Series discoveries: Highlights

Last week I said I’d do a series discoveries post, and here, as promised, it is 🙂

I watch entirely too much television. It’s true. But I enjoy it. I also get a lot of writerly goodness out of watching television series because I never just watch passively. I discuss what I watch with Phil, try to predict what might happen, plot-wise, and think about the story structure of the episodes and the seasons or series overall.

If I tried to say even a few words about all the shows I’ve watched since I last posted a series discoveries … I’d be writing a book (!) I’d rather save all those words for my novels.

Here are some of the year’s highlights.

Stranger Things

Of course this would be on my list. Isn’t it on everyone’s?

A lovely cast of young geeks and social misfits, Dungeons & Dragons, a mysterious series of disappearances, enough 80’s nostalgia to make me feel warm and fuzzy, Winona Ryder in her first solid role in … like forever, Mathew Modine as the villain, the awesome Eleven, and The Upside Down.

Assholes saw the error of their ways. Friendship triumphed over fear. The crazy lady was proven right (and not crazy).

And the storytelling was top notch. ST was a master class in foreshadowing and revelation. It wasn’t backstory heavy. The pacing was just right.

Travelers

Of the three new time travel series, I enjoyed this Showcase/Netflix collaboration the most. Both Timeless and Time After Time got tangled up in paradox (in my opinion). And not in a good way.

The means of time travel in Travelers was the transference of consciousness of the members of a future team of specialists into people in the past at the moments of their deaths. It’s a little hand-wavy, but it’s a clever way of trying to circumvent paradox.

Like many of the more enjoyable time travel tales, it doesn’t attempt to explain how the transfer of consciousness works. It’s not the story. It’s simply the vehicle for the story.

In the future, the world is in terrible shape. Teams of specialists, known as travelers, volunteer to have their consciousnesses transferred into people of the past in order to complete a series of missions in an attempt to avoid the catastrophic future. There are many teams, but no one knows any other travelers outside their team. They can’t. That’s half of the attraction of the show. The audience learns about the story world as the characters do.

Everything is organized by The Director and nobody knows who that is, either.

I found it fascinating because the travelers had to infiltrate the lives of the people they take over. These “normal” lives were the main complication for each of the travelers.

It was very well done.

The Crown

This was another well done series. It looks at the life of the young Elizabeth from before her marriage to Phillip and the death of her father through the first year of her reign as Queen Elizabeth II.

The acting was fabulous—John Lithgow as Winston Churchill was a-MA-zing! And Matt Smith isn’t half bad either 😉

Though I know the events of Elizabeth’s life have been dramatized for the series, it felt true. The characters were all human, all flawed, and all struggling.

It was a great character study.

Vikings

SPOILER ALERT!

Ragnar died. I have no idea where things are headed next season.

I still love the show. And Lagertha.

That is all 🙂

The Last Kingdom

This adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories continues to be compelling, despite a short second season.

It’s set a generation after Vikings when Alfred is king of Wessex (he’s a child in Vikings). Uhtred, the main character, was captured by the Vikings as a child and his uncle usurped his father’s lands. While it shares several of the same themes as Vikings, it’s a very different take on the historical era and its political intrigues.

It’s all about Uhtred’s survival and eventual rise. His ultimate goal is to retake Bebbanburg castle in Northumbia from his uncle.

I, Zombie

When Shomi closed up shop last year, Phil and I were disappointed. It was the only place we could watch I, Zombie.

Admittedly, the show struggled a bit this year with several characters switching sides, and then switching back, turning into zombies, getting cured, and then becoming zombies again. It was all very make-up-your-minds-already!

It retained its light feeling and comic book inspiration. It was still clever, but now that the zombie cat is out of the bag, I’m not sure about the future of the series.

13 Reasons Why

I am loving this series based on Jay Asher’s book. I think suicide is an important, if uncomfortable, topic to address, and I think the series has done it brilliantly.

The tapes are an effective (and analog) MacGuffin, and I wanted to hear the next one (or not) as much as Clay.

It’s a revealing look at the hell that is high school.

I honestly don’t know if I’d have survived high school if social media had been such a powerful force back then.

Sense8

Phil and I LURVED season 1 and were distressed when there was talk of not renewing the Straczinski-Wachowski series. We rejoiced when the Christmas special promised season 2 in May.

If anything, season 2 was even better than the first.

And then Netflix cancelled it.

It’s a beautiful show about difference and bonding, and how we can all bring the best out in one another, if we choose to. And, yes, psychics.

Like the time travel in Travelers, the sensorium (the bonded group of psychics) is merely the vehicle for a wonderful and uplifting story.

I really hope Netflix reconsiders.

Game of Thrones

GoT redeemed itself last season with some of the best episodes I’ve seen in years.

I can’t wait for tomorrow night’s season premiere.

Outlander

I’ve been a fan of Gabaldon’s novels for ages and what Stars has done with the series is excellent. I know a novel has to be reconceived for television. It’s a different medium and requires different writing. Unlike GoT, which has been hit or miss over the life of the series, the Outlander cast and crew have consistently made all the right decisions.

As I said to a friend after I saw the first season, it’s like Gabaldon had the chance to rewrite the novel given her current level of craft and experience. The series has been that true to the spirit of the books.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.

And that’s all I’m going to write for tonight.

Next week will be my last weekend post before I’m off on my grand adventure 🙂

Series Discoveries

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 28-June 3, 2017

It’s time for some informal writerly learnings.

The Story Masters workshop James Scott Bell refers to? Yeah. I was there 🙂 Where’s your edge? Writer Unboxed

Cara Black says villains are the architects of your story. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt shares her experience weaving sub-plots into her story. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to find your story’s big moments before you outline. Helping Writers Become Authors

Elisabeth Kauffman shares her #1 tip for introverts attending a writing conference. DIY MFA

Laura Highcove: when your why is bigger than your fear. DIY MFA

Christina Delay explains why it’s important to control your survival instinct when it comes to your fiction. Writers in the Storm

Tasha Seegmiller guest posts on Writers in the Storm: enhancing your story through micro and macro setting description.

Writing coach April Bradley says theme is the marrow of your story. Writers Helping Writers

Suzanne Purvis visits Fiction University: how to write a sizzling, scintillating synopsis.

Jami Gold: strong characters come from strong writing.

Kristen Lamb says, when running your race—be content but stay hungry.

Dear writers: a book needs time to cook. Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds.

If you want to write a book, don’t listen to Stephen Hunter. Foz Meadows, Shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows.

And here, for your perusal, is the Stephen Hunter article in question: if you want to write a book, write every day, or quit now. Daily Beast

Creative alchemy: experience transformed by imagination with Ursula K. Le Guin and Kristin Kwan on Terri Windling’s Myth & Moor. And here’s more Ursula: the writer as wizard.

Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Eric Smith and Saba Sulaiman about diversity on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Oren Ashkenazi lists five plausible scenarios for planetary evacuation. Mythcreants

Mary Robinette Kowal shares the highlights of her visit to the SpaceX CRS-11 Cargo Launch NASA social.

The Sunburst Award Longlist has been announced. Think Canadian Nebulas and you’ll be just fine 😉

Laura Miller examines what happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction. Found this on Twitter with the tweet, when literary authors write science fiction, yet disavow it. Yeah, right? Slate

Charlie Jane Anders confesses: growing up, Wonder Woman was the hero I really wanted to be. Tor.com

And Megan Garber calls Wonder Woman the heroine of the post-truth age. The Atlantic

This is just fun. Why Wonder Woman’s sword can cut through anything. Because science w/ Kyle Hill.

 

Bryn Elise Sandberg reports the sad news that Sense8 has been cancelled. I gotta go over there and cry, now. The Hollywood Reporter

I hope you found something that you needed.

Come back on Thursday to get a little thoughty in your week.

Be well until then.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 9-15, 2017

And it’s been another lovely week for the writerly goodness 🙂

K.M. Weiland shows us how storytelling benefits everyone. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate points out three ways to choose the right protagonist.

Roz Morris appreciates The Story of Your Life, on which Arrival was based. Nail Your Novel

Then Roz strolls over to Writers Helping Writers: planning the perfect love triangle.

David Corbett: is your character’s face the window to her soul? [Love the URL title: a face to launch a thousand words, or less. Hopefully less.] Writer Unboxed

Sarah Callender zooms in on third person narration. Writer Unboxed

Liz Michalski says, let your subconscious be your guide. Writer Unboxed

Susan Spann advises you how to request a reversion of publishing rights. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci debunks writer’s block:

 

Bess Cozby shares the tale of how embracing minimalism made her a better (and happier) writer. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Kathleen Audet: finding your authentic image. They even talk semiotics (!) DIY MFA

Kristen Lamb schools us in deep POV: what it is and why readers love it. Later in the week Kristen takes us deeper into deep POV: how to immerse the reader in story.

Janice Hardy: six ways Netflix can make you a better writer. Fiction University

Later in the week Janice posts about how the wrong tone can change your whole novel.

Jami Gold tells you how to analyze your writing habits so you can improve on the bad ones.

Christine Frazier compares the hero with the secret good guy (and explains why every story needs a secret good guy). The Better Novel Project

Alex Segura explores the moments that keep you going as a writer. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle considers the big problem with uncertain endings. Mythcreants

Everyone (well, Chuck Wendig, Jim C. Hines, and Mary Robinette Kowal, anyway) has been writing about this debacle. I’ll just leave K. Tempest Bradford’s take on it here: OdysseyCon and why serial harassers are safe in out community.

Oh, and this: Bianna Wu offers her perspective on sexism and second chances. Jim C. Hines

Lessons from the Screenplay – Creating the ultimate antagonist in The Dark Knight.

 

The new World Fantasy Award design is revealed.

Helen Pluckrose explains postmodernism and its impact: how French “intellectuals” ruined the west. I have to say I hate postmodernism myself, and it’s probably because I never truly “got” it. Bleargh … AREO Magazine

Kristian Wilson: old books smell like chocolate and coffee according to science. Hey, who am I to argue with science? Bustle

Anna Pitoniak shares the writing lessons she learned as an editor for Random House. Literary Hub

Psyche Z. Ready offers a transgender reading of an ancient folktale. Tiny Donkey

James Whitbrook takes a look at the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer. i09

Brian Raftery shares The Last Jedi official trailer. Wired

Sense8 will be back May 5th!

 

And Orphan Black’s final season begins in June! Andy Swift for TV Line.

That was your informal writerly learnings for the week.

Come on back on Thursday for some thoughty.

In the meantime, be well.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 11-17, 2016

Holy cannoli, your informal writerly learnings are back on track this week 🙂

K.M. Weiland shares another way to look at scene structure. Helping Writers Become Authors

Wordplayer Liberty Speidel guest posts on Kate’s blog later in the week: five steps to a thorough book edit.

Jami Gold is now a writing coach on Writers Helping Writers! The revision circle: does my story have too many problems?

Chris Winkle helps us master evocative telling. Mythcreants

Alex Limberg guest posts on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Finish that novel: tips to help you go the distance.

Angela Ackerman explains how to use symbolism to elevate your storytelling. Writers in the Storm

Piper Bayard offers some guidance about what to do after NaNoWriMo. Writers in the Storm

Chuck Wendig, as always, has thoughts on how to create art and make cool stuff in times of trouble. Terribleminds

Andrea Phillips guest posts on Terribleminds: the high goddamned responsibility of fiction.

Orly Konig-Lopez shares her thoughts on Writers in the Storm: why it’s not always about the writing.

Janice Hardy offers five tips to fight your end-of-year writer’s fatigue. Fiction University

Sara Letourneau examines fate versus free will as a literary theme. DIYMFA

Now y’all know, if you’ve been following me for a while, what I think about resolutions, but Bess Cozby shares five strategies you can implement to rock your resolutions in 2017. DIYMFA

Oren Ashkenazi reviews five failed animal companions in science fiction and fantasy. Mythcreants

Devon Murphy interviews Madeleine Thien about her process. Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

The Globe and Mail interviews A.M. Dellamonica on occasion of the publication of her latest novel.

Scott Dadich announces Wired science fiction dedicated issue 🙂

The changing faces of science fiction and fantasy. The New Inquiry

Sheila Liming shares her memories of Octavia Butler, neighbour. Public Books

Martin Shaw shares his midwinter night’s dream. Medium

Maria Alexander introduces us to the witches of winter. Tor.com

James Whitbrook has this breaking news: David Tennant is the voice of Scrooge McDuck in the rebooted Ducktales. i09

Tilda Swinton sent Jezebel the unedited email exchange between her and Margaret Cho about Doctor Strange, diversity, and whitewashing. Rich Juzwiak reports.

Evan Narcisse: the Sense8 Christmas special says, “happy fucking New Year.” Phil and I are FURIOUSLY HAPPY! i09

Happy holidays to everyone!

We’ll see you back here, next week, for more writerly goodness 🙂

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 21-27, 2015

W00t! You wanted moar writerly goodness? Well, here it is!

In local publishing news, Latitude 46 moves into the void left by Your Scrivener Press. The Northern Life.

Listen to K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcast (and subscribe) or read her companion post. Last week’s offering: What every writer ought to know about omniscient point of view (POV).

How to make your secondary characters truly memorable. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Will readers find you protagonist worthy? Angela Ackerman on Writers Helping Writers.

The bigger the dream, the greater the resistance. When resistance pays you a compliment. Steven Pressfield.

The four dangers of writing and critique groups. The title says ‘hidden dangers,’ but they’re not really hidden. First-timers and eternal optimists might be blind to them, though. Jennie Nash on Jane Friedman’s blog.

How to write about guns without sounding like a doorknob. Benjamin Sobieck (who was much more polite about it that I was) guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog.

The Listen Inside podcast from Readers in the Know features chapter 2 from Veronica Sicoe’s The Deep Link.

The ten best literary love songs brought to you by Quirk Books.

BuzzFeed compiles their list of the 53 best opening lines in literature.

Not to be outdone, Penguin Random House offered its list of captivating first lines.

In case you weren’t already crushed by the weight of your unread book stack, BuzzFeed compiles this list of ALL 339 books referenced in Gilmour Girls.

i09 lists its essential cyberpunk reads.

ZDNet shares their list of 26 essential science fiction novels that will help you prepare for the future.

Where Japanese science fiction has been and where it’s going. Japanese Times.

The 2015 Sunburst Awards finalists announced on the CBC.

And here’s Quill & Quire’s piece on the awards.

The brilliant ideas that didn’t make it into Pixar’s Inside Out. i09.

I must say that Phil and I are enjoying Sense8 quite a bit. Then again, we love well-developed character and story. The slow burn is just fine with us. Here’s Bram E. Geiben’s take on season 1 for i09.

Moar season 2 fodder for your Droughtlander jonesing. Carter Matt.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Series Disappointments

As a writer, I look to many different sources for inspiration and for learning about my craft.  Most professional writers will tell you that screen writing informs fiction writing, whether it’s episodic television to short stories or chapters, or full length movies to novellas and novels.

I love television.  I know that there are some writers out there that vilify the medium as a time-waster and brain killer, but I try to look at the quality of the story, the plausibility of scientific elements in sci-fi, the depiction and development of character, and so forth.

I’ve told you how I read as a writer in the past.  I’ve also reviewed a few movies on here and the lessons I’ve taken away from them, well, now I’m going to talk about television series.

Phil and I are fairly critical in our television watching.  If something doesn’t make sense, one of us will be the first to lambaste it 😛

This year, we’ve unsubscribed from the movie network cable package.  It was the one that allowed us to watch Game of Thrones and True Blood.  But now, we’re just not interested in what’s on offer.

The past

Phil holds up Babylon 5 as his favourite series.  I agree that J. Michael Straczynski is a masterful storyteller and B5 is one of the best series I’ve seen, but I’m also a little more critical about B5 than Phil is.

I know that JMS planned the entire 5 year arc of the show before he started working on it, but it’s fairly obvious where real life events required accommodation and revision.  Still, until the rights struggle, of which I shall not speak, started to affect things, the show was fabulous.

The fifth season was less than stellar, though, because of the afore-mentioned struggle, I think, Excalibur, the series that was intended to fill in some of the detail pre-B5 only lasted one season, and the hoped for Tales of the Rangers never got off the ground.

In the end, I was disappointed, but not because of JMS—he’s brilliant—but because of the creative differences that prevented the world he created from being explored further.

One of my favourite series of all time is Buffy the Vampire SlayerJoss Whedon took a slightly different tack, creating seasonal arcs, because of the fickle nature of network television.  Buffy changed networks, mid-run, but managed to revive.

The title character’s death at the end of season 5 was to have been the end of the story, but somehow, two more seasons were wrangled.

There are inconsistencies in Buffy.  I’ve watched the series enough to know, but they make the overall story no less enjoyable.  The way in which details from earlier seasons eventually led to lovely pay-offs in later seasons spoke to how well Whedon understood his creation.

When Angel got his spin-off after the third season of Buffy, I also watched it.  Phil is a little fonder of Angel than of Buffy, but both series were made of similar stuff.  Whedon is a very different kind of storyteller than JMS, but no less compelling.

Again, Whedon seems to have had poor luck with the networks after Buffy and Angel.  Firefly did not even have a full season aired (except on Space and Syfy) and Dollhouse was dropped after a second season.

A more long-standing love for both of us is Doctor Who.  We’ve both been fans for years and although Phil has, on principle, a problem with time-travel stories, the writing behind Doctor Who allows him to suspend even his hefty disbelief and enjoy the story.

Other than those few series, many of the shows Phil and I hopefully latched onto over the years seem to have lost their storytelling ways.

Phil and I loved the first season of Heroes.  We were avid fans and shared our DVD’s with everyone we could think of.

Then the second season aired with plot holes big enough to consume the entire cast.  Even George Takei couldn’t save the show.

We were sceptical about the remake of Battlestar Galactica, but once we started watching the series, we were taken in.

Which is why we were also severely disappointed by the last 2 seasons and though we watched Caprica, we couldn’t regret its demise either.  The “ending” answered fewer questions than BSG’s.

Lost lost me as a viewer before the second season ended.  I could see the ridiculous factor increasing, and the writers withheld information when they should have revealed it, and revealed information that had no importance to the plot in the long term.

Phil never watched Lost at all.

Supernatural turned out to be mostly monster-of-the-week and Sam and Dean never really evolved as characters.

There was the short-lived Dresden Files series, which we both loved, but then it went out of production.

I was enjoying the adaptation of Tanya Huff’s Blood Books, Blood Ties, but it, too, was dropped.

The present

I’ve continued to follow the adventures of Buffy and Angel through Joss Whedon’s graphic

Trade paperback cover of Buffy: Season Eight V...

Trade paperback cover of Buffy: Season Eight Volume One, written by Joss Whedon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

novel continuations of both stories.

Phil and I are both happy enough with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and hope that it breaks the television curse for Whedon.  We’d like to see more of his wit and style on television.

Phil and I continue to watch and enjoy Doctor Who.

True Blood was okay to begin with, but after the first season again, we found the story wandering and not necessarily in a good direction.  Unlike some other books turned into series, TB departs fairly distinctly from the Sookie Stackhouse novels on which it is based.

We have, so far, come back for the next season and each season seems to begin well enough, but then certain events are just drawn out for far too long only to end precipitously and in many cases, in a dissatisfying manner.

Consistency isn’t the best, either.

We knew, when Russell Edgington was encased in cement rather than shown the true death, that he’d be back, but we couldn’t stand it when he did.

The ending of this season left us completely cold.  Sookie’s waffling and bemoaning of her fate got old very quickly.  And Eric sunbathing instead of trying to stop the distribution of the Hep-V tainted True Blood?  It made so little sense.  If he did burn, he deserved to.

Mind you, not having seen the ashes, I’ll assume that he and Pam will be back, if not next season, then at some point thereafter.

Being Human.  My advice: watch the British version.  It was always better.

We are quite happy with Game of Thrones.  Now this is a different bit of storytelling, because the novels have already been written by George R. R. Martin.  The artistry of GoT is that the show runners have to pick and choose what bits to show and how to show them in a way that is truthful to GRRM.

And he’s consulting to keep them as much on script as possible 😉

Phil was enjoying The Walking Dead, but found that it too, was getting a little lack-lustre in its plot by the end of the last season.  He’ll be happy to watch it in reruns when we re-subscribe to the movie package in the spring.

We watched the Netflix series Hemlock Grove and were impressed, though admittedly, the denouement  seemed a little rushed.  We are hopeful that future seasons will be at least as good.

Once Upon a Time.  Not Phil’s bag, but I like retellings of fairy tales.  So far, so good for me, but they are in danger of losing me if they get to far off track.

Grimm.  More fairy tale-related shenanigans.  I like the German take, but was so not impressed with how long it took Julia to deal with her recovered memories last season.  Seriously?  Plus, I wanted to see more of Nick’s mom.  She kicked ass.

Lost Girl.  Again, this is something that Phil doesn’t go in for, but I’ve been enjoying.  I’m glad that it continues to be in production.

Arrow was another surprise for me.  Though I enjoyed Smallville, I watched most of the episodes in rerun.  Plus, Smallville started to draw out the origin story of Superman far too long.  I was irritated with that.

Arrow is not taking the Green Arrow from Smallville, but focusing on the character independent of Superman.  It’s a bit grittier and darker.  I like it.

Orphan Black.  This one was a surprise for me, but I definitely like it.  Don’t have any other clone/genetic engineering conspiracy stories out there at the moment.  Phil wasn’t so impressed, but I’m willing to give it a go again next year.

Defiance was a show that Phil got hold of by virtue of his interests in gaming.  The concept was unique: a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG, or MMO) and a television series developed concurrently in the same world.

The game would start up earlier, feed into the hype, but when the series started, the developers promised weekly game upgrades based on story developments in the series.  It sounded interesting, so we both tuned in.

Phil quickly tired of the game, in which the promised content was not made available.  He gave up some time in the summer when none of the series-based content had yet been added.

The depiction of the alien people were different between the game and the series as well.

The Irathients were analogous to indigenous peoples in terms of spirituality in the series, but good warriors and tactical thinkers in the game.  Not that they couldn’t be both, but both were not clearly options in the game and the series.

The Indogenes in the game were similar to Vulcans, dominantly logical and emotionally repressed, while in the series, they turned out to be political schemers and shape-shifters.

The last straw for Phil was that for two episodes in a row, they played the “s/he’s an Indogene” card.  He cited it as derivative of the equally irritating “s/he’s a cylon” ploy in BSG.

Story-wise, it’s about as satisfying as “it was all a dream,” or an ending where the big bad, after waging war, and having the subjects of his rage in his sights, commits suicide instead (another BSG disappointment).

Sleepy Hollow.  I’m liking the angle the writers have chosen and tying it all in with the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the end of days.  We’ll see if it lasts more than a season.

The future

Right now, the only thing we’re both looking forward to is JMS’s Sense8, his Netflix series.

I’m going to check out Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, just ‘cause, but I’ve learned not to pin too many hopes on new network series.

I’m also going to check out the Tomorrow People and Almost Human.  We’ll see if either of those series live up to my expectations.

What series have you loved?  Which have you hated?  What are you looking forward to?  And what shows have you learned from as a writer?

Continuous learning 🙂  That’s what it’s all about.