Friday, 19 October 2018

Supernatural s14e2 - a review (with spoilers)

“Gods and Monsters”

Sam and Dean Winchester are the quintessence of “Supernatural” – they were the beginning and they will be the end and there is no point denying it – there is simply no “Supernatural” without them or the actors who play them. However, this season the creators of the show are changing not only the established lore (silver no longer has any effect on werewolves – or anything but decapitation, for that matter, seems to work), but also the very status quo of the show. At least that was the impression that I got as I watched this episode. Do you know why? Well, mainly, because there was so precious little of Sam or Dean in this episode.
Of course, as much as it upsets and pains me to say it, I didn’t expect to be seeing much of Jensen in this episode. However, plot-wise it’s understandable. Dean, currently being possessed by the archangel Michael, is mostly unavailable. Though he did make a nanosecond appearance in the mirror as he attempted to give his possessor an unsuccessful boot – and, of course, he appeared at the end of the episode with some very surprising news indeed. Michael still making his way into the show as the Big Bad with a Plan – despite the writers’ recent announcement (that seems to contradict all their previous statements) that he is not in fact the major Big Bad of the season – would not be taking central stage at this point, of course. But what about Sam? Where did he go? Why was there so little of him? Why was he practically pushed aside (after taking charge so successfully last episode) to make way for other characters and their stories?
Well, I can tell you why. It wasn’t so much a “Supernatural” episode, after all, as an episode of “Dr Phil” on “Supernatural” and Sam just wasn’t part of – er – “the main action”, I suppose. You see, he was off looking for Michael!Dean with Mary and Bobby – but that, I’m afraid, isn’t as interesting or important as following the emotional journey of Nick and Jack, guided with varying degrees of success by Castiel, Angel of the Lord, who could not take part in the search and was obliged to take on the “babysitting duty”, because “his angelic presence would be sensed by Michael, thereby nullifying their hopes of a sneak attack”. Well, he didn’t seem too pleased about that. From a punching bag last week to a nanny/shrink this week there isn’t much of an upgrade for him on this Jack-and-Nick drama hour – though both put him through an emotional wringer all right, throwing into his face that he didn’t understand what they were going through when he was trying to comfort them. Like father, like son…
But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
At the end of last episode Michael finally found the type of monster he could work with on creating a better world – whatever that is in his understanding – someone whose want he finds simple, pure and clean. I’m still not sure what exactly he is trying to accomplish and I’m afraid the writers don’t have much of a clue either. Personally, I suspect that they never truly planned to have Michael possess Dean for very long and figured that they didn’t really need to think it all the way through, details and all, because they knew that they would be dropping this particular storyline soon enough. In any case, this episode opens with a truly sinister scene: in an abandoned church, which, for all its ruin and decay, provides a beautiful background, Michael is experimenting on vampires. He mixes their blood with his grace – and .discards his failed experiments with chilling calm of scientific detachment. Again, he is disappointed. He is not an easy man to please. His movements are unhurried and precise and his expression is amused and morbidly expectant as he twirls his weapon of choice while selecting his next victim.
This time around the bunker seems to house only Bobby, Mary, Sam, Castiel, Jack and Nick. Sam finds Michael’s bloody trail (the trail that Michael left entirely on purpose for him to find) and together with Bobby and Mary they take off. Bobby looks more like a bumbling old fool than anything else in this iteration with a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. (Mary obviously finds it endearing, judging by the way she smiles playfully at him and claps him on the shoulder in the morgue later on.) Castiel reluctantly stays behind – he doesn’t really have much of a choice. Jack is lost without his powers and Nick is a mess and they both need supervision. Something in Castiel’s voice when he says this gives Sam a pause. He is once again playing devil’s advocate when he tells Castiel with that piteous look on his face that it isn’t Nick’s fault and that Nick deserves a shot at rebuilding his life now that he isn’t possessed anymore. I’m sure it will come back to bite him later. Oh. Wait. It already did. Jack doesn’t object when they don’t invite him to join them on their search and says that he wants to improve. However, by improving he means researching how long it takes archangel grace to replenish. Very productive.
Nick is seeing flashbacks of Lucifer’s many killings while possessing him before Castiel brings him some nourishment and they have a heart-to-heart chat – once Castiel can finally make himself look him in the eye. After Castiel tells Nick that his family was murdered, which prompted him to say “yes” to Lucifer, Nick decides to find out who did it. He becomes a man possessed. No pun intended. And is it even considered pun in this case? However, his initial search proves fruitless and when Castiel tries to comfort him and puts a hand on his shoulder – he snaps – like in “he snaps his fingers just like Lucifer did when smiting someone”. He says that he doesn’t know why he did it when Castiel asks him about it. Or does he? There was a look about him that screamed Lucifer. So who is it? What is it? A dangerous side-effect after a prolong exposure to archangel’s possession? Or is it Lucifer himself? Is he still lurking there somewhere, biding his time, waiting to be unleashed? Or is he merely playing us all and there is no Nick to speak of? This is all extremely troubling and confusing and I don’t like it, especially considering the shocking events that took place at the end of the episode.
Jack continues to wallow in self-pity, repeating over and over again that without his grace he has nothing left. Castiel tells him about his own experience as a human and makes some very good points about patience and persistence (using Sam and Dean’s example), past and future, and which one is more important in defining his purposefulness. “What did you have left?” asks Jack when Castiel tells him how hopeless and useless he felt after he lost his wings and grace. “I had Sam and Dean,” replies Castiel simply. “But I had something else that was extremely helpful. I had myself. Just the basic me. As Dean would say without all the bells and whistles.” I understand the importance of such talks and I think Castiel did a very good job there, but it all made it look like family drama rather than a sci-fi/fantasy show “Supernatural” is supposed to be. In the end, Castiel’s pep talk results in Jack seeking his maternal grandparents.
Michael/Dean tuxedo/mirror scene is powerful and poignant and, on a very shallow note, so very, very pretty. I actually jumped when Michael smashed the glass. His voice is low, threatening and enthralling at the same time. He is once again on a prowl, looking for a new, a better monster to recruit – someone who can be improved – werewolves seem to fit the bill. Vampires, apparently, were just a test material. His cruel humour and cold amusement make him even more frightening than before. What is he going to do next? You just don’t know. His smile is as sharp as glass and at any moment there will be that look in his eyes that will freeze your blood. He doesn’t like playing games and gets bored when others do. His attitude is casually suave when dealing with women and carelessly calculated when dealing with men. His goal is becoming more defined as he seeks an audience with the leader of a werewolf pack. “Why be the hunted when you can be the hunter?” he asks him in the end. And isn’t it an interesting choice of phrase, considering that he is possessing one?
But we still don’t know what he’s planning until he pays a visit to Lydia – the vampire who told Sam, Mary and Bobby where to find him. He knows that she was talking with them even though she tries to deny it. “Why do you think I dumped your brothers and sisters in plain sight?” he asks her. “Why do you think I let you escape? Rule №1: you can’t have a trap without bait,” he tells her. “That brings us to Rule №2, which says once the trap has been sprung, you don’t need the bait anymore.” But what is the actual trap? Is it the werewolf ambush or Dean who claims that Michael “just left”? What is going on? Is Dean the equivalent of the Trojan horse? I mean just earlier Michael showed no intentions of wishing to leave the building whatsoever, telling Dean that he owned him and that he should hang on and just enjoy the ride. Well, it was a pretty short ride if he truly left! But did he really? He didn’t, by any chance, invite himself inside Nick to help him take his revenge? (I suppose he would consider wanting revenge pure enough.) I really hope not. I don’t think that it would make much sense. Nick wasn’t even Lucifer’s true vessel. Surely Michael is the strongest when he is wearing Dean?
Jack meets his mother’s parents. It is a touching scene but smacks too much of a soap opera. Castiel is not happy that Jack left the bunker. Jack tells Castiel, “I never knew my mother. I thought the next best thing might be for me to meet the only real family that I have left.” Castiel is visibly hurt by his words. “That is not – ” he all but growls but stops himself before he can say something he might regret. Instead, he controls his emotions and asks Jack if it helped. Jack then tells him about his visit and that he just couldn’t tell them that she died. “I suppose there are worse ways to be human than to be kind,” remarks Castiel.
Funnily enough, Jack’s kindness disappears as abruptly as Nick snapped his fingers in true Lucifer fashion when Castiel tells him that Sam and the others might have found Michael. “So they’re going to try and kill him?” Jack asks all business-like. “No,” replies Castiel, frowning at him; perhaps, wondering about the sudden change. “The plan is to subdue him using angel cuffs and spell work and to get Michael out of Dean.” “And if he doesn’t leave?” demands Jack. “Then they’ll try to drive him out.” “And if that doesn’t work? ... Michael has to be stopped!” Jack's face looks almost savage, showing no sympathy. “I know,” says Castiel patiently, “and he will be, after Dean is – ” “Dean doesn’t matter,” says Jack, cutting Castiel off and scolding him for focusing "so much on saving Dean" – and just like that all my sympathy and partiality for him is gone. It shouldn’t have come as a shock, really, after he all but admitted that he doesn’t consider them his family, but it still did. I’m sorry, Jack. But you’re wrong. Dean matters. Castiel is shocked by Jack’s “Dean has to die” tirade so much that he is rendered speechless - but his stricken expression says it all. “Do you think he’d want it any other way?” Jack throws at Castiel in the end. Castiel doesn't reply. He knows the answer to that. Well, of course not! We all know that Dean would sacrifice himself if he had to. But here’s the thing, Jack: it’s not your call to make. It's not up to you to decide who to sacrifice for the greater good. Dean, Sam, Castiel, they all had their share of “I’m going to sacrifice myself” moments and it was up to their family – their real family – to try and find a way not to let that happen by whatever means possible.
So… at the end of this episode there are two burning questions that I want answers to: “Is it Dean or is it Michael?” and “Is it Nick or is it Lucifer?”

Thoughts? Ideas? Theories?

P.S. I will say this: it wasn't a bad episode altogether (I enjoyed Castiel scenes and Michael!Dean scenes a great deal) and it was definitely a marked improvement since the premiere's debacle. But here's the thing that's bugging me: I don't understand why we should be spending so much time on Jack and Nick. Why are they taking up so much screen time? Why do we get to see more of them than the main characters? Why are their stories and emotional tribulations more important that Sam and Dean's? I didn't sign up for "Jack and Nick" show. I will give the writers kudos for one thing though (if it was their intention, of course): the whole episode was based on building up sympathy for both Jack and Nick and then in a shocking turn of events they pretty much dismantled all of that with a few blows of an ax. Of course, maybe for some of you Jack's outburst in the end didn't have the same profound effect as it had on me, but I'm sure that there are a lot of those who will agree with me that it pretty much nullified whatever sympathy he got up to that point.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Supernatural s14e1: a review (with spoilers)

“Stranger In A Strange Land”

There was so precious little I liked about this episode, I think I’ll start with that. I really liked the very first shot of Sam, alone, struggling with grief, intent on the mission ahead, driving Impala along a dark, deserted, rain-washed road, a classic rock tune blaring from the radio until he softly switches it off; it’s too painful to listen to without Dean not steering the wheel by his side, drumming and humming along, maybe even cracking a joke or two. It was a very poignant and powerful visual – a lighter shade of blue on the horizon as a hint of hope, perhaps? – a perfect setting… for about a second... We later find out that his errand turned out to be a bust.
The next scene is Michael scene and it is riveting. I have never had any doubts about Jensen’s acting skills and yet I was not prepared for how different it would be to look at his face and see no trace of Dean anywhere. Michael is cold, calm and collected. He shows no emotions. He has no emotions. He smiles but he is not amused. He is in no hurry. He takes his time. He has a question and he seeks the answer that will not disappoint, that will gratify, that will serve his purpose. But what is his purpose? A better world. Well, that’s what he says. But is it truly? “What do you want?” he asks. But what do you want, Michael? His scenes, however short and episodic, are phenomenal. I could watch the whole episode just of Michael asking different people what they want.
And then comes the title card and it is… so very disappointing. It looks like something a five-year-old would have patched up with minimum skills and resources: splotchy and clumsy and so very unrealistic.
Then the first glimpse of the bunker and it is a scene of much activity, all very business- and military-like. But Dean’s absence feels like a void and it seems that the writer is trying to fill it with other hunters – but mostly with Bobby and his old man’s ramblings and lectures. It doesn’t work. I have to confess that I found him annoying and unsympathetic in this episode. “Life is a little different when you can’t just zap people around, eh?” he tells Jack, who is struggling with the loss of his powers, that have never been truly explored or delved into on the show. Jack, lost and hurt, is lying at his feet after he has knocked him down and told him with a chuckle to “watch for that left”. There were so many things that one could say to Jack on that occasion, I thought; so many parallels that one could make about people who lost certain physical abilities due to disease or in an accident and had to learn to live and deal with it – instead of a bunch of commonplace nothings.
Mary is often hovering uncertainly over Sam as though on the brink of breaking into a mother mode, but after two seasons, during one of which she was actively distancing herself from her sons, it doesn’t come easily or naturally. Their interaction is hollow and strained, filled with Mary’s platitudes and empty promises, and it’s almost as though Sam wants to say “don’t bother on my account now”. Of course, without his brother by his side nothing looks right anymore. Dean must be here. But he isn’t.
Almost as though it is inevitable, we are introduced to another King of Hell wannabe – or, to be more precise, another Crowley wannabe – another copycat demon who uses fancy lingo and silly endearments that sound off and has a penchant for unnecessary drama. I suppose it would be too much to ask to bring in another Queen of Hell for a change. Personally, I think Rowena would have been a much better choice, not to mention that it would be a rather interesting turn of events. However, instead we are subjected to this demon’s popinjay ways and long-winded prattle and it is boring as hell and just as trite and it wastes precious screen time. I thought back in S12 that Crowley had outlived his usefulness as a character, that he had become too soft to return to his more nefarious ways, but looking at these poor substitutes and their failed attempts to emulate him I wish he were back.
Mary is once again hovering uncertainly in the doorway when Sam and Jack are having a conversation about strength and faith that she interrupts in order to tell Sam that “he’s awake”. Jack is visibly disappointed and hurt when Sam leaves. The “he” in question comes as a shock. It is incredible, unbelievable. Mary says that she can barely look at “him” and hastily retreats (I wonder what happened to that badass hunter that she was so persistently shown to be throughout the last two seasons), leaving Sam on his own to take care of – wait for it – Lucifer’s vessel! Miraculously, after all this time, the man – Nick – Lucifer was possessing is alive. I must say that this was an unexpected turn of events that I thoroughly failed to appreciate. I hoped never to see Lucifer or his vessel ever again. I thought that Dean’s sacrifice put an end to that long-winding saga. Alas, no. Apparently, “the archangel blades were meant to kill the archangel inside and not the person they possess…” Is it just me or does it sound a little too far-fetched – and extremely convenient? Just another gimmick. It rather reminded me of that cock-an-bull story that Arthur Ketch was spinning last season about his twin brother Alexander. Of course, that, at least, was later confirmed to be untrue.
Sam steels himself before entering the room and you can see a whole range of emotions playing across his face. It seems to be a recurring theme recently, isn’t it? Last season Sam had to take care of Gabriel – the archangel who killed his brother over and over and over again to teach him a lesson – and this season he has to take care of the vessel of the archangel who possessed him, tortured his soul in hell and, in the end, forced his brother to say “yes” to Michael in order to defeat him once and for all. “I’m glad Lucifer is dead,” says Sam through a lump in his throat. “Me too,” replies Nick. I hope it’s true; otherwise Dean’s sacrifice was all for naught, wasn’t it? A real slap in the face, if you ask me. When Sam finally leaves the room, you can see how much it took of him to be inside that room with Nick.
However, he doesn’t get a break for the very next moment he receives a call from this week’s king-of-hell-wannabe who wants to make a deal with him in order to become one (what a bewildering concept!) and who took Castiel hostage in order to have some leverage during the negotiations. Sam instantly assembles a team, knowing full well that it’s a trap, comprising himself, Mary, Bobby, Jack, and, bizarrely enough, out of all the seasoned hunters in the bunker… Maggie? I was pleased that (despite the inevitable danger) Sam showed Jack that he had faith in him not only through empty words but through his own actions by allowing him to join them. But why take Maggie? I do not recall her being a hunter in the first place – and at the start of the episode she could barely handle staring at blood. What a strange decision on the writer’s part – to put another young and wide-eyed girl in harm’s way!
The fight that ensued was quite brutal and for a while it seemed that our side was going to lose. I’m sorry to say that Castiel had very little to do throughout the episode. He somehow managed to miss the fact that he walked into a demon-infested bar, was then instantly overpowered, beaten up and, finally, forced to impersonate a trussed-up turkey, while the others fought all around him. At one point Mary gives Maggie an angel blade with the help of which she later saves Mary’s hide. And yet, for whatever reason, no one thought to teach Jack to use something other than his fists in order to defend himself, considering how badly he was doing. Is this another bone carelessly thrown into the “girl power” camp? I’ve noticed that it has become this writer’s staple to make the girls look stronger by deliberately making the boys look weaker.
I appreciated Castiel's speech - self-deprecating ("To be fair, we've all got punched in the face"), sympathetic, encouraging and rallying - to Jack after the fight when he felt even more useless than before and believed that without his powers he had nothing: "You've got your family. And we are going to find Dean. And we are going to beat Michael. And we are going to do it together. Because that's what we do." I think it is something Dean would say if he were there and I want to believe that Castiel learned it from him. 
It was a right decision to end the episode with another Michael scene. He might be cruel and calculating but he is also enigmatic and mesmerizing and it is simply fascinating to watch him move and hear him talk.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this show needs writers who know how to craft stories instead of going at them with a butcher knife. I don't usually do this but I have to say one more thing: Andrew Dabb has to go. His writing is lazy and incompetent, it is devoid of imagination, consistency, subtlety and finesse, and he is simply an awful storyteller.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Lessons to learn and lessons to let go...


It’s funny how it’s not the lessons that they are paid to teach you that teachers often succeed in teaching you in the end. I have been struggling with one such lesson all my life and I believe it’s time I let it go. Just the other day I caught myself thinking about it again – as I always do – in mid-laugh or when I’m at my happiest. I was feeling particularly good about my life and the world around me, filled to the brim with something like laughing gas and a sense of mischief. I was, as the saying goes, walking on air – light and happy and free – on that sunny and warm autumn day. And then it happened. I had a sudden, visceral need to check myself, to sober up, to remind myself that laughter and happiness have a terrible price to pay; the words that had been hammered weekly into my head so many years before were once again reverberating in my ears, berating me, warning me – rain always comes after the sun, rain always comes after the sun, rain always comes after the sun... And isn’t that the truth? We always paid for our laughter during recess with tears at the lesson after being subjected to a forty-minute terror at the hands of the scariest teacher in the world. And that feeling – that knowledge that ultimate happiness in particular – must be avoided at all costs, because it always ends in one way – badly – had been further reinforced in my mind (the mind of a very impressionable and precautious child) by the book that we read at our English lessons, by a soap opera that everyone in our country watched at one point and, finally, most profoundly of all, by a terrible episode from my childhood when I came home, happy and carefree, having laughed a great deal, only to learn that my grandfather had died. It’s a knee-jerk reaction by now and it seems there’s very little I can do about it other than put a lid on my elation and moderate my laughter. It’s as though I suddenly have a fishbone stuck in my throat. It’s as though that balloon of happiness suddenly gets a puncture. It’s as though by laughing without moderation I might accidentally trigger something bad and bring it down upon my family and myself, and that’s when the guilt kicks in. However, I’m going to try to change that. I’ve decided to deal with it in the only way I’m good at when it comes to dealing with my feelings and emotions – by writing it down. It occurred to me afterwards – it’s funny how thirty-five seems to be like such an enlightening age – that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself and your life. There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy and smiling and laughing and taking happy photos in the sun and sharing them online without the fear of punishment or retribution to follow. What is it that they say: there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, right? Well, I’ve never been the bravest of people, but I think it’s time to face this particular fear and to tell it to go to hell. I want to be happy and I don’t want to look behind my back each time I feel like laughing and lifting my feet off the ground, because I’m filled with elation, with sensation of opportunity and possibility. I want that poisonous dart out of my system once and for all. I want this page to absorb its negative power, that has been plaguing me all these years, and grind it into dust. I want to see that dust blown about until it vanishes in the wind, every last mote… I think that there are lessons to learn and lessons to let go and this one I am finally letting go.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

SUPERNAURAL with my mom: pros and cons (Season 2)


Despite my rather pessimistic views, we have already finished watching the second season and have even embarked upon the third one, which, as far as I’m concerned, is something of a disappointment, very weak, apart from a few episodes that I really like. Good thing it’s so short! However, speaking about the second season with my mom…

John’s death came as a big shock for her. I didn’t think that she would be so much affected by it. I mean, all through the first episode she kept telling me just how much she disliked him and yet as soon as he was dead and I assured her that he wasn’t coming back (after she appealed to me in utter shock at such a turn), she instantly regretted not liking him. It was pretty funny, actually. She said that if she had known that he would be dead within the first episode, she would have made an effort to like him better. She also wondered who she was going to dislike now.

Her favourite episode – the one that she actually acknowledged by verbally letting me know that she liked it – was “The Usual Suspects”. However, that was the one and only time when she told me that she liked anything about “Supernatural” at all. The episode that she disliked so much that I was actually afraid she would refuse to watch any more of the show turned out to be general favourite “Tall Tales”. Apparently, my mom doesn’t like funny episodes, doesn’t appreciate the show’s humour and finds them simply stupid.

I can’t help blaming the dubbing too: it’s just not the same when dubbed. In fact, it is completely inadequate. It makes everything sound stupid, cringe-worthy, over-the-top and unnatural – the actors’ raw emotions are completely obliterated by an indifferent and inexpert interpreter.

She also doesn’t like it when the writers purposefully dumb down Dean, making him act like a clown, and she is not a fan of the boys’ hookups. So… still not a convert. However, she did fall under Dean/Jensen spell almost at once, saying that “just looking at his face is enough” and “If I didn’t know Dean, I would be scared too”.

Friday, 10 August 2018

SUPERNATURAL with my mom: pros and cons (Season 1)


I have finally managed to convince my mom to watch SUPERNATURAL with me. I desperately needed an excuse for another re-watch and I felt that showing it to someone else would make my obsession with it look less alarming. But it wasn’t easy as she was very resistant for a long time and I’m afraid that at the conclusion of the first season, which we finished watching yesterday, she confirmed to herself that she was right to be so.
I hoped against hope that she would love it and get invested into the characters by the end of the first season, but she had grown bored with the whole thing instead. However, I have to admit that it is refreshing to watch this particular show with someone who doesn’t have an agenda, a favourite or a ship-any-two-people-who-breathe-the-same-air-for-five-seconds disease.
Unfortunately, I have to say that watching it dubbed (my mom doesn’t know English) takes away a great deal of authenticity and what sounds extremely tragic in the original, sounds downright comical when dubbed. Of course, my mom’s lack of sentimentality also plays a part. Any hint of romantic element annoys her, because it doesn’t lead anywhere and she finds it unnecessary and irksome. She prefers Dean to Sam (as I knew she would for he is much more her type) and finds John tiresome and untidy, saying that he looks like a petty, provincial criminal.
All in all, her attitude is very disheartening for she obviously gets no pleasure from watching it and it doesn’t excite her in any way. I’m afraid that we won’t be watching it together much longer, because she is fed up with Sam and Dean’s constant saving each other/dying for each other thing and seeing as how this is pretty much the core of the show, there is very little hope that she will want to continue watching it for another 13 seasons.
But the thing that gets me down the most is that both my mom and aunt think that watching something like SUPERNATURAL is somehow below me. They find it extremely surprising that I love it so much. A fan of Jane Austen, an intellectual, refined and exalted, what do I have in common with supernatural monsters and gore? So far I haven’t managed to convince either that this is not what SUPERNATURAL is truly about.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Одесса. "Зеленая Волна" - 2018.


Для меня «Зеленая Волна» - это, прежде всего, возможность купить книги тех издателей, продукцию которых нельзя найти в наших местных книжных магазинах, а также посетить различные мероприятия, связанные с книгами, писателями, издателями и издательским делом, количество и разнообразие которых растет с каждым годом – в отличие от стендов с книгами. В этом году я была неприятно поражена тем, насколько уменьшилось количество присутствовавших издательств (как больших, так и малых) по сравнению с позапрошлым годом, да и местоположение совсем не порадовало. Возможно, из за расстановки стендов, которая, на мой взгляд, была очень сумбурной и неудачной; возможно, из за песка и мелкой гальки под ногами, которая то и дело забивалась в обувь; возможно, из за палящего солнца и ужасной жары, которая заставляла плавать и плавиться в собственном поту, но посещение «Зеленой Волны» в этом году мне, к сожалению, не доставило никакого удовольствия. В результате, я купила всего две книги – хуже некуда! Повезло, что мое любимое украинское издательство («Фонтан Казок») расположилось в самом начале этого странного круга, который неизбежно приводил к стендам с едой и напитками, среди которых иногда можно было натолкнуться и на книжные. Принимая во внимание, что «Зеленая Волна» проходит в разгар лета, возможно, организаторам пора рассмотреть вариант проведения этого немаловажного события в жизни нашего города в кондиционированном пространстве.

К сожалению, посещение мероприятий, несмотря на изначальные грандиозные планы, сводится к минимуму, опять-таки из за той безумной жары, которая всегда сопровождает это событие, и которая с каждым годом становится все хуже и хуже. Тем не менее, несмотря на все преграды, например, связанные с ужасными поездками в одесских маршрутках, мне все-таки удалось посетить два интересных мероприятия: Беседа-диалог «С нами народ: место фольклора в современных текстах» и Small talk «Малые издательства: создание и выживание».

Главным гостем первого мероприятия был Барри Каннингем – человек, благодаря которому Гарри Поттер выбрался из чулана и стал известен всему миру. Оказывается, он также работал с самим Роалдом Далем! Так что не просто человек – а легенда.

Тема фольклора в современном тексте мне интересна и как читателю, и как автору, поэтому, на мой взгляд, формат проведения был выбран не совсем удачно. Все же, принимая во внимание тему, это нужно была сделать в формате дискуссии, в которой бы принимали участие присутствующие, среди которых, я уверена, были авторы, которые используют тему фольклора в своих произведениях и которым, наверняка, было что сказать по этому поводу. К тому же, немного обсудив заявленную тему, беседа-диалог между гостями и модератором постепенно перешла в какое-то совсем другое русло, которое имело мало общего с фольклором, к которому мы после уже не вернулись. Все-таки на такую встречу надо было пригласить больше авторов и дать им возможность учавствовать непосредственно в процессе общения.

Второе мероприятие, связанное с маленькими издательствами и тем как они выживают в нашей стране, мне очень понравилось. Дискуссия между представителями таких издательств была душевной, интересной и оживленной. Было приятно смотреть и слушать с каким энтузиазмом, любовью, самоиронией и надеждой они говорили о своем любимом деле, несмотря на сплошную неопределенность и остальные трудности связанные с изданием книг в нашей стране. Я опять-таки убедилась в том, что, издательства, которые открываются в нашей стране, не ставят своей целью издавать авторов в принципе, а ориентируются исключительно на конкретного автора, книгу, идею или проект. Так что, если хочешь, чтобы тебя издавали в Украине – создай свое собственное издательство. Вот так.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

WAYWARD SISTERS: or what went wrong with a Supernatural spin-off - in my opinion

I don’t know why I feel so compelled to write about WAYWARD SISTERS after all this time. I guess because even now it’s still bugging the hell out of me for a number of reasons. So here are my thoughts on why I think it went wrong and missed its chance to become an excellent show I personally would have loved to watch. I remember getting quite excited when I heard about the plans for a female-headlined SUPERNATURAL spin-off. I thought it was a really good idea – if done right. I also thought, back then, that it would center around Jody and Donna – two very different but enjoyable characters, who have some hunting experience, and who, I believed, would make a very good team, hunting monsters and saving people – like Sam and Dean or Bobby and Rufus – while bringing their own unique ways in the process. I was definitely looking forward to that.
However, what it turned out to be was 95% of unnecessary family drama (I’m sorry but haven’t we seen it all before?) and only 5% of fighting actual supernatural monsters – and even that part was so insipid that I’m not at all surprised that the show wasn’t picked in the end. The fact of the matter is that it simply failed to deliver what it was supposed to deliver as a SUPERNATURAL spin-off. If you have to ask – no, it was not supposed to deliver an episode heavily based on maudlin family drama, revolving around same old issues that in one form or another have been plaguing the original show since the very beginning, and that have been resolved to a certain extent and with varying degrees of success in the course of its long run. So that was the first big problem that I had with WAYWARD SISTERS: too much drama and very little actual plot.
The second problem for me was that the writers chose one of the most controversial, problematic, and not always sympathetic recurring characters to make their lead and pin their meager I-have-to-save-Sam-and-Dean plot on. Personally, I can’t help feeling that the writers painted themselves into a corner with Claire’s character, because every time there appears to be a slim chance of her further development and improvement, they snatch it away and push her back into a troubled-teenager-with-messed-up-past box – bizarrely, they also chose to make that tangled web of parental issues, frustration, insecurity, arrogance and devil-may-care attitude the central plotline of the pilot, which took a lot of screen time and utterly failed to bring anything remotely new or original to the show.
The third problem for me was the unnecessary overpopulation of old and new characters who had virtually nothing to do other than watch Claire and Jody butt heads, and, from time to time, when the occasion required, run around, pointing guns and shooting when in sight of otherworldly creatures. Unfortunately, such characters as Donna and Alex became little more than a background noise, supporting characters at best, pushed aside for the sake of the newcomers. But did we really need another psychic or a dream-walker-slash-messed-up-kid thrown into the mix? I believe it would have made for a much more solid story if the writers concentrated their efforts on the smaller number of characters, that we have already come to know and love and invest in, and provided them with meaning and substance through a well-devised plot rather than extreme cardio workout. After all, the quantity of the characters doesn’t make for the quality of the story.
I also find it ironic that on SUPERNATURAL it has been stressed again and again and again and again that hunting life is not the kind of life that you choose or encourage anyone to take up. I mean, there has always been so much talk about Sam’s chance at going to college and having a normal life or Mary’s ardent wish for a normal life with her husband and kids. Apparently, that’s no longer the case in WAYWARD SISTERS. Here we have a bright young girl (Patience) with a bright future ahead of her and instead of leaving her be to have that future she is pushed into hunting life because of her abilities – that, when you think about it, could be just as easily used for good in some other way. How come she doesn’t deserve a chance at normal? How did hunting suddenly become a job that you actually encourage young girls to take up rather than an obscure and dangerous lifestyle that people are forced into because of loss, revenge and other supernaturally-effected circumstances and that, in fact, should be avoided at all costs?
Finally, another big problem of mine with the pilot was that ridiculous “rescue mission” that constituted the rest of the plot. I don’t think that the notion of Sam and Dean being rescued by women (or teenage girls, in this case) is unbelievable or ridiculous. It was the writing that made it so. By choosing to provide comic effect for entertainment’s sake when first introducing the boys – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought that Sam and Dean couldn’t look less like two people in need of saving – the writers failed to represent their situation as truly dangerous and convince the audience that they were in horrible predicament to justify that contrived plot of theirs. Moreover, by choosing to disregard their extensive experience, skills and abilities, including excellent intuition and sense of direction, they did their characters a great disservice by suggesting that they wouldn’t be able to find a way out on their own.
If you need to manipulate characters and their capabilities by degrading them in order to fit your plot and to make someone else look better by comparison, then maybe you’re just not good at your job. Incidentally, it reflected poorly on the rescue party, completely subverting their efforts, at least in my eyes, because you can’t make someone look truly strong by deliberately weakening someone else and then, adding insult to injury, condescendingly make it miraculously easy for the girls to find and rescue the boys – before the inevitable tragedy struck. I’m sorry but that was an example of lazy, sloppy and self-complacent writing of someone totally lacking in any new ideas or imagination and going about it with all the finesse of a hatchet. I guess if your purpose is to push through the show that you seem to be more interested in than the current one you’re working on, then that’s how you would go about it… unfortunately, that’s the impression that I got.
But what made the whole thing even more unconvincing was the fact that Sam and Dean had spent over a day in that place without either finding their way back or being attacked by anyone or anything, making it look to all intents and purposes as though it was just a picnic gone slightly wrong – and it wasn’t until Claire and Kaia were finally on their way to save them that Sam and Dean ended up in any danger at all. It doesn’t look like a very well thought out plot to me; more like a water balloon – prick it with a pin and there will be nothing left but a lot of water to mop up. I’m not even going to mention that instant bond and blind devotion between Claire and Kaia – forced, far-fetched and overused as pretty much everything else within this episode.
Yet that wasn’t even the most ridiculous part. I guess the prize goes to that one-person ambush that had both Sam and Dean down in less than a minute, bound and ready to be served for dinner. I’m sorry but I really have to ask: is this some kind of game that these writers play, where they decide whether to increase or decrease the capabilities of the characters, depending on the circumstances that they put them in?
In the end, I would have preferred to watch the pilot without the boys in it at all rather than have them shamelessly used as a hook for those who would have certain reservations about watching a proposed spin-off pilot without them in it. Let’s face it: their characters were used solely for comic relief and treated as nothing more than a feeble plot device to showcase that girls can be heroes too. I know that they can – but that was an unmitigated disappointment.
I wanted to see a well-written story that would not employ tricks and gimmicks to achieve its end. I wanted to see a story that would not use overblown and overused drama. I wanted to see a story that would give each character a fair chance to show themselves. I wanted to see a challenging, engaging, scary and compelling story about kick-ass women who use their wits, skills, expertise, resources, and humour against the supernatural, and who save someone actually in need of saving.
To conclude, the problem with WAYWARD SISTERS for me was that I didn’t see a SUPERNATURAL spin-off in all of that. I blame the writing and the chosen subject matter. I mostly saw a whole load of trite teenage drama complete with tantrums, constant bids for freedom and even diary-writing. Surely there is enough of that on TV these days. So who really needs another such show and quite unoriginal at that?

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Just checking in... in case anyone cares...

I feel really sorry for my poor blog for neglecting it but as I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who ever comes here I don’t think it matters one way or another. The good thing is that unlike last time when I went radio silent I have actually been writing quite a lot. However, I’ve been concentrating on my Ukrainian projects for the most part and on my other blog that I co-pilot with a fellow writer, where I’ve been posting my on-going Ukrainian fantasy project for the last three months. I’m still hoping to find that hole in the Ukrainian book market’s impenetrable wall to slither through somehow. I haven’t had any luck so far. I even submitted my fairy-tale to a contest back in March… and nothing – another big fat failure. I also submitted it to another contest just yesterday. I’m hopeful. I have to be. I just need a win, you know? I mean, just one freaking win after all these years of constant writing and no results. Anyway, I’m writing. I have lots of ideas and that’s what’s important. Unfortunately, utter lack of feedback or publication is a huge downer and sometimes it’s just too much. I have no luck at getting readers or finding an agent, or getting published, or winning a contest or even doing publicity on different social networking sites and I have no writing friends or contacts who would help me with the promotion stuff and all that just stinks of complete and utter failure. On the plus side, I found an illustrator who has already created these two charming portraits. So feast your eyes upon lovely Ethelinda of Grimwood and her temperamental daughter Nermina the Woman-Snake!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Book Review: THROUGH THE LAST DOOR by J.A. Jaken

It's been a while since I wrote one of these but I honestly don’t remember the last time I read a book that not only hooked my interest but kept me interested till the very end; that brought me so many varied emotions and so much sincere pleasure. From the moment I started reading THROUGH THE LAST DOOR I had an impression of a masterfully crafted book, steeped in history, tradition, myth and lore of that incredible fantasy world the author has created. I felt like every word and every sentence was cherished and honed to perfection, creating a deliciously rich narrative, full of vivid descriptions, endearing characters, intriguing relationships and steadfast friendships. I liked the fact that the author didn’t throw us right into action but gave us time to acquaint ourselves with the world and the characters around us – gave us an opportunity to invest in their goals and well-being before jumping into the fray – so that when one of them perished half-way through the book the shock and the blow were severe and real indeed. I actually cried. I could not believe that such an amazing character was gone for good and so soon too! I really want to thank the author for gradually easing us into the story and for creating such an amazing set of characters: Kaori, Hunter, Yura, Ben, Haku, Ishaya, Malo, others… brave and strong, honest and loyal, intelligent and wise, fierce and gentle, funny and grave, insecure and full of doubts... I thought that the book took a somewhat different route as compared to other fantasy stories so that the events unfolding on its pages took me completely by surprise. I also enjoyed the romance, which, just like the rest of the story, wasn’t rushed. It was sweet and tender and precious and heartwarming. I knew before long that this was the book that I would come back to again and again. I like books that make me feel like coming back home to family and friends and I think that THROUGH THE LAST DOOR is one such book. I have downloaded it for free but I have already bought the second book in the series and I can’t wait to return to Kazure. However, I am strongly tempted to reread the first book again :) I am that much in love with it!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Новый блог и новый проект - фэнтези сага на украинском языке

В начале этого года у меня возник вопрос: писать или не писать? А с ним и другой вопрос: вести или не вести литературный блог? Эти вопросы породили целый пост, в результате которого ответ, несмотря ни на что, был однозначным. Писать! И блогу тоже быть! Ну что ж, как говорится, сказано - сделано. Мой новый блог называется "Под сенью волшебного леса" или "Під дахом чарівного лісу", так как блог будет на русском и украинском языках. Вести я его буду совместно с Анной Шевченко. На этом блоге я буду публиковать свой новый проект Хроніки Високогірного Королівства. Некогда этот проект был англоязычным и назывался "Альмендра". Однако в "Хроніках" описываются события, которые произошли задолго до рождения Альмендры. Надеюсь кого-то эта новость заинтересует. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Писать или не писать – вот в чем вопрос.

Вот уже несколько лет подряд, особенно в начале года, я собираюсь вернуться к ведению своего заброшенного писательского блога, понимая, к моему большому сожалению, что растеряла всех своих онлайн знакомых за то долгое время, что ничего не писала. Да и время блогов, мне кажется, тоже осталось в прошлом; они утратили свою актуальность, а главное потерялись на фоне огромного количества соцсетей, где больше не нужно что-то выдумывать или особо напрягаться, поражая всех своим талантом сочинителя или глубиной мысли. Теперь не до этого. Просто поделитесь забавным видео, умилительной картинкой или коротенькой публикацией о том, что съели сегодня на завтрак или увидели из окна машины. Готово. А в ответ на чей-то пост можно просто отделаться лайком или смайликом. Зачем напрягаться? Кажется, на большее нас уже не хватает. Ну, в лучшем случае, можно поделиться ссылкой. И уж совсем, в крайнем случае, если пишите о чем-то наболевшем или на злобу дня, кто-то может и комментарий оставить. Вау. 

И тем не менее, если вы пишете и всегда писали, то знаете, что желание писать не зависит от моды на блоги или соцсети или даже на чтение как на общую тенденцию, и что, как-бы всё вокруг не менялось, вас все равно будет тянуть поделиться своими художественно оформленными мыслями, наблюдениями, впечатлениями, сочинениями и, в конечном итоге, готовыми произведениями. Вопрос заключается только в одном – будет ли кто-то читать то, что вы пишете под влиянием то ли музы, то ли переизбытка фантазии, то ли желания что-то доказать? В конце концов, ведь есть так много известных писателей, которых то и дело переиздают из года в год все кому не лень. Кто будет тратить время и читать то, что пишете вы – писатель-невидимка? В этом месте у меня на лице появляется ироничная улыбка, и я качаю головой. Как ни странно, но даже отсутствие читателей не влияет на желание что-нибудь сочинить или написать. Так что хотите – читайте, хотите – нет, а писать я все равно буду. Как говорится, и смешно и плакать хочется. 

Большую часть своей «писательской жизни» я писала на английском языке, а потом решила «вернуться к истокам» что ли, и написать что-то на украинском, попробовать найти свое местечко на украинском книжном рынке. Губу раскатала… Такое впечатление, что тут уже все друг друга знают, а тем, кого не знают – хода нет. Да и состояние нашего книжного рынка с точки зрения писателя оставляет желать лучшего. Литературные агенты – это какие-то мифические существа, о которых все слышали, но никто наверняка не знает, где они обитают и чем, собственно, занимаются. Издательства есть и не мало, но они в основном занимаются переизданием классики, известных имен, или же просто печатают «своих». Иногда встречаются и те, которые рассматривают рукописи от «чужих», но только не совсем понятно, какую ответственность и какие обязательства они на себя берут как издательство, напечатав вашу книгу. А если вы всё должны делать сами, то толку от такого издательства? 

В общем, все очень плохо. 

Но даже это не может остановить того, кто пишет, и кто, по определению, не может без этого жить. Как бы драматично это не звучало для людей не пишущих, те, кто пишут, точно знают, о чем я говорю. А ведь написано уже не мало, как на английском, так и на украинском. И, как у любого творческого человека, существует огромная потребность поделиться плодами своего воображения, своих многолетних стараний, и, в некоторых случаях, страданий, а также результатами своих творческих экспериментов с другими. Так что блогу быть – ведь идеи и желание его вести есть. А там, кто знает, может и читатели появятся. Так что –

 Продолжение следует…