True Blood Finale Wrap Up

Many fans were surprised as Bill returned from his “Billith” power trip to fall for Sookie once more. In fact, this was building all season as he protected the town as one of the last good vamps, then succumbed to illness. Sookie begs Niall for help then commits to protect Bill for the rest of his life, and they find romance once more.

In the books, Sookie makes a great gesture, not for Bill but for Sam. In the books, he’s young and attractive, and Sookie suddenly realizes after spending so long dating Bill and Eric, Sam, the boy next door, is her true love. Alcide has this plot on the show, offering her normality in a world of chaos (In the books, Alcide finds a mate and gets her pregnant in Sam’s place.) Book-Sookie’s final choice came down to Sam and Eric. She finally decided she couldn’t trust the vampire, and Eric accepted power and position…along with a vow to stay away from her. His show ending has a similar feel to his book ending, with his choosing wealth and success, Pam forever by his side.

Book-Bill and Sookie hadn’t had a romantic moment in many volumes. He was generally mentioned in connection with his vampire database, making him sound geekier and geekier. By the late books, he was never a possibility, though he lived on forever. Each book had a mystery, often a murder. The show emphasized big mythology over mystery. True Blood is far more salacious with Violet’s torture-porn, Lilith and her demon women, the vampire prison camp with constant enforced sex. There’s also the heavy gay rights themes. This season got an especially big push as Jessica’s wedding was not sanctioned by the state but beloved in the eyes of God for being filled with love. Hep V and Bill’s slow decline from it parallels AIDS or other incurable STDs.

The Twilight heroine chooses the angst-filled vampire, not the boy next door. Buffy is torn between the similar (in fact nearly identical) Angel and Spike. In the final episode, she chooses neither—she proclaims that she’s not ready for “forever.” Bill says he’s doing it because basically she can’t think for herself and choose to find a normal guy while he’s around, and, disturbingly, she agrees. Sookie reads Bill’s mind (a weak plot point) realizes they’re true loves, knows there’s a cure…and kills him. Admittedly, that was a surprise. One shouldn’t regress to their first love from many years before but should move on, many stories say (though Jessica takes her own first love back and recreates their love in a quick fix, even without his memories). Both stories end with many happy families and a next generation, though there are certainly differences. In the Sookie Stackhouse books, Tara remained human and married a human friend and had kids with him. Jason became a werepanther back when they captured him, and he intermarried with them. There’s no Jessica, Lafayette dies in season one. Many other characters live and die irrespective of their fate in the other series. Sookie ends up with a loving, (reasonably) normal guy. But in this case, it’s unclear why it had to be a stranger, not Alcide.

 

Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of Bloodsuckers on the Bayou: The Myths, Symbols, and Tales Behind HBO’s True Blood

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Doctor Who Deep Breath: Why are we watching this again?

Season Eight of Doctor Who has just premiered, starring Peter Capaldi and his companion Clara. The plot combined Blink (Don’t breathe!) and The Girl in the Fireplace, two of the most popular Moffat episodes, along with Madame Vastra and Co., plus a special effects dinosaur. What it didn’t offer was extraordinary heroics from the Doctor. Upon regenerating, David Tennant dueled for the planet in his bathrobe, and Matt Smith dangled from the TARDIS, spit Amy’s cooking all over her, and saved the world without TARDIS or screwdriver, just to win our hearts. Peter Capaldi did a brusque, confused, but acceptable job battling the robots. But he (or rather his scriptwriters) didn’t especially win over viewers. He broke his promise to a dinosaur, callously ditched Clara, and mumbled confusedly in a nightgown. In fact, his great moment of proving himself involved Matt Smith sticking up for him to Clara. Smith handed off the role in a way no Doctor has ever done—to a point that it was more cheesy and pushy than sweet. We must like him because Matt Smith told Clara (and us) to, not because of his own endearing qualities.

There were the obligatory fun canon references for fans—the Doctor wants a TARDIS with circles on the walls, and decides the giant scarf looked stupid (aww). He mentions his fierce eyebrows, memorable from the fiftieth anniversary, and the Roman he’s modeled after. He mentions Amy, and when he offers to get chips with no money, he’s replaying the scene with Rose from “The End of the World.” His passing out and Jenny asking Clara who the Doctor is also echoes Rose and her mother in “The Christmas Invasion” after another regeneration. Strax describes Clara’s thorax, as Sontarans did to Sarah Jane and Martha in “The Time Warrior” and “The Sontaran Strategem,” Meanwhile, Strax, Jenny, and Vastra use many skills and conversation points from their previous appearances (the women’s marriage, Strax calling Clara “boy,” acid, Sherlock Holmes, etc.). Sherlock Holmes references abound as well: Vastra mentions the Paternoster Street Irregulars and says she’s having the Camberwell Poisoner “for dinner” She adds “the game’s afoot!” and searches the Agony Column for clues, all Holmes staples.

Their house with Vastra’s garden reappears and she interrogates Clara in it a second time. The Doctor can speak Horse and Dinosaur, like the Eleventh. He mentions his new enormous age after the Christmas special (2000!). Clara’s “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” “Geronimo!” and “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it” are Who taglines. The Doctor mistakes Clara for Handles from the previous episode and says he’s not her boyfriend, though he pretended to be before. Clara is called “The Impossible Girl” and her mistaking him for a helpline on their first meeting is mentioned as an unsolved puzzle.

Missy is another puzzle. Tasha from “The Time of the Doctor” shares something of her personality and may be the same character. Is she River Song? (She shares something of the personality.) Romana? The Rani? The TARDIS/Idris? Slash fans would love her to be the “Mistress”—the Master after a gender-cross. It’s possible she’s the Doctor’s dark side—not just seen in the Valeyard but also the Dream Lord in the episode “Amy’s Choice,” working on behalf of the Doctor and knowing all he knows. One hopes it’s not just an annoying character like Cassandra or a delusional fangirl.

The new title sequence seems pandering to the steampunkers with all the clockwork. Yet it’s also charmingly fresh and “timey-wimey” as well as “spacey-wacey.” It was designed by Billy Hanshaw after Steven Moffat actually saw the fan video credits on Youtube and recruited him in a fannish dream come true.

There are few more interesting nods: The Doctor’s comments about a broom replaced echoes his own life. Vastra describes the Doctor’s looks, explaining that he’s young and handsome to attract people (true on many levels). Clara mentions she had a Marcus Aurelius pinup, suggesting that the Doctor’s change from an attractive young man to a Roman may be another form of flirting. Or as he says, he may be “trying to tell himself something.” Time will tell, on this and on the Doctor himself.

 

Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How and Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey, The Doctor and Companions as Chosen Ones.

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Comic-Con News and Announcements

Ah, Comic-Con. The weekend when EVERY FRANCHISE shares upcoming news, trailers, first glimpse, and spoilers, in such a way that my own projects go crazy. I don’t just geek out — as those who know me know, I use the new info to write books on Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and the fans themselves (there’s a big fat list of my books at http://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK/). So as I collect all these juicy announcements on my favorite fandoms, complete with writeups and articles, I thought I’d post them all in one place…then see how many new books I’ll be writing.

The Game of Thrones Comic-Con panel sounded like overpacked fun…jokes, bloopers, and Sand Snakes casting (writeup at http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/07/game-of-thrones-panel-sdcc-2014). With FIVE books on GoT, I think I’m covered.

BBC One has confirmed that Sherlock series 4 and a new special will be filming in 2015. http://www.hypable.com/2014/07/02/sherlock-series-4-special-filming-announced/ I have a book on the canon and pop culture references in seasons 1-3, but I’m sure another Sherlock book is due. Perhaps on relationships and characters.

News and promos for the third Hobbit. Peter Jackson said they hope to have a museum one day of The Hobbit and LOTR (unsurprising — the Harry Potter one does well). My Hobbit parody (on the first movie) is much-liked, but the sales figures aren’t really high enough to push me to write a second, not to mention a third. We’ll see.

Just when we thought Battlestar Galactica was completely over, the movie is on its way…I hope. http://www.hypable.com/2014/04/07/battlestar-galactica-movie-universal-screenwriter/ … And yes, if they make it, I’ll do a BSG analysis book.

Marvel’s AvengersAssemble Season 2 is coming: http://youtu.be/Tku2Pgdftx8. Age of Ultron approaches as well, after Guardians of the Galaxy. I am writing an essay on Black Widow for an anthology, so I’m keeping an eye out for all her different versions. Also, I have planned (okay for years) to write a book on the heroine’s journey among superheroines. With so many Black Widow adaptations and now a Wonderwoman movie in the works, the time may be right. ish. And I have an Avengers book planned in time for Ultron.

Trailers for Insurgent (I have one book–that should cover it), Mockingjay (two books–again, covered), The Giver (childhood staple) and The Maze Runner (just read book one) all showed. I COULD do a Maze Runner/Giver book on boys’ dystopias having done three on girls’ dystopias.

Buffy season ten (comics), Angel and Faith comics, possible Wastelanders and still no news on our precious Doctor Horrible 2. But I just did a book on pop culture in the Whedonverse and I have more Whedon books coming any minute.

And plenty of beloved authors, costumes and classics, as the con is more packed than ever. Looks like I have some writing to do…

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Call for Papers: Joss Whedon’s Comics

With dozens of nonfiction books on Joss Whedon’s works from Buffy to Avengers, one critical area has been ignored: Whedon’s comics. In fact, he’s written several series for Marvel and DC, along with independents and the many issues of Angel, Buffy, and Serenity comics for IDW and Dark Horse. While a few isolated essays have tackled Buffy season eight or Whedon’s X-Men run, there is no anthology devoted to only Whedon comics. Now that’s about to change.

Essays on any aspect of Whedon’s comics (as described below) are welcome. The completed essays should be 4000-5000 words. Essays must adhere to MLA format and be friendly and approachable, yet academic in scope and content. New papers or presented conference papers rather than reprints are appreciated. This collection is not yet under contract, but I have several interested publishers who are awaiting a list of essays to be included. McFarland, who publishes most of the Buffy criticism collections, will likely be on board.

Proposal Guidelines: Please send a 350-500 word summary of your proposed essay pasted into your email, along with a short professional bio or cover letter.

Direct inquiries and proposals can be sent to Valerie Estelle Frankel, pop culture author and professor, at valerie at calithwain.com with a subject of WHEDON SUBMISSION.

Abstracts are due Sept 7 (just extended), Complete papers Nov 30, 2014.

Essays on both canon and “less official” Whedon comics are welcome, as are comparisons between Whedon comics and other comics or other Whedon works. Discussion of comic conventions from canon to art to gender issues are also appreciated.  Other areas, like comparing Whedon’s Avengers movie, Agents of SHIELD, Doctor Horrible, or other shows to comics are also possible. On the shows, Buffy is compared to Spider-Man, Superman and Power Girl, Angel is compared to Batman so much Boreanaz was offered the role, Dark Willow parallels Dark Phoenix, Cordy and Fred are called Wonder Woman, and Xander and Giles are compared to Jimmy Olsen and Alfred…there’s paper material there, too. This anthology welcomes established Whedon scholars as well as enthusiastic new writers.

Which comics are Whedon’s? Canon comics include the following Whedon products (as Whedon wrote or supervised them).

 

BUFFYVERSE

Fray

Tales of the Slayers

Tales of the Vampires

Buffy: The Origin (reprinted in Buffy Omnibus 1)

Angel: Long Night’s Journey (#1-4) (reprinted in Angel: Omnibus 1)

“Always Darkest” (reprinted in Myspace Dark Horse Presents #4 or available online)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight (Whedon wrote #1-5, 10, 11, 16-19)

Angel: After the Fall, Angel: The End, and spin-offs

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Nine (Whedon wrote #1-2)

Angel & Faith

Buffy Season Ten and Angel & Faith Vol. 2  2014-

See http://valeriefrankel.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/a-guide-to-the-buffy-and-angel-comics/ for a more elaborate Buffyverse comics guide and reading order.

X-MEN

Astonishing X-Men vol. 3: (#1-24) & Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1 (reprinted as the collections Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, Dangerous, Torn, Unstoppable)

“Teamwork” (in Giant Size X-Men #3, available online)

SERENITY

Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Better Days

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

“Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 – It’s Never Easy” (available online) by Zack Whedon

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon

DOCTOR HORRIBLE

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon

DOLLHOUSE

Epitaphs by Andrew Chambliss, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen

OTHER

“Some Steves” (in Stan Lee Meets The Amazing Spider-Man #1)

Runaways vol. 2 (#25-30) (reprinted as Dead End Kids)

Superman/Batman #26 (p. 20-21)

Sugarshock 1-3 (reprinted in Myspace Dark Horse Presents #1)

 

Please contact Valerie Estelle Frankel at valerie @ calithwain.com with any questions.

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A Guide to the Buffy and Angel Comics

A guide to the Buffy and Angel comics with reading order follows:

Buffy: Omnibus 1-7

Angel: Omnibus 1&2

Spike: Omnibus

(These are basically noncanon, though Buffy 1 and Spike have parts that are considered canon, and Whedon wrote part of Angel 1. They take place mostly within the television shows.)

 

Angel: After the Fall Series from IDW (continues after the television show):

          Spike: After the Fall by Brian Lynch

  1. Angel: After the Fall by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
  2. Angel: First Night by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
  3. Angel: After the Fall by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
  4. Angel: After the Fall by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch
  5. Angel: Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong
  6. Angel: Last Angel in Hell by Brian Lynch

 

  1. Angel: Immortality for Dummies by Bill Willingham
  2. Angel: Crown Prince Syndrome by Bill Willingham
  3. Angel: The Wolf, The Ram, and The Heart by David Tischman

(These three volumes are also available as Angel: The End).

 

Spike: The Complete Series by Brian Lynch

Angel: Only Human by Scott Lobdell

Angel: The John Byrne Collection

Illyria: Haunted by Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner

(The canon on these is a bit more muddled.)

 

Buffy Comics

Fray (a slayer of the far future, should be read anytime before Buffy Season Eight)

Tales of the Slayers

Tales of the Vampires

 

Buffy Season Eight

This follows Angel: After the Fall (despite publication dates), but this could be explained by the slayers taking time to set up their base before the action begins.

 

8.1 The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon

8.2 No Future for You by Vaughan & Whedon

8.3 Wolves at the Gate by Drew Goddard

8.4 Time of Your Life by Loeb, Whedon & Moline

8.5 Predators and Prey by Jane Espenson

8.6 Retreat by Loeb, Whedon & Moline

8.7 Twilight by Meltzer, Whedon, & Moline

8.8 Last Gleaming by Whedon, Espenson, and Allie

 

Buffy Season Nine and Angel & Faith

These are all roughly concurrent with crossovers, published 2012-2013

 

9.1 Freefall by Joss Whedon

9.2 On Your Own by Andrew Chambliss

9.3 Guarded by Andrew Chambliss

9.4 Welcome to the Team by Andrew Chambliss

9.5 The Core by Karl Moline

Angel & Faith 1: Live Through This by Christos Gage

Angel & Faith 2: Daddy Issues by Christos Gage

Angel & Faith 3: Family Reunion by Christos Gage

Angel & Faith 4: Death and Consequences by Christos Gage

Angel & Faith 5: What You Want, Not What You Need by Christos Gage

Willow: Wonderland by Jeff Parker

Spike: A Dark Place by Victor Gischler

 

Buffy Season Ten and Angel & Faith Vol. 2 2014-

All of these listed are the “canon comics” (as in, Joss Whedon endorsed them as being a “real” part of the Buffyverse story, according to him). Semi-canon comics include those not endorsed but with characters that appear in the canon stories, like Brian Lynch’s Spike comics in the first Spike omnibus.

Obviously, there are additional licensed Buffy comics, collected in Buffy: Omnibus 1-7, Angel: Omnibus 1&2, and Spike: Omnibus. While Whedon has announced he didn’t have much chance to supervise them, his office would approve the concepts. Some comics were written by Whedon’s core scriptwriters, as Doug Petrie wrote Ring of Fire, Double Cross, and Bad Dog, while Jane Espenson wrote comics Haunted, Jonathan, and Reunion. James Marsters wrote the Buffy comic “Paint the Town Red.” Amber Benson co-authored Willow & Tara. Many other top authors have participated in the Buffyverse.

 

JUST TO HAVE THEM ALL IN ONE PLACE, THE OTHER WHEDON COMICS:

X-MEN

Astonishing X-Men vol. 3: (#1-24) & Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1 (reprinted as the collections Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, Dangerous, Torn, Unstoppable)

“Teamwork” (in Giant Size X-Men #3, available online)

SERENITY

Serenity: Those Left Behind

Serenity: Better Days

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

“Serenity: Firefly Class 03-K64 – It’s Never Easy” (available online) by Zack Whedon

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon

DOCTOR HORRIBLE

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon

DOLLHOUSE

Epitaphs by Andrew Chambliss, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen

OTHER

“Some Steves” (in Stan Lee Meets The Amazing Spider-Man #1) by Joss Whedon

Runaways vol. 2 (#25-30) (reprinted as Dead End Kids) by Joss Whedon

Superman/Batman #26 (p. 20-21) by Joss Whedon

Sugarshock 1-3 (reprinted in Myspace Dark Horse Presents #1) by Joss Whedon

 

Happy Reading!

 

Here are some links to Whedon’s comics that are free online:

Always Darkest: http://www.darkhorse.com/Features/eComics/1087/Dark-Horse-Presents-No-24?part_num=1&page=2
X-Men: Teamwork http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/giant-size_x-men_3.shtml
Serenity comics http://www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly
Serenity: It’s Never Easy http://www.fireflyfans.net/mthread.aspx?bid=4&tid=51833
Angel: After the Fall Recaps http://www.buffy-boards.com/showthread.php?t=36377
Angel and Buffy comics previews, excerpts and discussionshttp://slayalive.com/forumdisplay.php/1-Comic-Continuity
Superman/Batman and other samples:http://www.pinterest.com/valeriefrankel/whedon/

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Thoughts on Game of Thrones 4.9 “The Watchers on the Wall”

The hour battle was to my mind, quite unsatisfying. It was attempting the epic splendor of Blackwater, but that episode in itself resolved many plots as Joffrey, Sansa, Cersei, Tyrion, Pod, Stannis, Davos, and more all were tested in battle, with an uncertain outcome. In this episode, did anyone really think the Wildlings would destroy the Wall and everyone on it? Even the Watch seem rather confident. Also, there were very few main characters – no one liked Janos Slynt, so having him revealed as a coward does little. Ygritte and Gilly each get plot resolution, and Jon and Sam are tested in battle, as are many unimportant minor characters. But really, that’s it. There’s an hour of violence, and at the end, Jon says nothing was accomplished and another similar battle will happen the next night. So really, what was the point?

If the season is retelling all of book three there’s a LOT left for the final episode (no spoilers ahead): Jon Snow must deal with Mance and the Watch must defend the Wall again (as set up at episode’s end).

Other plots that need wrapping up include Arya and the Hound, Bran and his quest north (the episode is called The Children [of the Wood] after all), Tyrion and his family who must sentence him to death now.

Other characters like Margaery/Tommen, Bronn, Missandei/Grey Worm or Cersei/Jaime could conceivably have quick character scenes. Fans of the books will expect to see Stannis and company resolve his plot and Castle Black choose another commander (though perhaps this last will wait for season four). Lady Stoneheart is meant to arrive. And with all this going on, Daenerys surely needs to do something (though she sure hasn’t since taking Meereen). Quaithe was advertised as appearing in season four, so it’s likely she’ll come to Daenerys and point her in a direction for the next season.

Brienne and Pod are actually only supposed to start on their quest in book four, but thus far nothing at all has happened – a lackluster season arc for them. Theon and the Boltons feel like they had a decent season arc…they’re already in book five’s plot, but they actually disappear for books three and four, so this is understandable. Many fans were expecting a lot more from Asha/Yara Greyjoy and her dad –she ended the last season powerfully vowing to bring her brother home and a single scene with a single failed attempt is all she’s given us. (Of course, she has a book four arc, which may not start off till next season.) In fact Sansa Robin and Littlefinger, Lady Olenna, Ser Jorah’s banishment, and Oberyn’s quest for revenge feel like the only plots that have done their full arc and are finished for the season. They (and Oberyn’s family back in Dorne) are all perfectly placed for the next book.

HBO’s schedule says the finale is 66 minutes and maybe all this material is why. “It’s the best finale we’ve ever done, bar none,” Thronesshowrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss said in a statement. “The performances from our cast, the direction from Alex Graves, the VFX work, the new [music] cues from Ramin Djawadi—all of it came together in perhaps the finest hour we’ve produced. We’re immensely proud of ‘The Children.’ And a little intimidated by the episode, because now we have to get back to the business of season five and figure out a way to top it.”

Lots of us expect a wham in King’s Landing, but for veteran book fans who weren’t at all shocked by the Mountain and Viper’s book-accurate battle, it might be nice to offer a brief surprise. Meereen has stopped dead, Arya and the Hound is heavily set up and won’t surprise people much, and Bran and his friends aren’t being that interesting, but maybe there’s a twist coming. We can hope.

 

Free Giveaway now-Jun 30: The nonfiction fan guides to the bestselling series Women in Game of Thrones & Symbols in Game of Thrones https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/95141-women-in-game-of-thrones-power-conformity-and-resistance and

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/90930-symbols-in-game-of-thrones-the-deeper-meanings-of-animals-colors-seaso

 

Also out now: How Game of Thrones Will End. This series of silly answers is on sale at http://www.amazon.com/How-Game-Thrones-Will-End-ebook/dp/B00KNKD3SI by award-winning parody author Valerie Estelle Frankel. Perfect for book or show fans. It offers many different possible endings to the show, based in War of the Roses, Lord of the Rings, and Martin’s many other influences.

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City of Heavenly Fire Low-Spoiler Review

City of Heavenly Fire, the conclusion to the New York Times best-selling The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare has hit stores this week. At last Izzy-Simon, Magnus-Alec, Jocelyn-Luke, Maia-Jordan, and above all Jace-Clary resolve their relationships once and for all. With, yes, the steamy moments fans have long awaited.

The story is predictable in itself — book three saw tiny helpless Clary defeating her powerful father, steeped in dark magic, with a little misdirection and her magic power of drawing. Now as her evil brother raises his own army, could it be doubted she’d do the same thing once again? She and her friends, betrayed by bureaucratic adults and treacherous allies, descend into darkness once again, determined to save the world. They succeed, though as always, there are shocking costs. We have more classic heroine’s journey, more identity conflicts for Magnus and Jace, more Bible quotes and demon lore as the characters learn for the thousandth time that adults are untrustworthy and Sebastian is a slimeball.

The story has taken strange turns because of its sister-series: this book ties in a great deal of its prequel, Clockwork Princess, as after 150 years, Tessa and Jem find a way to be together and allude to their future watching over their descendants and kinfolk. Magnus alludes repeatedly to his short story collection, encouraging readers to go buy all the individual ebooks. With all this, it’s only surprising there’s no movie poster included. City of Heavenly Fire also introduces the main characters of the next series — Dark Artifices — and their conflict; we have a girl whose parents die mysteriously and her soulmate she’s forbidden to love in a tragic romance already begun. Emma Carstairs is foster sibling to the many Blackthorn children — they include a reclusive genius, an adoptive father to an unmanageable brood, children trained at arms who saw their parents die, a young woman outcast for being part-fairy and her lesbian lover, a rider of the Wild Hunt, and now, their distant uncle as guardian. The conflicts are all laid out. While readers can respect the larger world of history and space Clare’s universe now covers (with Institutes under attack across the world and new dimensions to explore), the book comes perilously close to establishing all its spinoffs more than telling its own tale. The Blackthorns are central, and other series that have written long generational sagas have risked losing interest as the characters get more peripheral (though admittedly, the Blackthorns are charming and offer plenty of material — their story offers a great deal). Clary and Jace will undoubtedly pop in on them, as their friends will.  Tessa and Jem are all prepared.

Not to spoil too much, but the ending was a bit too pat — the characters managed to have their cake and eat it too. This is a defensible choice for a YA series, and certainly, we didn’t want to lose our beloved characters, but it’s surprising how many happy couples — not just characters — managed to weather everything and stay together. Yes it’s a fantasy, but it’s a pretty dreamy one.

 

Also, those who haven’t seen the epilogue cartoon, available in Australia, visit this site:  http://tmiaustralia.blogspot.com/2014/06/comic-strip-at-end-of-australian.html

My book Myths and Motifs of The Mortal Instruments by Valerie Estelle Frankel (Aug 6, 2013) is in stores now!

With vampires, fairies, angels, teen romance, steampunk, and modern New York all in one series, Cassandra Clare is exploding onto the scene. This book explores the deeper world of the Shadowhunters:
· Parabatai, Nephilim, blessings, and runes
· Lucifer, Ithuriel, Lilith, Agramon, and other angels and demons
· Ancient legends of werewolves, vampires, and fairyfolk
· Clare’s clever Easter eggs from pop culture and literature
· The classic heroine’s journey
· Muslim angels, Hindu prayers, the Jewish Book of Raziel, and the Christian Grail
There’s something for every teen, as this book reveals unseen lore within the bestselling series.

 

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The Women of “The Princess and the Queen”

 

This week my new book Women in Game of Thrones hits stores. In celebration, I wanted to do a post on Martin’s women who didn’t make the book: the women of his novella “The Princess and the Queen,” which takes place centuries before our heroes in A Song of Ice and Fire.

            The plot is simple: King Viserys I dies, having made all his lords swear fealty to his daughter Rhaenyra. As the book puts it, “The late king had chosen her as his successor … hundreds of lords and knights had done obeisance to the princess in 105 AC, and sworn solemn oaths to defend her rights” (706). However, his widow, Queen Alicent, favors her own son Aegon, wedded to her own daughter Helena, over her stepdaughter, and convinces many on the Small Council that a son should supersede a daughter. Thus a civil war begins…with dragons. All this is told through a stuffy chronicler, history-book style rather than as a novel.

This is indeed a war of princess and queen as the title suggests, and the depiction of each is notable. Queen Alicent is as scheming as Circe. When her son refuses to take the throne, she points out that his half-sister will slaughter his siblings and children to eliminate those with a stronger claim. Thus the dowager’s manipulations bring about the slaughter. Through the story she appears conniving and power-hungry, even as she operates behind the scenes.

Her rival, Rhaenyra, with the prior claim to the throne, is framed as monstrous. She’s repeatedly called a bitch and most often a “whore.” The first arguments against her claiming the throne is that with her “wanton ways” she will turn King’s Landing into an immoral place (706). Her bastard children will try to inherit, and her husband will be the true power. In this, numerous double standards apply – her rival, Aegon II is “with a paramour” when his father’s death is announced. Yet he is framed as a benevolent figure, who refuses to steal his sister’s birthright until his own brothers and children are threatened. No one in the entire story (except, subtly, his wife) complains about his wanton behavior. He has presumably abandoned or concealed any bastards, in contrast to his sister who unabashedly raises them openly as her heirs. For this responsible act, she is condemned. (Similarly, in A Game of Thrones, Ned raises his bastard, while negligent Robert abandons all of his.)

Another double standard emerges when she’s frankly judged on her appearance: Once Rhaenyra was beloved, “though how many would still fight for her, now that she was a woman wed, her body aged and thickened by six childbirths, was a question none could answer” (712-713). It could be argued that the chronicler or the minds of the time are sexist, more than the novella’s author. However, the word choice used is strongly slanted and emphasizes the gender war occurring: “Every symbol of legitimacy belonged to Aegon…and he was male, which in the eyes of many made him the rightful king, his half sister the usurper” (712, italics added).

Other characters in the novella suffer the same: House Arryn “could not be relied upon [a phrase used for flighty people] for the Eyrie was presently ruled by a woman, Lady Jeyne, the Maiden of the Vale [her martial status is central to her identity], whose own rights might be called into question should Princess Rhaenyra be put aside” [her gender is her defining characteristic and motivator]. Only at the sentence’s end is it made clear she’s unreliable because of her politics, not the nature of her gender. By contrast, the male-led House Baratheon is described in the next paragraph as “staunch in support of the claims” of the family, a far more masculine label. A prophet later insists, “Your wives will dance in gowns of fire, shrieking as they burn, lewd and naked underneath the flames” (761). The husbands of course are described in a nonsexual manner.

Feminist TV makes a fair point in its defense of Cersei, a point that applies to Princess Rhaenyra as well:

 I would never proclaim that Cersei Lannister is a “good person”; she is cruel, conniving, and callous. She often acts impulsively based on her passions, and is occasionally blinded by the love she bears for her children and her twin brother Jaime… . However, I would very much say that Cersei is operating in the same value system as the vast majority of characters in this world… . But here’s the thing; most of these “corrupt value system” characters are men, and are therefore seen as “bad-asses,” “heroes,” or “rebels.” Meanwhile, Cersei gets labeled “bitch,” “terrible and whiny,” and “stupid whore” (all quotes taken from various Tumblr conversations). Want to know why? Hint: misogyny! Female characters are traditionally singled out and held to vastly different standards than male characters are, mostly because society at large teaches us that double standards are a- ok (spoiler alert—not true). So while Tywin, Tyrion, and Jaime Lannister get to be cool rebel dudes, Cersei is viewed with an amount of contempt and hatred that’s actually rather shocking (“In Defense of Cersei Lannister”).

Internet fans name Cersei “mean,” “whiny,” and a “bitch.” However, she is no harsher than Tywin, who is often admired for his viciousness. As she voices complaints about powerlessness that echo the misery of Tyrion, Robb, and Jon, she should not be condemned gender- specifically. The author concludes, “Using gendered slurs, even when talking about fictional women, matters. It matters because it propagates a way of thinking and describing women that is deeply and historically sexist. So love Cersei or hate her. Just don’t call her a bitch [“In Defense of Cersei Lannister”]. As all her stepbrothers, the commonfolk, and the story’s description depict Rhaenyra in the same terms, with constant jabs at her aggression, lewdness, and physical body, the same situation emerged, showing much about her people. Basically, every single character appears misogynist, including chronicler and author.

While Rhaenyra insists on her rights, she is unable to claim the throne because she’s on Dragonstone giving birth. The actual birth scene is grotesque: Her “black fury” at the usurpation “seemed to bring on the birth, as if the babe inside her were angry too, and fighting to get out” She curses all her family and the child, which she calls a “monster.”

 

“The princess shrieked curses all through her labor, calling down the wroth of the gods upon her half brothers and their mother the queen, and detailing the torments she would inflict upon them before she would let them die. She cursed the child inside her too. “Get out,” she screamed, clawing at her swollen belly as her maester and her midwife tried to restrain her. ”Monster, monster, get out, get out, GET OUT!”  “When the babe at last came forth, she proved indeed a monster: a stillborn girl, twisted and malformed with a hole in her chest where her heart should have been and a stubby, scaled tail” (711). 

 

The monstrous baby seems a reflection of Rhaenyra’s inner rage and monstrousness, while this evil birth is nearly as foul as Melisandre’s shadow babe. “The patriarchy feared the feminine in connection with her role in birthing and dying even more than in her association with sex” (George 222). Birth, a mystery beyond man’s sphere, thus became demonized, a hideous unholy rite like Melisandre’s, used to kill the good and innocent.

 Giving birth to a shadow creature appears to be a female-only power, requiring a womb. However, the feminine birth power is subverted: she creates a force of evil that enables Stannis to kill his closest relative and frames the good women Brienne and Catelyn for the death (in the books, she then births a second shadow creature to kill a loyal retainer of House Baratheon who’s protecting Robert’s innocent bastard son). As such, the most primal female power is depicted as twisted, vile, and obscene. Aside from Daenerys’s monstrous miscarriage, this is the only birth scene shown until Gilly’s child arrives in season three. (Frankel 134)

 Daenerys actually has a similar birth scene, with her ambition to save Drogo nearly killing her, as her child too is monstrous:

“He turned his face away. His eyes were haunted. “They say the child was …” She waited, but Ser Jorah could not say it. His face grew dark with shame. He looked half a corpse himself. 

“Monstrous,” Mirri Maz Duur finished for him. The knight was a powerful man, yet Dany understood in that moment that the maegi was stronger, and crueler, and infinitely more dangerous. ”Twisted. I drew him forth myself. He was scaled like a lizard, blind, with the stub of a tail and small leather wings like the wings of a bat. When I touched him, the flesh sloughed off the bone, and inside he was full of graveworms and the stink of corruption. He had been dead for years.” (I.756)

 

Martin appears to dislike birth, one of the world’s few gender-specific actions. Melisandre’s shadow-birth is a vile perversion. Cersei treasonously kills her child with Robert before it’s born. Lyanna (most likely) and Dalla die in childbirth, like Tyrion’s mother. Lysa Arryn loses so many babies that she grows irrational and breastfeeds her seven-year-old child. Gilly and her babe survive, but they are the children of incest and the baby is destined for the White Walkers.

            The birth scene and depiction of Rhaenyra are not the only problems. Throughout the novella, many wimpy women appear – victims of the story’s men or even of the romanticism than objectifies them. Queen Helaena, sister-wife of King Aegon, is a pitiful figure. She’s not seen making decisions about the succession or the realm – in fact, the only time she makes a decision, her choice destroys her forever. On a mission of assassination and revenge, a pair of cruel thugs from Flea Bottom bid her choose one of her sons to die (ignoring the less valuable daughter except to threaten rape). She chooses the younger, and the men spitefully strike off the elder’s head. After this, Helaena withdraws from life and sinks “deeper and deeper into madness” (722). When her husband and children flee the palace, they leave her behind for the enemy. While her children’s deaths spur Rhaenyra to fight harder, Helaena and her powerful dragon become worthless noncombatants. She commits suicide at age twenty-one, despairing.

            As with the wolves and the Starks, her dragon seems to have inherited the rage she has sublimated. Dreamfyre kills more men in the dragonpits than the other three dragons combined, “ripping men apart and tearing off their limbs even as she loosed her terrible fires” (765). Nonetheless, the dragon dies, her rage leaving the world just as her mistress does.

            The women’s roles are romanticized, as Helaena is set up as the tragic Ophelia, abused until she goes mad. Her pain is shown at a distance, with none of the dialogue that Rhaenyra offers. Likewise, “In Flea Bottom, men still speak of a candlemaker’s daughter named Robin who cradled the broken prince [Joffrey] in her arms and gave him comfort as he died, but there is more of legend than history in that tale” (763). She does not even rate a word of her own.

            Nettles, a street child near Dragonstone, actually tames the wild dragon Sheepstealer by bringing it a freshly slaughtered sheep each morning. Though she’s skinny, foul-mouthed, filthy and fearless, her abilities win her a place among the lords and ladies…she seems much like Arya, clever and bold. At the same time, however, her mysterious origin (she may or may not have Targaryen blood) and the terribly distant depiction of her make her more puzzle than character – a mystery woman archetype rather than a person.

            She fights valiantly, but when she has an affair with Rhaenyra’s husband, the irrational, raging queen orders her death. The queen condemns her for high treason as she’s “said to have become Prince Daemon’s lover.” Once more the doublestandard appears, as she adds, “No harm is to be done to my lord husband” (752). Nettles flies far away and is never seen again. Nettles ends their romance on a tragedy, but exists the mystery woman from first to last. She does not challenge the queen or her royal spouse, but silently accepts exile, covered in blood with cheeks “stained with tears” (753). Her lover sacrifices himself in battle rather than return to his wife and they are thus sentimentalized. In fact, ballads sing that Nettles and her prince were reunited in an unrealistic happy ending. Brash, brilliant Nettles’ greatest achievement and most significant story arc is in the bedroom, not the battlefield.

            Alys Rivers, paramour of Prince Aemond (himself the brother of Aegon II), is another clichéd female, this time the perfect lover and seer. She persuades the prince to offer mercy upon receiving bad news from a messenger, then sees in a mountain pool, a storm cloud and a fire, that his enemy awaits him. She rides with her lover on his dragon, “her long hair streaming black behind her, her belly swollen with child” in another glamorized image (754). She is the perfect helpmeet and caregiver even while warning her lover of the future and carrying his child. She is all things to him: support system, lover, mother, and seer.  

            Finally, Baela Targaryen, daughter of Prince Daemon and Lady Laena, defends her island of Dragonstone from King Aegon II. Her mount is the young Moondancer, “pale green, with horns and crest and wingbones of pearl” (781). Swift and agile as her rider, she and Baela have no chance against the larger, older Sunfyre, but battle him to a draw—Moondancer dead, Sunfyre dying. The men of the castle immediately take her to the healer, awed by her courage. She is brave, beautiful, silent, and idealized once more.

            Other characters are strong and powerful, set apart from the unrealistic, muzzled ideals of womanhood. Princess Rhaenys is “five-and-fifty, her face lean and lined, her silver hair streaked with white, yet fierce and fearless as she had been at two-and-twenty” (712). She herself contended for the throne with her brother Viserys, but the (male) lords of the Small Council favored the male claimant, by twenty to one, the exact situation that befalls her niece Rhaenyra. She is “The Queen Who Never Was” and one of the first to die heroically in battle. Her dragon is the ferocious “Red Queen.” Queen Alicant is likewise a force of strength in the series, raising her daughter’s little boy when she goes mad, and defending the city after her son is injured. Both women offer dialogue in council and elsewhere, sharing their thoughts with the readers and growing beyond glamorized images.

            When her stepdaughter conquers King’s Landing, Alicent is bound in golden fetters, like female archetypes and goddesses as far back as Hera (who like Alicent committed treason because she didn’t know “her place”). Rhaenyra spares her life “for the sake of our father, who loved you once,” while beheading the Small Council. While a kind gesture, it also emphasizes a woman’s proper place as the king’s beloved.

            Rhaenyra, despite her strength, ends the story by going as power-hungry and paranoid as Cersei. Her enemy, Prince Aemond, says, “Rhaenyra may call herself a queen, but she has a woman’s parts, a woman’s faint heart, and a mother’s fears” (740).  Her Cersei-like irrationality leads her to condemn her allies to death on suspicion of treachery, until she loses control of the city and her hero-son Joffrey. “The girl that they once cheered as the Realm’s Delight had grown into a grasping and vindictive woman, men said, as cruel as any queen before her” (741). They name her “King Maegor with Teats.” When the mob storms the Dragonpits, she insists, “They are vermin. Drunks and fools and gutter rats. One taste of dragonflame and they will run” (762). She is terribly, destructively wrong.  

            Although Rhaenyra is in armor, when she sits on the Iron Throne at last, those present witness the throne leaving several cuts on her legs and left hand. The dripping blood is taken as a sign that the throne had rejected her; her days as ruler would be few. This woman, is not suited to sit the throne and the realm must await her heroic brother, the true king. In a less-than-subtle metaphor, as her people rebel, the queen was “clutching so desperately at the Iron Throne that both her hands were bloody” (760).

            Even her dragon grows irrational, descending to attack the mob at the Dragonpit instead of attacking them from the air or flying away. After her dragon’s death, the queen dies horribly, cursing her brother Aegon II as his dragon devours her in six bites. Only her terrified, babied son, a Robin Arryn type “like a small pale shadow” called Aegon the Younger (776), rather than a hero, survives.

            The queen and the princess thus fought a mighty war, destroying most of the Targaryen dynasty and soon killing off the dragons forever. Both lost nearly all their children, emphasizing the tragic waste caused by female pride and ambition. Their sons are left to claim the throne (Aegon II, then Aegon the Younger) and a law is passed that never again can a queen rule Westeros. Females are thus put in their place.  

 

Works Cited

Frankel, Valerie Estelle. Women in Game of Thrones: Power, Conformity and Resistance. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2014. 

George, Demetra. Mysteries of the Dark Moon: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

 “In Defense of Cersei Lannister” Feminist TV. http://feministtv.tumblr.com/post/51697770740/in-defense-of-cersei-lannister

Martin, George R.R. “The Princess and the Queen,” Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. New York: Tor, 2013. 703-784.

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Hugo Nominations

Not sure who to nominate? There are many lists up:

http://hugo-recommend.livejournal.com/

http://www.writertopia.com/awards/campbell

http://ladybusiness.dreamwidth.org/66250.html

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/02/05/the-2014-sff-fans-award-recommendation-thread

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/01/03/sff-authorseditorsartistsfans-2014-award-awareness-post/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AstILUdrNYINdGdGYU5nOWZKd1M1M3Y2OC1ZSm5XakE&usp=sharing#gid=17

 

In the world of self-promotion, I must add that many of my nonfiction works are eligible for the Hugo for best related work. I’ve made two of them free for the next short while for anyone who would like to try them:

Winning the Game of Thrones: The Host of Characters and their Agendas

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/315593

Free with coupon code HM23E or available in paperback with many reviews athttp://www.amazon.com/Winning-Game-Thrones-Characters-Agendas/dp/0615817440

Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/405591

Free with coupon code PU82T  or available in paperback with many reviews at

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-Fannish-TARDIS-Sized-Culture/dp/0615922430

Many thanks for reading!

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Hugo and Nasfic award for 2013 YA and Middle Grade Recommendations

This year Detcon1 (this year’s NASFiC) is offering an award for Young Adult/Middle Grade SF/F books.

There are many worthy series and novels out right now—YA is getting bigger and bigger with lots of Steampunk, fairytales, and dystopias right now. In the last eleven years, two children’s books have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel against all sf and f novels, kids and adult: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (2001) and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009). (Gaiman’s Coraline won as Best Novella in 2003.) So show your support for YA/Middle Grade, and start nominating! These books are also all eligible for the Hugo Award for best novel, and some really deserve it!

Your own comments/recommendations are welcome here of course.

Books I enthusiastically recommend:

These are fun for adults as well as teens and really something special in the spec fic world. As for my taste, I like epic fantasy, retold fairytales, and some steampunk but mostly I don’t like the teen books that feel like literature lite, with shallow, vapid prose and a love triangle as the main plot. Nonwestern fantasy and action heroines are a plus, but basically, I like the story to be as dense and interesting as adult novels. Humor’s good too. Here are some I found really exceptional:

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

With Valente’s typical poetic beauty, a rough-and-tumble Snow White sets off adventuring through the old west. Unlike anything ever, and that takes talent.

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

A delightful steampunk comedy of manners with vampires, werewolves, and a finishing school for accomplished spies. Fun and funny, for a younger crowd than Carriger’s previous romantic adventures.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

As a teen goes off to college, she must reconcile her geeky obsession with a beloved character, Simon Snow, with her desire to fit in and grow up. It’s a book for the fan in all of us and a sensation sweeping through the teen community.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices book 3) by Cassandra Clare

The author of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (this past summer’s hot teen movie) wraps up her steampunk trilogy delightfully—it’s sweet and romantic, epic, and roll-on-the-floor funny. The snarky, loving, tragic and conflicted teens drive the story as they’re caught in an atypical love triangle and battling the confines of their society.

(For normal Hugos, apparently there’s a part of the rules that allows an entire series to be nominated if the final book in said series was published and is eligible in its own year. I’d recommend this for The Infernal Devices, absolutely.)

Books I also recommend

Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

The Scarlet Pimpernel retold in a pacific island dystopia, with a female hero battling the legacy of genetic engineering. Yes, she’s a bit teenagerish, but also a delightful mistress of disguise and subterfuge, like the original.

Pivot Point by Kasie West

A girl who can see into her future must look to see how her life will unfold—living with her mom among those with mental gifts or with her dad in the normal world. This “sliding doors” style double story has intriguing parallels and twists between the two adventures.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This debut fantasy novel hails from south Sudan, for those seeking something a bit different. Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, sets out for Olondria, a land filled with books, unlike his own. Accompanied by a young girl’s ghost, he faces a civil war between rival cults as he struggles to understand the true magic of reading.
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

After a nuclear winter, survivors in Brazil sacrifice their summer king eachc year. This dystopian debut explores society’s corruption as a soulful young artist is chosen.

The Girl with the Iron Touch (The Steampunk Chronicles book 3) by Kady Cross

This book wraps up a delightful, fast and funny steampunk romp in the style of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In this final adventure, the clever Irish mechanic who intuitively links with machines attempts to win her lover—the cyborg she created—as her misfit team of heroes battles to save the queen.

House of Hades

A new Percy Jackson, in the Roman series with more multiculturalism and more depth. This book featured a character coming out, and the typical web hullaballoo accompanying such things.

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

The author of the literature-sweeping “lesbian Cinderella” novel Ash brings out book two in her science fiction dystopia. Reese and David, adapted with alien DNA, are on the run for their lives as the heroine faces a love triangle with a girl as well as a boy. The author’s writing is warm, surprising, and delightful honest and personal.

Allegiant

Book three of the Divergent series wraps things up much as Mockingjay did—by turning everything on its head and revealing a far different revolution than the teen heroine was battling in the first two books. Epic and stunning. Book one will be this spring’s big teen movie.

(For normal Hugos, apparently there’s a part of the rules that allows an entire series to be nominated if the final book in said series was published and is eligible in its own year. I’d recommend this for The Divergent Series…I just liked the first two better.)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

A startling and grisly adventure in a world of vampire segregation, in which a teen girl tries to overcome her guilt at the death of her mother.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien became the prince’s champion in book one. Now in book two, her heart is torn between lovers, as plots spin from the court intrigue.

The Night Itself (The Name of the Blade #1)

by Zoë Marriott

A Japanese warrior-girl with her magic friends and magic katana. This fairytale adaptor brings adventure, magic and fun as the heroine quests on an epic adventure.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s new series in the Mistborn world. It’s a superhero story of the Epics and the few ordinary people who battle them, packed with fast-paced adventure and excitement.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan 

Lady Isabella Trent, the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist, tells her diary-style account of a thrilling expedition amid romance and heart.

In the world of self-promotion, I must add that many of my nonfiction works are eligible for the Hugo for best related work. I’ve made two of them free for the next short while for anyone who would like to try them:

Winning the Game of Thrones: The Host of Characters and their Agendas

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/315593

Free with coupon code HM23E or available in paperback with many reviews at http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Game-Thrones-Characters-Agendas/dp/0615817440

Doctor Who – The What, Where, and How: A Fannish Guide to the TARDIS-Sized Pop Culture Jam

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/405591

Free with coupon code PU82T  or available in paperback with many reviews at

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-Fannish-TARDIS-Sized-Culture/dp/0615922430

Many thanks for reading!

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