolverton

Seeking rich, powerful allies to bring into the  Rebel Alliance and a new home planet for the  refugees of her native Alderaan, Princess Leia  considers a proposal that could tip the balance of power against the evil Empire. The Hapes Consortium of  63 worlds is ruled by the Queen Mother, who wants  Leia to marry her son, the dashing and wealthy Prince Isolder. Han Solo has always dreamed of  marrying Leia himself, and now he makes a desperate last gamble to win her back. Soon he, Isolder, Luke Skywalker and Artoo will be at the center of an  adventure leading to an awesome treasure, a group of Force-trained “witches,” and a showdown with an invincible foe.

The most female-centric SW novel: besides our titular princess and the aforementioned witches, we have a planet full of Force-sensitive “Amazons”. This is the second time we meet the Nightsisters in the GFFA (the 1st time was the 1985 made-for-TV movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor) while the Singing Mountain Clan will produce future beloved EU character Tenel Ka.

Does it make me a bad fan to secretly wish Leia had ended up with Prince Isolder instead of Han?

Tatooine Ghost (2003)

Troy Denning

The deaths of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine by no means spelled the end of the Empire. In the aftermath, the New Republic has faced a constant struggle to survive. Now a new threat looms: a masterpiece of Alderaanian art—lost after the planet’s destruction—has resurfaced on the black market. It conceals a vital secret—the code used to communicate with New Republic agents undercover within the Empire. Discovery by Imperial forces would spell disaster. The only option is recovery—and Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO have been dispatched to Tatooine to infiltrate the auction.

When a dispute at the auction erupts into violence, the painting vanishes in the chaos. Han and Leia are thrust into a desperate race to reclaim it. As they battle against marauding TIE fighters, encroaching stormtroopers, and Tatooine’s savage Tusken Raiders, Leia’s emotional struggle over the specter of her infamous father culminates in the discovery of an extraordinary link to the past. And as long-buried secrets at last emerge, she faces a moment of reckoning that will forever alter her destiny . . . and that of the New Republic.

Shmi Skywalker and Kitster fans should love this one as it delves deeper into their lives after Anakin leaves Tatooine with Qui-Gonn, how Leia learns about her family history and how, once again, there’s never a dull moment on Tatooine.

Stay tuned for part 2.

 

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Relevant Reads: “The Screwfly Solution”

Call me a Gilead-loving Martha, but I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. Compared to books like Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, the Persepolis duology, Infidel, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced and Not Without My Daughter, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian story about a theocratic U.S. that oppresses women feels more like a Disney movie than a cautionary tale.

Which is why I’m glad I discovered James Tiptree’s (note: Alice Sheldon wrote this story under the name Racoona Sheldon but it’s always recognized as a Tiptree story) 1977 Nebula-award winning short story “The Screwfly Solution”, a spine-tingling yarn that’s one-part alien invasion, two-parts femicide, with a heaping helping of religious fervor.

Now why am I comparing “The Screwfly Solution” to The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, one speculates on a future that may or may not happen. The other can happen anywhere and anytime to any woman regardless of her age, size, class, color or beliefs. It can happen in the home, the office, the school and even on the street. Not all women can relate to The Handmaid’s Tale but every woman can relate to “The Screwfly Solution”.

It’s unknown what inspired Tiptree to write “The Screwfly Solution”. Was it the many serial killer cases (of whom the majority of victims were women) that occured in the ’60s and ’70s – among them the 1977 Hillside Strangler case? We may never know because Tiptree died in 1987.

The story is framed in the form of letters between a husband and wife named Alan and Anne. Alan is in Columbia studying insects and Anne is telling him about some disturbing news reports back home:

The Red Cross has set up a refugee camp in Ashton, Georgia. Imagine, refugees in the U.S.A. I heard two little girls were carried out all slashed up.

All I could see about the clippings was that they were fairly horrible accounts of murders or massacres of women. The worst was the New Delhi one, about ‘rafts of female corpses’ in the river. The funniest (!) was the Texas Army officer who shot his wife, three daughters, and his aunt, because God told him to clean the place up.

In case you haven’t guessed, men are spontaneously murdering women in droves. From New Delhi to Cape Hatteras, bodies of slain women have been piling up in rivers and gulfs and everywhere else. It’s gotten so bad that an advertisement catches Alan’s eye:

THE FORSETTE FUNERAL HOME REGRETFULLY ANNOUNCES IT WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT FEMALE CADAVERS

Go ahead, shudder. Then pause for a moment because it’s all too familiar. Just look at these current events in our world:

A man in Turku, Finland attacks six women with a knife, resulting in two deaths.

In Marseille, France two cousins are stabbed to death while waiting at a train station.

Journalist Kim Wall’s body was found floating in a bag decapitated, dismembered, full of stab wounds and stitches sown into her torso. 

A man who identifies as a woman, murders a lesbian couple and their son in Oakland, CA.

A female torso is found floating in the Oshawa Harbor.

Here’s an in-depth article about violence against women.

WomenCountUSA is a website devoted to the number of girls and women murdered by men.

And let’s not forget India’s “missing girls”.

Yet what do all these cases have in common? They’ve gotten minimal news coverage or have been dismissed out of hand. Just as the murder of women is taken for granted in the story, misogynistic violence in real life isn’t taken as seriously as, say, racial violence or homophobic violence (the murder of the Oakland lesbian couple was barely mentioned in LGBT news media).

But systematic femicide isn’t the only problem affecting society in “The Screwfly Solution”Anne reveals another disturbing trend: a new religion has been gaining acceptance in society:

They’re calling it the Sons of Adam cult now.

What does this cult believe? Alan pulls out a flimsy sent by his friend Barney who explains via a book titled Man Listens to God:

Man must purify himself and show God a clean world…as long as man depends on the old, filthy animal way, God won’t help him. When man gets rid of his animal part which is woman, this is the signal God is awaiting. Then God will reveal the new true clean way, maybe angels will come bringing new souls, or maybe we will live forever, but it is not our place to speculate, only to obey.

And when they say “man gets rid of his animal part which is woman”, Barney means it in a literal way. In the same flimsy he relates a meeting with the Mayor (a devoted member of the new religion) of Peedsville to investigate this new cult – which ends in the casual murder of a female colleague:

Mayor Blount drove up in a police cruiser, and our chief…explained our mission from the Surgeon General. Dr. Premack was very careful not to make any remarks insulting to the mayor’s religion. Mayor Blount agreed to let the party go on into Peedsville to take samples of the soil and water and so on and talk to the doctor who lives there.

The mayor was about 6’2″, weight maybe 230 or 240, tanned, with grayish hair. He was smiling and chuckling in a friendly manner.

Then he looked in the car and saw Dr. Elaine Fay and he blew up. He started yelling we had to all get the hell back. But Dr. Premack talked to him and cooled him down, and finally the mayor said Dr. Fay should go into the warehouse office and stay there with the door closed.

Then Mayor Blount…came in…he smiled at me sort of fatherly, but he looked tense. He asked me where Dr. Fay was, and I told him she was lying down in back. Then he kind of sighed and went back down the hall, closing the door behind him.

After a while the door opened and Mayor Blount came back in. He looked terrible, his clothes were messed up, and he had bloody scrape marks on his face. He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me hard and fierce, like he might have been disoriented. I saw his zipper was open and there was blood on his clothing and also on his (private parts).

I didn’t feel frightened, I felt something important had happened. I tried to get him to sit down. But he motioned me to follow him back down the hall to where Dr. Fay was. “You must see”, he said. He went into the toilet and I went into a kind of little room there, where the cot was. I saw Dr. Fay lying on the cot in a peaceful appearance. She was lying straight, her clothing was to some extent different but her legs were together… Her blouse was pulled up, and I saw there was a cut or incision on her abdomen. The blood was coming out of there…Also her throat was cut open.

I returned to the office. Mayor Blount was sitting down, looking very tired. He had cleaned himself off. He said, “I did it for you. Do you understand?”

He went on to explain how Dr. Fay was very dangerous, she was what they call a cripto-female (crypto?) the most dangerous kind. He had exposed her and purified the situation.

Judging from what I’ve highlighted in bold you can guess why the mayor got away with murder. That’s right, “religious tolerance”. Early on in the story Anne raises the question:

Why can’t they do something, even if it is a religion?

Sound familiar? Here’s some more examples from our world:

At the Women’s March this year a woman holding an “Islam is Misogynistic” sign was attacked by protesters for “spreading hate”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled feminist, FGM survivor and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali as an “extremist”.

I myself was subjected to this. When I was a high school junior, I told my class about the way women were treated in Saudi Arabia (thanks to the previously mentioned book Princess) in the name of religion and a Muslim boy (who was a real thorn in my side) interrupted me and accused me of Islamophobia. Guess who the teacher (who hoped that one day the US would have a woman president) sided with?

∞∞∞

As the story reaches its conclusion, Alan kills himself after murdering his and Anne’s teenage daughter, and Anne – possibly the only woman left alive on Earth – is living in seclusion in the woods of Canada (at this rate the men are now murdering little boys in rapid numbers). Disguised as a man, she only comes to the local general store in her area for whatever she needs and hears talk from the men about angel sightings (proof to the men that they’re doing God’s Will). Then one day Anne sees the “angel” for herself and she realizes that it’s not an angel but an alien:

Let me repeat – it was there. And I think they’ve done whatever it is to us. Made us kill ourselves off.

Why?

Well, it’s a nice place, if it wasn’t for the people.

So it turns out that the aliens are spreading a mental delusion/disease among men, influencing them to murder the female half of the population, then boys and eventually each other. Once humanity goes extinct, the earth is ripe for the taking.

Are you interested in reading “The Screwfly Solution”? It’s available as a selection  of the only Tiptree anthology in print (bummer) Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. If you have read “The Screwfly Solution” or seen the Masters of Horror adaptation, what impressed you most about the story? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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Vietnam War Fantastic

I got the idea to write this post from watching Ken Burn’s latest documentary The Vietnam War. In the past, for reasons unknown, I never had any interest in the Vietnam War even though I have some vague memories of its aftereffects (the war ended in 1975, I was born in 1984) thanks to the pop culture of the ’80s and early ’90s. I also remember as a child seeing legless Vietnamese/Cambodian men in wheelchairs due to left over land mines from that war.

But until Burns’ series, I never had any interest in the Vietnam War. Maybe because it was too long (it lasted from 1955-1975, 20 years total), too bloody and too divisive, so divisive in the US (and Vietnam of course) that you could say the ’60s was the second Civil War. To this very day, the war still is still a sensitive subject – just ask any baby boomer.

And maybe its controversial nature is why authors tend to shy away from the Vietnam War as a setting for works of SF, fantasy and horror. But there are exceptions. Eleven of them to be exact, and they range from short stories to an award-winning classic novel. So pop in your favorite ’60s/’70s rock album (I suggest The Best of the Guess Who because of course I do) and peruse this list of fantastical works set during a war that changed America (and Vietnam) forever.

Short Stories

“Fellow Americans” by Eileen Gunn (From the anthology Alternate Presidents)

Lyndon B. Johnson – commonly known as LBJ – loses the 1964 election to Barry Goldwater, who, as president, drops nuclear weapons on Vietnam, thus winning the war. Goldwater wins a second term in 1968 and serves as POTUS until 1973. Oh and Richard Nixon quit politics and became a talk show host.

“Suppose They Gave a Peace” by Susan Shwartz (also from Alternate Presidents and The Way It Wasn’t)

George McGovern is elected in 1972 and attempts an immediate withdrawal from the war, but that doesn’t stop the North Vietnamese from advancing towards Saigon.

“Murdering Uncle Ho” by Chris Bunch (from the anthology Alternate Generals III)

JFK survived his assassination, and draws the US deeper into the Vietnam conflict after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which leads to a North Vietnamese invasion in 1965.

Comics

Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)

This graphic novel needs no introduction. Ask any comic book nerd about it and they’ll speak in reverential tones about how this series changed the comic book industry for better and for worse. Thanks to the intervention of superheroes – the living weapon Dr. Manhattan in particular (and the Comedian – though he was more of a combatant) – the US won the Vietnam War. But for every action, there’s a reaction…

Spider-‘Nam

This is more of a case of What Could Have Been. James Stokoe wrote and drew a couple of (unpublished) pages imagining Spider-Man as a combatant in the Vietnam War. He learns that the catch-phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility” takes on a whole new meaning during wartime. It appears that this comic wont be published any time soon but if it is, it’ll be the first Spider-Man comic I’d be interested in reading. You can look at the pages here.

Video Games

Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

A 2009 first-person shooter that tells the story of G.I. Private Nate Walker, who is sent to Vietnam in 1969 and learns, to his horror, that a scientist has unleashed a contagion that turns humans into zombie creatures (because zombies and war go together like peanut butter and jelly) which includes his older brother Cal. Your mission is to find Cal in the jungles of Southeast Asia, fight zombies and the Viet Cong, who’d like to get their hands on that virus.

(you will not love the smell of naplam in the morning)

Role-Playing Games

Weird Wars: Tour of Darkness

I’m not good at describing RPGs because I’ve never played them, but I think TV Tropes does a better job summarizing the Weird Wars franchise:

Pinnacle Games published a Weird Wars line of d20 games taking place in Real Life past and future wars with supernatural additions. For example, Weird War II had the PCs playing Allied soldiers during World War II, but the Nazis had mutant soldiers, characters could use haunted vehicles and cast spells, and there were monsters. Lots of monsters. The updated re-release of the game line for Savage Worlds so far includes World War I (“Weird War I”), World War II (“Weird War II”), The Vietnam War (“Tour Of Darkness”), and the Roman Empire and its campaigns of conquest (“Weird Wars Rome”).

And Amazon provides more details:

Our first follow-up to our smash hit Weird Wars in the new Savage Worlds system takes us to the jungles of Vietnam. Your grunt has 365 days and a wake-up to learn what really lurks in the jungle. Surviving is tough enough, but if your GI is really on the ball, he just might get drafted into the super-secret Phoenix Program and discover far more than he ever wanted about the Plain of Jars and the secret cults of the high mountains. Tour of Darkness features new Sanity rules and how to deal with mind-numbing horror, a ton of Edges & Hindrances, new horrors, and an awesome Adventure Generator and Plot Points to tell the most savage of tales!

Novels

The Forever War Joe Haldeman (1975)

Joe Haldeman served in Vietnam as a combat engineer. He expressed his experiences (the terror of combat, the indifference of government bureaucracy, the futility of the war and the sense of coming back to an unrecognizable world) in the military sci-fi award-winning novel The Forever War which tells the story of William Mandella, a UNEF soldier who is drafted into the war between Earth and the Taurans. Fighting an endless war is tough enough but for Mandella and his fellow soldiers, the tougher part is going home…

Television

“In Praise of Pip” – The Twilight Zone, Season 5, Episode 1 (Broadcast date: 9/27/63)

This episode is noted for addressing the Vietnam War long before the anti-war movement came to prominence. A corrupt bookie (Jack Klugman) is shot by one of his clients. He learns before hand that his son was wounded in South Vietnam and prays that God would take his life in exchange for his son’s. But before he dies, he gets one last chance to be a good father…

twilight-zone-season-5-1-in-praise-of-pip-episode-121-jack-klugman-bill-mundy-review-guide-list

A later season 5 episode makes an eerie side reference to Vietnam. “I Am the Night – Color Me Black” tells the story of an innocent man who will be hanged for murder at sunrise. But the sun never rises and the sky stays dark. After the execution, a reverend tells the public that the sky will get blacker and blacker as long as hate persists. But the little town isn’t the only place covered in darkness. Just see for yourself:

Manga

Apocalypse Meow by Motofumi Kobayashi

In Japan this manga goes by a very different title that can’t be repeated here. So in the US its retitled Apocalypse Meow as a play on the famous film Apocalypse Now.

All soldiers are represented as animals – Americans are rabbits, Vietnamese are cats, etc. Three American soldiers – Bota, Perky and Rats – go about their daily activities as members of a reconnaissance group in Vietnam. Click here for more details.

So what do you think, readers? Did I miss something? Should there be more works set during the Vietnam War or should we let sleeping dogs lie? Say your thing, man.

 

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Forgotten Women of Comics #2: Phantom Lady

She wasn’t a phantom or ghost. She had no superpowers. She had no gadgets except for her trusty black ray which she used to temporarily blind her enemies. But she was resourceful, smart and determined to get to the bottom of things when it came to crime. The socialite daughter of U.S. senator Henry Knight, Sandra Knight made her first appearance in Quality comics’ Police Comics #1 wearing a yellow one piece suit with a green cape. She was sometimes assisted by her fiance, Don Borden, an agent of the U.S. State Department.

In 1946, Quality folded and Phantom Lady was given to Fox Feature Syndicate, where her popularity exploded thanks to artist Matt Baker, one of the rare black artists working in comics at the time. His depictions of women were controversial (it was referred to as “good girl art”) but they were also gorgeously drawn. See for yourself.

(Also read this piece about Matt Baker. Someone needs to make a film – or write a biography – about him.)

In fact, Baker’s art was so famous, it was included as an example in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s infamous comics critical book Seduction of the Innocent.

Another change Baker made to Sandra/Phantom Lady was her costume. It was now blue and red – and a little skimpier. But amazingly, she never wore heels, just practical flats. It was during this time that her fiance Don Borden also became – how can I put this? – more clueless about Sandra Knight’s alter ego. She never wore a mask, change her hairstyle, her voice, or her personality as Phantom Lady, yet Don could never put two and two together. Neither could her father. Nevertheless, she was famous in the city she fought crime in and, like Batman, the police department always cooperated with her. She was the talk of the town.

By the early 1950s Ajax-Ferrell Publications took over the character and changed her outfit by covering up her cleavage and her back, but she still basically had the same costume. With flat shoes. In 1956 DC Comics obtained the rights to Phantom Lady. In 1973 she became a member of the Freedom Fighters, a superhero team that lived on Earth-X  where Nazi Germany won World War 2. She is still at DC Comics today. Her alter-ego now goes by the name Stormy Knight or Jennifer Knight.

For the original Quality/Fox/Ajax printed stories, you can purchase them here at Amazon. Or see if they’re available at your local Half Price Books. That’s where I got my collection of PH stories (I own volume 2).

To learn more about Phantom Lady and other classic female superheroes read The Great Women Superheroes by Trina Robbins.

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Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Recap: “The Imposter Inside”

Finally a Padme centic episode! Well, sort of. Ahsoka does most of the fighting. The Naboo senator and the jedi padawan are setting a table – with the help of a handmaiden – for a political dinner party only for Ahsoka to notice that there are utensils on the table, a diplomatic no-no for the guests involved. It’s all the fault of the handmaiden (who curiously is dressed like one of Padme’s handmaidens from The Phantom Menace) who turns out to be a Clawdite assassin out to kill – you guessed it – Padme…again. It’s time for another Ahsoka/Padme tag team fight! Afterwards – dinner!

Questions 

Why is Padme wearing the white jumpsuit she wore in Attack of the Clones when she’s about to play hostess? Shouldn’t she be wearing something more formal? It’s like she knew what was coming…

Final Thoughts

There’s been a lot of wish fulfillment among female fans about Padme’s fate in the prequels. Most wanted her to give up Luke and Leia and then become one of the great leaders of the Rebellion along with Bail and Mon. But after viewing this episode and The Clone Wars, I don’t think instigating a rebellion was in Padme’s blood. Sure, she was present at the secret meetings (albeit reluctantly) among the senators and presented the Petition of 2000 to Chancellor Palpatine but in the end, Padme was a pacifist through and through. Despite her role as leader in the Battle of Naboo, Padme only fights in self defense (that battle was a last resort after her pleas to the senate failed. It also delivered her unwittingly into Palpatine’s clutches). The rest of the time, she is arguing against war and always finding ways to avoid war  much to her detriment. This is why she’s been the target of assassination attempt after assassination attempt – her beliefs aren’t welcome in a galaxy that’s full of scum and villainy.

I’m hoping that if there are more Padme episodes in the near future, we will get some that take place before, during and after The Phantom Menace but before Attack of the Clones. There’s a 10-year gap between episodes 1 and 2 so let’s see more Queen Amidala. What other challenges did she face as Queen in office? Better yet, let’s see some episodes centered around Amidala’s handmaidens, especially Sabe. Or Yane and Sache when they had to stay behind on Naboo during the Trade Federation Crisis. Or an adaptation of Queen in Disguise.  Or an episode about Corde and Dorme, Padme’s handmaidens from Attack of the Clones. The possibilities are endless.

Until next time, Star Warriors. May the Force Be With You.

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Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Recap: “Beasts of Echo Base”

Inspired by a deleted scene from The Empire Strikes Back where snowtroopers are attacked by wampas that live in the caverns of Echo Base where the Rebel Alliance is hiding out, Leia and Artoo are looking for Chewie. Poor Chewie is in the possession (literally) of a sleeping wampa! With no weapons or use of the Force can Leia save Chewie without becoming wampa chow herself?

Highlights

Well the only good thing I can say about this episode is seeing Chewie vulnerable makes him more loveable to me. It’s not that I never liked Chewie, it’s just that Chewie was always the tough, gruff alien that could rip your arms from your sockets or choke you to death. But seeing a bigger predator that scares Chewie enough to make him cry for help makes him seem more…humanoid. You just want to give him a big bear hug and never let him go.

Now for the questions. Actually I only have one:

  • For once can we see Chewie fix something without Artoo’s help?

Over all this episode was OK. It just wasn’t as memorable as “Ewok Escape” or “The Padawan Path”. It didn’t make me want to watch it over and over again. In fact I’m starting to think this series isn’t as good as DC Superhero Girls. It’s not that I expect Star Wars to be just like DC (it’s not). It’s just that Forces of Destiny lacks the charm and empowerment that DC Superhero Girls has. It doesn’t even have the spiritual and philosophical mindset Star Wars is known for (and yes, you can slip in those aspects in three minutes). Even the current merchandise looks underwhelming.

Or maybe I find the series lacking because I feel Disney’s ladies are stealing Lucas’ ladies’ thunder. I feel as if Disney is slowly edging out Leia, Padme and Ahsoka to give their characters more spotlight. It’s like seeing more Star Trek merchandise depicting Captain Janeway instead of Uhura because one was a captain and the other wasn’t.

Or maybe I’m just being a troll.

But don’t worry, I’ll still give a recap for the next episode: The Imposter Inside because Padme’s in it!

Until next time Star Warriors!

 

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Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Recap: “The Padawan Path”

After three years of seeing an adult Ahsoka in Rebels, it’s great to see a Clone Wars era Ahsoka again.

Rampaging robots! Ahsoka must hurry to be in time for her scheduled Jedi ceremony with Yoda and Anakin. But on the way she hears cry for help and sees a mother and child Aleena running from a giant malfunctioning droid, destroying everything in its path. Will Ahsoka risk her chance at becoming a Jedi Knight or will she help those in need? I think you know the answer.

Highlights For This Episode:

  • Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Matt Lanter (Anakin) and Tom Kane (Yoda) are reunited!
  • Clone Wars fans, our prayers have been answered: we got another CW episode. This story actually takes place between Hunt for Ziro and Heroes on Both Sides.
  • Anakin traded in his scar to become a pretty boy! Someone made this meme in response. No matter what medium he appears in, he’ll always be appealing – except when he becomes Darth Vader of course.
  • The steam that rises from Ahsoka’s lightsabers as she spots a leaky waterpipe reminds me of when Anakin fought Asajj in the rain on Yavin 4 in Star Wars: Clone Wars.
  • In hindsight its sobering to think that Ahsoka will never be appointed a master and Anakin and Yoda will become enemies.

Now For Some Questions:

  • How did that droid get loose anyway? What caused it to malfunction?
  • Why aren’t other jedi present at the ceremony? I know there’s a war going on but the temple is always a busy place.
  • Did she really have to run all the way to the temple? Why not just hitch a ride on a flying taxi cab?

All in all, a good episode. Welcome back Clone Wars.

Up next: Leia vs. the “Beasts of Echo Base”.

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Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Recap: “Ewok Escape”

Forces of Destiny is a hand drawn animated micro-series that centers around the women of Star Wars. They span across the entire saga and can be seen on YouTube and the Disney channel. They will be accompanied by books and toys. I wonder if Disney did this as an answer to DC Superhero Girls. Anyway, I’ll be reviewing some select episodes for the next couple of posts.

“Ewok Escape” is the first Leia-centric episode that shows us what happened between Leia meeting Wicket and Han and Luke’s capture by the Ewoks. Leia is following Wicket through the forest when they come across two stormtroopers bullying a pair of Ewoks. Climbing a tree and making a rope from vine, Wicket successfully ties up the troopers but isn’t heavy enough to lift them off the ground without getting shot. Seeing the whole situation, Leia intervenes, knocking them out and getting a blaster in the process. Next we see Leia at the Ewok village receiving a present: the beige dress she wore in Return of the Jedi. “Does it come with a spear?” she asks.

Here’s what I liked about this episode:

  • Snippets of “Leia’s Theme” and “Ewok Parade” can be heard at the beginning of the episode.
  • It’s canon! So now you can pause Return of the Jedi , watch this episode, then resume.
  • Ewoks, Ewoks, Ewoks! Reminds me of the Ewok cartoons and TV movies. Take that haters!
  • In an age of CGI, it’s great to see a traditionally animated Star Wars cartoon.

And now for some questions, regarding the episode and the entire series in general:

  • Why wasn’t this the first episode of the series? Leia is the First Lady of Star Wars.
  • How did the Ewoks get Leia’s measurements to make the dress?
  • Did they even make the dress or did it belong to another woman?
  • Why did they hire a new voice actress when they could’ve used Julie Dolan since she voiced Leia in Rebels?

And now for questions about the series in general:

  • Why isn’t Padme included in the merchandise line up?
  • Will there be action figures (because not all girls like dolls)?
  • Will there be more than 16 episodes?
  • Will Bultar Swan, Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, Shaak Ti or villains like Asajj Ventress and Aurra Sing get their own episodes?

And now for one regret: it’s regrettable that Disney will only do women from the movies and TV shows. This is another reminder of why it was a bad decision for Disney to put an end to the EU. I would’ve loved to have seen some three-minute adventures starring Jaina Solo, Mara Jade, The Singing Mountain Clan, Kerra Holt, Jan Ors, Cindel Towani or Ensign Nanda. But I guess I’ll just have to settle for the usual suspects.

So far, so good.

Up next – Ahsoka takes “The Padawan Path”.

 

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What Could’ve Been: A Xena/Wonder Woman Comic

Two beautiful women with blue eyes and dark hair. Both women have ties to Greek mythology. Both women are associated with the Amazons. Both women wield swords. Both women are called “warrior princesses”. Both women have blonde sidekicks. Both women have made their mark on pop culture. They are Xena of Amphipolis and Diana of Themyscira. And they were going on an adventure together.

But it was never published.

That’s right. Dark Horse (then owner of the “Xena” license) and DC were gonna release a crossover comic of Xena and Wonder Woman. It’s like that time Dark Horse and DC did that “Batman and Superman Vs Aliens and Predators” graphic novel. I’m not making this stuff up.

Written by Beau Smith, drawn by Eduardo Barreto and read and approved by Gail Simone & Chuck Dixon, this comic never saw the light of day due to Xena‘s cancellation. That decision was made by Dan DiDio, new to DC. He believed that no one would take the comic seriously. Smith says otherwise – he still gets questions about that particular comic.

Here are some quick facts about Wonder Woman vs Xena: The Princess War Diaries.

Ares Kicks off the Story

The Ares I’m talking about is the Ares of Xena’s world. You see he’s bored and what better way to fight boredom than to jump a portal into another dimension where he comes across – you guessed it – Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl doing some amazon training. You can guess where this is going. Ares transports the superladies back to his neck of the woods where he uses his cronies to stir up some trouble then pin the blame on all four women. Oh and he wants them to fight each other all for the amusement of the gods.

The Other Villain Would Be A Male Chauvinist Pig

His name? Bolos the Manly, Ruler of Testosterone. Seriously. He thinks these ladies need the firm hand of a man and so he sets out to find them and teach them a lesson.

Warrior Women? The More the Merrier

There’s also a trio of female mercenaries who want to reclaim their title of Toughest Gal. They set out to teach Xena & Wonder Woman & Gabrielle & Wonder Girl a lesson.

You Can Contact Beau Smith And Tell Him What You Think

He doesn’t tell us what happens after Xena and Gabrielle beat up those lady mercenaries but he like to hear our thoughts on the comic that never was. Click here for more info.

So, Planet X readers, I’d like to hear from you. If Wonder Woman and Xena met, what kind of adventures would they have? Sound off in the comments. No slash fiction please. Keep it clean.

 

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I’m Not Surprised About Joss Whedon’s Leaked “Wonder Woman” Script (Updated)

Or “I’m Not Surprised People Are Flipping Out Over This Unearthed Hokey Wonder Woman Script Joss Whedon Wrote”. Nope, I’m not. If anything I’m smirking and saying “I told you sooooo!”

As women across the nation are rediscovering their love for Wonder Woman, word on the street is there’s a leaked script online of Joss Whedon’s rejected screeplay (dated August 7, 2006) for a proposed Wonder Woman movie. At the time people thought that a film about the First Lady of Comics made by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a match made in heaven. So when the project was dropped, screams of outrage arose over DC’s “misunderstanding of women” (a sentiment echoed repeatedly throughout Tumblr). Now femgeeks have to eat their words as they read this ridiculous script. And you can read it here – if you dare.

I’ve only read the first four pages and it already reeks of stupidity. The story starts off from Steve’s – not Diana’s – point of view as he crashes his plane on Themyscira. Diana has no characterization – none of the Amazons have characterization, they have the personalities of fembots – but Whedon describes her/their physical beauty in detail. The dialogue is sloppy: characters say lines that make no sense and conversations are cut off and never finished. So much so that you have no clue why the characters say what they say or what their talking about.

So you may be asking: “how could Whedon, an avowed feminist, mess up such a feminist character? Especially when he’s famous for creating ‘strong female characters’?” I’ll let you in on a little secret:

Joss Whedon doesn’t respect Wonder Woman.

How do I know this? I have in my possession, from the November 26, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the Benjamin Svetkey penned article “What About Wonder Woman?” The article runs from page 42 to page 46 and talks about the difficulties of getting the heroine onto the silver screen. Throughout, Whedon gives his two cents about why this is the case and it’s not very flattering…

In Whedon’s own words on page 44:

“She has no city,” Whedon says, ticking off a list of problems he had with the character when hired to write and direct a Wonder Woman film five years ago. “She has no great rogues gallery. And she’s distant in a way that makes it hard to create identification. Spider-Man is a nerd. Batman is in pain. But Wonder Woman is from an era where superheroes were supposed to be like Greek gods. She’s above us and different from us. That makes it hard to make her emotionally relevant.”

Continuing on page 45

“Tone was an issue,” he says. “People still think of Wonder Woman as kind of silly. They have fond memories of the TV show but think of her as a kind of goofy lady.”

“I didn’t make it about how we view women. I never got hard-feminist with it. I didn’t need to. She’s a goddess. She’s stronger than Steve Trevor. We get it.

And finally, on page 46:

Even Whedon sounds like he’s souring on the old girl. “If someone else can come along and create a cool Wonder Woman movie and pull it off, that’s great,” he says. “But I don’t necessarily think we need a Wonder Woman movie per se. We need more female heroes. We need ‘wonder women’ movies. But Wonder Woman may not be the wonder woman we need.”

Make that of what you will, but reading this made me want to punch Whedon in the face with an iron glove. I just couldn’t believe he got away with saying such garbage. But then why should I be surprised? Whedon was never a feminist. Here’s some reasons why.

He’s Given Us An Unrealistic Portrayal of Women

The biggest issue I’ve always had with Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the casting of the 5’4″, doe-eyed, girly Sarah Michelle Gellar as a butt-kicking slayer. To me she looked more like a Seventeen cover girl than an action shero. Just the sight of her drives me nuts. Some of you will point out that as a slayer, she’s can fight because she’s superpowered, so height and weight shouldn’t matter. But so’s Wonder Woman, Big Barda and Supergirl and they’re still physically imposing. Anakin and Luke Skywalker were strong in the Force yet Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen are 5’9″ and 6’0″ respectively. “But they’re men,” you may argue, “Of course they’ll be taller. Sarah’s a woman.” Yeah, and so is Sigourney Weaver (6’0″), Hayley Atwell (5’7″), Uma Thurman (6’0″), Lucy Lawless (5’10), Pam Grier (5’8″), Gal Gadot (5’10”), Lynda Carter (5’9″) and Charlize Theron (5’10”). Buffy looks like a pathetic weakling compared to their characters. Now if you’re a Star Warrior like me, you may be wondering how I can embrace short actresses like Natalie Portman (5’3″) and Carrie Fisher (5’1″) as action girls? Because they used firearms to help them fight. They were expert markswomen. When they had to use physical force, they really had to put some muscle into it. Leia had to pull with all her might to strangle Jabba and Padme had use her chain in any way possible to fight off that nexu. If Buffy used firearms instead of fists, I might let her off the hook.

Buffy is not the only tough skinny gal in the Whedonverse. We also have River Tam, in J.F. Sargent’s words – “a badass kung fu killing machine”- played by “the pretty, wispy Summer Glau”. Thanks to Whedon, these women have become such a fixture in pop culture that its coined a new phrase: waif-fu, where a woman without musculature or fat on her frame can beat up (mostly male) trained soldiers twice her size. Some of you will accuse me of body-shaming but I believe that waif-fu is another way to water down feminism to make it appealing to men who are threatened by powerful, strong women. Case in point, an issue of the defunct Wizard magazine.

In the previous decade, I used to check out issues from the library all the time because I wanted to read about the latest in comics and action figures. But something was bothering me. While there were plenty of articles about Buffy, there were no issues about Xena – not even a nostalgic article about the Warrior Princess’ influence on popular culture (Starlog on the other hand, once had an interview with Lucy Lawless titled “Life After Xena”). If there were any listicles about “the hottest women in sci-fi and fantasy” or “women that had an strong influence on sci-fi and fantasy”, Buffy – and Sarah Michelle Gellar – were among the honorees. But not Xena or Lucy Lawless. So I wrote a letter asking why Xena was being ignored. I even said that she was far more feminist and groundbreaking than (my words) “that cutesy vampire slayer”. To my surprise my letter was published in one of their issues – and it spoke volumes.

The person to answer my question was a guy named thwack. I kid you not. Thwack said: “Thwack is deep inside a scared man-child who’s afraid of a tall, powerful woman with a phallic sword. And you said it, Buffy was cute.”

Talk about your castration fears. Xena is too tall, too physically imposing and too powerful to be respected. Buffy, despite her butt-kicking nature, gets more love because, at the end of the day, she’s not a threat to men. Maybe this explains why Whedon struggled with Wonder Woman – she’s too powerful and intimidating for him to handle.

Firefly and Prostitution

Firefly, ah Firefly. Fans are still mourning your early cancellation. Rupert Murdoch has become Satan incarnate for axeing the Greatest Story Ever Told since the Bible. I checked you out from the library once to see if you were worth all the fuss and what scene makes me sick to my stomach? Some soldier atop a woman, humping her till she reaches orgasm (complete with cries of “Oh God”. I thought you didn’t believe in God, Whedon.). The woman in question is Inara, a prostit- er, “companion” who’s main reason for existing is to be present on a spaceship for legal means. So in the future, prostitution, an institution that harms women’s bodies, will not only be legal it will be mandatory in order to rent a spaceship (According to the DVD commentary for Serenity, there was going to be a scene where Inara would teach archery to other girls but it was scrapped because “she appeared too much like Wonder Woman”). Let’s not forget the lingering closeups of her body as she bathes. I also have to mention the controversy regarding its plundering of Asian culture and language but no Asian actors among its cast. I have to say I’m glad Rupert Murdoch had the good sense to cancel this garbage.

He Blames Alien: Resurrection on the Actors

Did you know Whedon wrote the screenplay for Alien: Resurrection? Did you know it’s also considered among fans to be the one of the worst entries in the franchise? Here’s why the film failed according to Whedon:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong they could possibly do. That’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking. Because everything they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from it. And people assume that if I hated it then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much they changed it, they executed it in such a ghastly fashion they rendered it unwatchable.”

What makes this complaint so laughable? The fact that talented actors like Sigourney Weaver (again, a physically imposing woman), Winona Ryder and Ron Perlman were cast and he said “they cast it wrong”. Need I say more?

He Makes Asinine Tweets

I will end this post with a link to one of the worst tweets in the history of Twitter.

Go away Joss. Go away and hand the Batgirl movie over to Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppela, Amy Heckerling, Niki Caro or Penelope Spheeris.

Go away and never return.

Update: Now we’ve learned that his ex-wife Kai Cole has written a tell-all essay about how miserable he made her during their 15 years of marriage. The mask is REALLY starting to slip…

 

 

 

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Filed under female characters, feminism, Wonder Woman