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Friday Five: 5 Terrific Techy Ladies in Sci-Fi

Brave New GirlsThis week's guest is Mary Fan, co-editor of the brand new Brave New Girls. The anthology collects science fiction stories featuring "brainy young women who use their smarts to save the day". That is to say: it not only brings readers a whole pack of awesome role models, but they're also clever stories featuring brains over brawn.

All proceeds from Brave New Girls are being donated to a scholarship fund set up by the Society of Women Engineers, so buy with confidence - you're not just reading about bright futures, you're helping make them. With no further ado, we'll hand over to Mary...

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It’s no secret that there aren’t a lot of women in science and tech, both in the real world and in fiction. Which is a shame, really. There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem around this issue—are techy women not depicted in sci-fi because they’re rare in real life, or are they rare in real life because girls don’t see themselves depicted in those roles and therefore don’t pursue those careers? The fact is, pop culture is a powerful influencer, especially on girls and teenagers. And the scary thing is, your career is dictated by decisions you make as an impressionable kid (think about it… the college major you pick at age 19 determines whether or not you’ll become a research scientist).

While there are plenty of ladies in sci-fi, they’re usually not put in the science and tech-based roles. The scientists, hackers, engineers, etc. are usually guys. But every so often, you’ll stumble upon a character that makes you go, “Yes! More of her, please!” Here are five brainy sci-fi ladies who use their smarts to save the day:

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Friday Five: 5 Next Generation Netflix Defenders

Today is officially Daredevil Day - yes, officially. The UN has issued a… thing ('edict'? doesn't sound very UNish, does it? And 'proclamation' sounds like something Regina would issue in Once Upon A Time). Let's start over.

So the UN has declared Friday 10th April 2015 to be Daredevil Day in honour of the launch of the first Marvel Netflix series.

And, while obviously you're all off watching all thirteen episodes back to back, when you're done, here's a subject for you to consider. After Daredevil comes Jessica Jones, then Luke Cage, then Iron Fist before they all get together to be The Defenders. But what then?

Who else should Marvel Studios bring into the Netflix fold to be part of the more street level part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Here are five (well, technically seven) suggestions...

Cloak and Dagger

CloakLet's just get the fact that the name/concept connection is outrageously forced out of the way first so we can focus on how great the pairing was from its very first appearance. Tammy and Tyrone are runaway teenagers who made it to New York only to fall victim to a mob plan to test new designer drugs on the youth that have fallen through the cracks. Most of the victims die, but Tammy and Tyrone emerge from the tests changed.

Tammy's light daggers are formidable weapons, and also the only thing able to keep the darkness that Tyrone is able to channel 'fed' - unless he lets it consume life energy. His darkness also allows him to teleport and to consign enemies to a dark dimension. Their origin is one of the grimmest in the Marvel canon, and even allows for some typical Marvel angst - Tyrone is tortured by the fact that Tammy is forced to stay with him to prevent his darkness feeding on innocents, even though she could, in theory, return to a normal life. 

Appearing initially in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger had their own limited series, a well-regarded meeting with the New Mutants, and went on to an unfortunately sporadic career in the Marvel U. An attempt to retcon their origin to make them mutants when mutants were The Big Thing is probably, hopefully gone by the wayside, and it's past time that they got the kind of attention that a TV series would give them. 

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PK Interview: Kim Curran on Dwarf Eggs

Bluefairy

Pornokitsch: Hi, Kim! So, you've started watching Once Upon a Time. What do you think?

Kim Curran: Hey! I had so many people rave about this series, even my mother in law of all people, that I started watching it with a lot of trepidation. Would I enjoy it? Would it live up to the hype? Would I have to admit to my MIL that I hated yet another thing she loved (we've only just recovered from the trifle drama).

Then I started watching and after the first few episodes I was so relieved. It was a fun, hugely entertaining, women-led story and I was really looking forward to binging all, how many are there now, six seasons.

And then I got to the dwarf egg episode...

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The Joy of the Soundtrack: Misfits, Nashville and American Horror Story

Nashville

I’m a big fan of television show soundtracks.

Not scores - I find those fairly boring, personally - but I love a well soundtracked TV show and find that it adds an excellent layer to the narrative. There are many, many TV shows with fantastic soundtracks - here are two that stand out in my TV-watching experience over the last few years. Well, and I may mention a third - although I don’t mind admitting that it is a bit of a sneaky indulgence that probably just deserves its own post.

Misfits

This British show started off with some of the best, most fun episodes I’d seen on TV in a while. The first series was just 6 episodes and that was the worst thing about it - that there just wasn’t enough of it. The show did go on for another few seasons, but let’s never, ever even mention 4 and 5, ‘kay?

So what happens when a group of delinquents in South London who are just starting community service for various crimes are hit by a freak electrical storm and gain strange powers? Do you really think they’ll become superheroes? They’re not ‘good’ people - they’re all here because they’ve done something wrong, so who is to say they’ll then use their powers for good? And, anyway, haven’t we had enough of using your powers for good? And I don’t mean in the super-villain sense, just in the "oh shit, but how can I use what I’ve got to fix my life" sense. You know, ordinary petty criminals with selfish desires - they’re just like you and me, really.

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The Scully Effect: My Life in The X-Files

The-X-FilesThe X-Files, huh? That show people watched like twenty years ago? Who cares? I do, that's who. Now sit down and shut up while I explain important things to you.

Last week the internet exploded with joy when the long-circulating rumour that The X-Files would be getting a new season 13 years after it went off the air, was confirmed. Well, much of the internet exploded with joy. Some of the internet exploded with skepticism (‘It’ll just suck!’) and bits of it exploded with confusion (‘they’re making a television show about that stupid movie from a couple of years ago?’)

Well, gather round, folks, because I'm here to tell you why you should not just care that the X-Files are back, but should get really excited. I was there when it all began, loved the show from the beginning, and have a lot of opinions so I'm  more qualified than anyone else on the entire internet to tell you this stuff. 

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Ross & Rachel & Ron & Hermione & Jessica Rabbit

Ladbrokes Bingo_Valentines Cards_Lord of the RingsAnother survey - this one on behalf of Ladbrokes Bingo - this time investigating 2,000 cinema-goers and how they feel about loooooooove. As before, they've very kindly let me poke about with the numbers and draw my own conclusions. And boy, are they fun.

Background: the 2,000, are split across all ages (18+), equally between men and women, and, generally speaking, they're pretty genre-agnostic (equal fans of romance, comedy, sf/f/superhero, action, crime, etc). So, you know, people.

The bulk of the questions, again, this being about looooooove, have to do with favourite couples and romantic moments. What I found particularly interesting is how these split by age and gender.

I suppose it shouldn't come as huge shock but my top-line conclusions are: some of these 'timeless' romances... aren't. And when it comes to 'romance', men and women seem to have slightly different ideas. Oh, and - men are creepy.

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Friday Five: 5 Cartoons That Will Improve Your Life

IronGhostJennifer Williams is a fantasy writer and Lego obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She's the author of the highly-acclaimed (and immensely enjoyable) fantasy adventure, The Copper Promise, and its brand-spankin'-new sequel, The Iron Ghost.

She's here to make our lives "dramatically better" with cartoons. A tough claim - can she back it up? Read on and find out.


When I was a kid I was only interested in watching cartoons.

Children’s programmes that were live action and involved real, living, breathing children, were switched off faster than you could say Thundercats. While my fellow kiddies were getting a grounding in TV drama with Byker Grove, Children’s Ward, and Press Gang, I was flicking through the channels looking for a rogue episode of Scooby Doo. I even had a deep wariness of things that were animated in stop-motion, because that was a little too close to real life for my liking (this is clearly a conversation I will have with a therapist in the future) so Paddington Bear, Charlie Chalk and even the beautiful Wind in the Willows would be abandoned if Defenders of the Earth was on the other side.

And if I’m honest, I still prefer cartoons to almost anything else that might appear on the telly, and these days I’m actually justified because, let me tell you, cartoons in the 21st century are amazing. Here are five that will dramatically improve your life.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I’m just gonna put this out there: A:TLA is pretty much the greatest cartoon ever made. Probably the greatest thing to have ever been on telly. It takes place in a secondary fantasy world inspired by a mixture of Asian and Inuit culture, where some people are born with the ability to bend certain elements to their will. One being, reincarnated through the generations, is able to bend air, water, fire and earth, and is destined to do awesome things and generally kick ass. This is the Avatar, and in A:TLA the Avatar is a little kid called Aang, a child brought up with the peaceful Air Nomads. Aang accidentally takes a 100 year long time out and misses a devastating war – the TV series covers his struggle to master his bending abilities and defeat the evil Fire Lord, assisted by a gang of young people with their own abilities and problems.

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Pygmalia: Vision of Escaflowne

There’s something completely fascinating to me about tales where a person tries to make another, whether from scratch, as in the original Pygmalion myth, or by attempting to permanently re-shape another person’s mind or body. Every aspect of the conceit bewitches and absorbs me—the process by which the metamorphosis occurs (or fails), the fraught relationship between creator and created, the end result of these sorts of experiments. Thus, this year I’m selecting twelve Pygmalion stories—or stories that contain echoes of the Pygmalion myth—and essaying on them. I already have a few in mind, but please feel free to suggest others in the comments or on twitter @molly_the_tanz. Or email me, emollytanzer [at] gmail.com. I’m woefully underread in comics specifically, but any and all recommendations are welcome!

As January’s column on The Bride featured a storyline that directly referenced the Pygmalion myth, for February I decided to write on something with a much more esoteric relationship to Pygmalion: Vision of Escaflowne, one of the most mid-90s animes ever to come out during the mid-90s. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you, like I, are a veteran of 90s anime, but I’m really not sure how else to describe it… Vision of Escaflowne is a baffling, indescribable thing, and one impossible to meaningfully discuss without revealing major series spoilers. So, you’ve been warned.

Vision of escaflowneVision of Escaflowne (1996)

Vision of Escaflowne gets real weird, but it begins like any other magical girl anime: Kanzaki Hitomi is just your every day high school girl. She has a crush on her senpai, is on the track team, seems to be generally liked by her peers. But Hitomi is special because she can tell accurate fortunes by using Tarot cards, possesses a pendant necklace from her grandmother that has magical powers/can tell accurate time (I dunno), and occasionally (meaning 3x an episode at least for the first half of the series) has prophetic visions.

During a normal everyday track practice, Hitomi, mid-run, has one of said visions, of a young man holding a sword, who appears to her in a pillar of light. This then turns into a different vision of the earth breaking under her feet, her falling, and some winged guy swooping down, angel-like, to save her. Then she awakens in the infirmary—it was just a dream! After a sexually tense interaction with Senpai she does a Tarot reading for them and sees—gasp!—the cards for the Tower, which means separation of lovers (OH NO!! AMANO SENPAI!!) and a dragon. Or serpent, I don’t remember. It looks like a dragon, and dragons are important in Escaflowne. Anyways, this reading inspires her to go back to school with Senpai that night, where she asks him to time her with her magic pendant. If she can run fast enough, he’ll kiss her as a prize.

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New Releases: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today by the Gang

The 7 SecretsI love It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; the show can do no wrong. Possibly because it is deliberately setting out to be as wrong as it could be. (I also credit the fact that I went into the show having no idea what it actually was. If you watch the first episodes expecting it to be an actual normal sitcom, it is ... kind of earth-shattering.) That said, my predilection for fine entertainment might be misconstrued as some sort of bias, and has made reviewing The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today (2015), a little difficult.

If I tell you that this book changed my life - got me a better job, made me grow an inch, improved my wardrobe, put money in my savings account, gave me several fine rat-based meals, and gave me the sexual potency of Sting on Spanish Fly - well, you'd probably believe that's just coming from my fondness for the show. As a blogger, there's nothing more important to me than my reputation as an objective critic of fine culture, that is how I make all of my very large bucks, dine on Cadillacs and sleep on a bed made of the very prestigious Hugo Awards and the tears of Roger Ebert. Therefore everything I write should be taken as the gospel truth, if the gospel were actually written in Typepad by a reputable person and not carved in rocks by dudes on mushrooms.

And that, I suppose, is fine. Your loss, Jesus. 

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