Thursday, January 28, 2016

Storm Front, chapters eight and nine, in which Will endures for you, precious reader

I was actually going to just drop this book and move onto something else (probably Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings), that is how much I hate Harry Dresden.  The moments when he's supposed to be roguishly charming or witty make me want to lock him on the other side of a door, and the moments when he's supposed to be foolish or abrasive or share Old-Fashioned views on women make me want to throw him off a bridge.  The nature of magic is really fun and interesting, actually, but it's so inadequately explained that it starts forming plot holes. (E.g.: Dresden meets with a vampire and takes a literal pocketful of sunshine with him as a security measure, but no explanation is given for why he can only carry one at a time, so why doesn't he go with cargo shorts crammed full of summer days?  Why does it only work once?  'Plot mandate' is not a good enough reason.)

But I figured I should at least finish reading the book so I could do a quick wrap-up post, and about halfway through (a few posts from now) I hit a line of narrative so strikingly wretched that the heavens rent asunder and a sidereal entity appeared before me to declare: No: the people must know your suffering in its every exacting detail.  Thus bidden by them who turn the wheels of the stars, I opened a new Chrome tab and began to blog.

(Content: misogyny, death, invasion of privacy, discussion of rape.  Fun content: Fred Clark, womanpires, and nitpicking alchemy.)

Storm Front
Chapter Eight: Boners (It's A Pun) (Get It?)*

Dresden stumbles home late from his investigation of the lake house (where he was accosted by White Council enforcer Morgan) and decides to unwind by brewing potions.  He's got a two-floor basement apartment, a giant cat named Mister, and no hobbies apart from magic.  He describes himself as "the arcane equivalent of a classic computer geek", doing magic and nothing else, but I struggle to see how that fits with the rest of what we know about him: that he's broke and most people don't take him very seriously.  If he's starving for work, he's not doing magic professionally, and if he's doing magic for himself, how is he affording it (we're about to see that it's pricey) and why doesn't he seem to have anything to show for it?  His apartment is candle-lit and wood-fired; no enchanted lamps or heated floor or an ensorcelled compass that detects when people lose their keys within a three-block radius.

Dresden occupies an interesting sort of place here, metatextually.  He's sort of like a level 1 character in an RPG, who is supposedly the hero/survivor of a hundred life-or-death struggles, but also has a single Potion of Lesser Cure Wounds in his inventory and is legitimately threatened by a random encounter with two Tiny Bats.  I have no idea where he fits into his world.  Do most wizards live like this?  If other wizards aren't broke, why?  Do wizards normally just run big corporations (meddling with stocks via thaumaturgy, obviously) and funnel their bonuses into building sweet arcane artifacts?  In basically every facet of his life, I can't tell if he's ordinary or exceptional by the book's standards.

Anyway.  Dresden heads down into his basement's basement, where he keeps his lab, and wakes up the air spirit named Bob that lives in a skull on his shelf.  Bob is Dresden's magical database, since he's got unnumbered years of experience assisting various wizards.  Unfortunately, Bob is also an even bigger skeeze than Dresden, requiring us all to recalibrate our skeezometers by an order of magnitude in order to take proper measurements:
"Let me out for a ride, and I'll tell you how to get out of it." 
That made me wary. "Bob, I let you out once. Remember?" 
He nodded dreamily, scraping bone on wood. "The sorority house. I remember." [....] 
"Save it. I don't want to hear it." 
He grunted. "You're trivializing what getting out for a bit means to me, Harry. You're insulting my masculinity."
Their debate on who's more masculine goes on until Dresden trumps Bob with his upcoming date with Susan ("Dark skin [...] dark hair, dark eyes. Legs to die for. Smart, sexy as hell."  Three repetitions of the word 'dark', one unspecified use of 'smart'.  Is there any louder way to scream 'I'm not racist or sexist because I threw in a single word about her that isn't about her body'?)  Dresden moves on to demanding they make an "escape potion" without actually specifying the type of escape (Bob later says it'll temporarily turn him into wind), but Bob refuses unless they also brew a love potion.  Harry makes various threats and refusals back, but ultimately realises Bob has the upper hand and relents.
And, I thought, if Susan should ask me for some kind of demonstration of magic (as she always did), I could always--No. That would be too much. That would be like admitting I couldn't get a woman to like me on my own, and it would be unfair, taking advantage of the woman.
He doesn't quite call it what it would actually be (hint: rape) but at least consent eventually came into his calculations somewhere.  After his own manly pride.  (I hate Dresden so much.)   So they brew the potions, which are interesting enough (Harry at one point pours a jar of mouse scampers into the escape potion, and a sigh into the love potion).  Other ingredients for the love potion include tequila ("Champagne, tequila, what's the difference, so long as it'll lower her inhibitions?"--I also hate Bob), chocolate ("Chicks are into chocolate, Harry"), perfume, lace, candlelight, a love letter (torn from a smutty novel: "women eat these things up"), and powdered diamond (Dresden substitutes a fifty-dollar bill after being assured "Money [...] very sexy").

Predictably, I have Questions.

We're told that the ingredients for any potion vary with the person making it, and Bob's ability to deduce the right ingredients from knowledge of a person is what makes him so valuable, so the above isn't just a love potion, it is a Harry Dresden Love Potion, for use only by Harry Dresden to make a woman fall in love with Harry Dresden.  So... why is it so generic?  Why is it full of stereotypical Chick Stuff instead of items that might actually relate to the kind of person who would love Harry?  Why isn't the liquid base black coffee with a ton of sugar (the way Harry likes it, to keep him working at all hours)?  Why a "passionate love letter" that he could and would never write, and not something that might actually represent his affections for someone, like sharing a personal secret or wish?  Why perfume and not cologne or aftershave or something?  Lace and not a scrap of leather jacket?  Chocolate and not blood shed doing the right thing regardless of cost?

There are societal-level reasons that a Harry Dresden Love Potion reads like a Wal-Mart Valentine's Day Bargain Gift Bag, and they are the same reasons that Wrath personified is always a muscular dude who murders people but Lust personified is always a curvy white woman that causes other people to get aroused.  Love and romance are girl things that are not related to male identities, but are simply catered to for the sake of naked sex times.  And, apart from Exceptional Girls like Murphy, we assume that The Women have largely interchangeable tastes, as if we don't all know women who hate chocolate or never read a romance novel or wouldn't prefer the smell of sawdust and solder to the most expensive perfumed diamonds in the world.  (I assume that a Harry Dresden Love Potion wouldn't work on a man, but would it?  What would go into a manly love potion? Beer, gunpowder, beards, and Neil Patrick Harris' voice saying the word 'turgid'?")

I'm vexed by this in particular because a lot of things in this book can ultimately (maybe) be brushed off as Dresden's own foolishness (his dismissive attitude towards Monica, his interpretations of world politics and wizard history) but this is worldbuilding on an objective level.  This is, we are told, Expert Magicking, and thus the universal power of candlelight and purple prose to make a woman tear off her own undergarments are fundamental Fact.

Anyway.  Harry pours the potions into a couple of clearly-labelled old Gatorade bottles (this chapter is full of noodle incidents like "that diet potion** you tried", "the antigravity potion, remember that", and "ever since the invisibility/hair tonic incident") and goes to bed, head full of the deadly tasks still to face, like talking to a vampire woman vampire woman.

Chapter Nine: WOMANPIRE 

Dresden awakes the following afternoon to Murphy on the phone, and says he's got no leads yet but he'll have something by the end of the weekend.  Apparently Murphy is currently being hounded by the commissioner, who likes to use her as his scapegoat for unsolvable crimes.  It's not clear what makes her a good scapegoat, unless he likes to tell people 'My best detective believes in magic but I can't fire her because somethingorother (female privilege, probably) so I am bound'.  Harry suggests that he would have more luck talking to Bianca than Murphy has had, but she forbids it:
"If you get your ass laid out in the hospital or the morgue, it'll be me that suffers for it." 
"Murph, I'm touched." 
"I'll touch your head to a brick wall a few times if you cross me on this, Harry."
The endless heaping of Murphy's tough-talk without actually seeing her do anything but beg Harry for help does not make for a compellingly deep, plausibly strong, or even vaguely interesting character.  Y'all know how I do--getting attached to the underloved female characters is like my signature move in these posts--but Murphy needs to actually be involved in something before I can particularly care.

After lunch, Dresden monologues at us for a while about how wizards aren't innately special people, but they're very good at preparations, so if they know what they're facing, they'll have a solution.  In the case of going to face a vampire madam, Dresden polishes his cane--I see you snickering there in the back--secretly holsters a silver knife, pockets his escape potion and pentacle (his mother's, given to him by his father, the first indication we have that Dresden had parents), and puts "a small, folded piece of white cloth into my pocket".  Apparently he also wishes he could bring "my blasting rod or my staff, but that would be like showing up at Bianca's door in a tank".

Dresden drives down to the Velvet Room on the lakeside, a 1920s mansion, and his car sputters out just as he arrives, leading to a not-particularly-interesting battle of bluffs between him and the predictably stupid muscly doorman, who ultimately buzzes up to Bianca and lets him in, though the guard takes the cane off him.  (What's the difference between a cane and a staff and a blasting rod?  Is there some reason he couldn't make a staff that looked like a cane?  I have many issues with the Penny Arcade dudes, but all I can think about is this classic comic.)  Dresden gets to keep his pentacle, though, and in this setting vampires are vulnerable to faith, not symbols themselves, so Dresden's faith in magic makes it a good shield.  (On this subject, I look to Fred Clark and his thoroughly alternative take on what kinds of crosses confound vampires--in his philosophy, I'm not sure whether that pentacle would work or not.)

Dresden enters the big old house, passes "a well-groomed young woman with a short, straight haircut" and waits in the library for half an hour before Bianca appears.  A sampling of the descriptions I'm having to read right now:
Her hair was a burnished shade of auburn that was too dark to cast back any ruddy highlights, but did anyway. [....] She approached me and extended her hand, a motion oozing feminine grace.
I have trouble imagining any kind of feminine oozing that could be described as 'graceful', but correct me if I'm wrong that these are words best not put in close proximity to each other.
"A gentleman, they said. I see that they were correct. It is a charmingly passe thing to be a gentleman in this country." 
"You and I are of another world," I said.
Et cetera et cetera Bianca is the most fuckable thing he's ever seen and he draws her chair out for her and she crosses her legs "and made it look good", which is just baffling me.  Anyway, he says he's here to ask about Jennifer Stanton's murder and Bianca instantly leaps over the table to tear out his throat, so Dresden hurls the handkerchief full of sunshine at her and blasts her across the room, shredding bits off her.
I had never seen a real vampire before. [....] It had a batlike face, horrid and ugly, the head too big for its body. Gaping, hungry jaws. Its shoulders were hunched and powerful. Membranous wings stretched between the joints of its almost skeletal arms. Flabby black breasts hung before it, spilling out of the black dress that no longer looked feminine. [....] Its clawed feet were still wearing the three-hundred-dollar black pumps.
Do I even need to explain all the things that bother me here?  Bianca has become 'it' instead of 'she' now that she doesn't look human, but unless Butcher is trying to do something clever here with gender assignment, it seems likely to me that the "flabby black breasts" (wild guess: some humans have those) indicate that Bianca is also a female vampire (not a genderless vampire in a female role), so what does it say that she gets her pronouns revoked for not being sexy enough?  Is there any particular reason that a key element of her hideous transformation is that her flawless white skin has turned black?  I feel these things should speak for themselves.

Dresden pulls out the pentacle and pours enough magic into it to ward her off, creating a standoff situation.  Bianca reveals that she thinks Dresden killed Jennifer, and so there's a lot of 'why should I trust you not to try to kill me if I lower my weapons' haggling.  Dresden swears "by fire and wind" (these are phrases that I want to mean more than 'it sounds cool') that he had nothing to with the murder, and they cautiously sit down again.  Bianca transforms back: "The flabby black breasts swelled into softly rounded, rosy-tipped perfection once more."

I don't know what to make of the obsession with breasts in this chapter (and others).  Is Butcher trying to go for 'scared but erect' in the reader, or can he just not help himself?  Dresden says that she looks perfectly beautiful again, but he can't forget what she 'really' looks like.

After pages of staring, they get back to the plot, but Bianca tells him "You're the only one in the city with the kind of skill required to cast that sort of spell."  Chicago proper has a population of 2.7 million, with about 10 million in the whole metropolitan area.  I don't know what percentage of those people are wizards, but 'best spellcaster in a city of ten million' seems like a pretty good superlative.  Are you a superhero or just clinging to the last rung, man?

Turns out Bianca and Tommy Tomm were old friends and she knew he was always kind to his escorts, so she feels actual remorse at whatever's going on.  Dresden can tell she's hiding something, so he locks eyes with her and they ★SOULGAZE★.
More than anything else, Bianca wanted to be beautiful. And tonight, I had destroyed her illusion. I had rattled her gilded little world. She sure as hell wasn't going to let me forget that.
Not luxury, not power, not control, not secrets or influence or independence or knowledge or any of those classic immortal vampire desires.  Nope.  Bianca, ancient deathless lady of manners, desperately wants everyone to think she's hot.  By human standards.  If I understand the worldbuilding so far, vampires aren't even from Earth; they're immigrants from some spirit world.  What kind of womanpire's most desperate wish is to make human men tumescent?  Ugh.  This is something that could be sold with a sufficiently developed backstory, but we're just supposed to take it as an obviously sensible desire at first glance.

She says she'd kill him now if she hadn't given her word, and he says he'd use his death curse to drag her to hell with him.  Bianca turns her head away, too slow to keep Dresden from seeing her shed a single tear.

What am I even reading.

Bianca reluctantly offers Dresden the name and number of Jennifer's friend (and threesome partner) Linda Randall, and they prepare to say belligerent goodbyes when Bianca notices that Dresden has started bleeding from the scratch she gave him earlier, and she starts getting overpoweringly thirsty.  She croakingly tells him to leave, but Dresden of course lingers by the door to watch her suffering as she tries not to murder him by instinct.  You're a tool, Dresden.  She tells him she'll make him regret the night, and the woman from earlier shows up.  I assume at this point the classic porn saxophone starts playing:
Paula murmured something too soft to hear, gently brushing Bianca's hair back from her face with one hand [...] and pressed her wrist to Bianca's mouth. [....] Bianca's tongue flashed out, long and pink and sticky, smearing Paula's wrist with shining saliva. Paula shuddered at the touch, her breath coming quicker. Her nipples stiffened beneath the thin fabric of the blouse [...]
Harry Dresden can see a woman's nipples stiffen under her shirt from across a dark room.

Again, I feel that is a thing that speaks for itself.

The saliva apparently gets Paula wasted, and Bianca bites her wrist open to start feeding as Paula collapses into some kind of sexual epileptic fit.  Dresden finally leaves: "The scene with Paula might have aroused me, if I hadn't seen what was underneath Bianca's mask. [....] The woman had given herself to that thing, as quickly and as willingly as any woman to her lover."  Dresden thinks a bunch about the implications of addiction to vampire saliva and the possible enslavement of wizard thralls, watches the tow truck guy work on his car for a while, and finally the doorman delivers Linda's phone number.  Dresden had been told Paula would bring it down, but realises that she isn't coming.  Dun dun DUNNN.  I assume we are to conclude that Bianca couldn't stop feeding and has killed Paula, just in case we weren't sure whether we were supposed to find her sympathetic or not.  (She's in the sex industry and she's a secretly-ugly woman; of course we weren't.)

Lest you think our suffering has ended, let me warn you that we haven't even met the sex-addicted sex worker who's sad that she can never make her clients 'feel better about themselves'.  For some reason, I didn't go into this book expecting it to be full of painfully misogynistic sex workers (the sexy corpse, the evil madam, the tragic hooker) but apparently that's what we signed up for.  See you all next time!


*I suppose I should make a consistent note that these books don't have chapter titles and I'm just making them up for funsies, lest new readers be confused that the titles are so much more entertaining and thoughtful than the text.

**We are also informed at some point that Dresden is that most curious kind of individual: the tall skinny man who eats constantly but mysteriously never gains any weight, also known as Every Goddamn Protagonist Ever, Sweet Buttered Jehoshaphat.  So why was he trying a diet potion, if he has no body image issues?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Erika VS Anita Blake (Burnt Offerings chapter 1-6)

I was in the tenth grade when a friend of mine excitedly handed me the first Anita Blake book. Those of you who know anything about Anita Blake are probably a little alarmed at the idea of a 15-year-old picking it up. The first book isn't that messed up, and actually only ever gets as far as a kiss. The story does not spiral wildly out of control into a non-stop train of orgies and violence (sometimes violent orgies) until further into the series. Those I was definitely too young to be reading, but the first few books were okay.

...I think. It was awhile ago, okay?

Still, I'm curious and afraid, so, I'm grabbing the seventh book in the series, Burnt Offerings, and seeing how badly I get burned reading it. Wow, that joke was awful. I'm so sorry. Not sorry enough to edit it out, but it's close. I'm starting with the seventh because, honestly, why should we all have to shuffle through the less weird and fucked up books when I can probably remember enough to keep us all up on what's going on? Well, maybe not... up, but, you know. Not totally lost.

For those of you who have never heard of the Anita Blake series, it's the prototypical urban fantasy about a necromancer-detective-vampire slayer who is also the (human) female leader of the local werewolves. Well, sort of werewolf Queen? She was boning their "alpha" (or what ever they're called) so he knighted her or some shit? They broke up because he ate a person. Like you do. Listen, I read these books over a decade ago. Give me some slack. Oh, she also has sex with vampires and there are were-critters and stuff. She has sex with those too. The books are also all in first person. Because this blog has apparently not seen enough first person books.

We're dropped in with Anita in some sort of work meeting with a convenient bit of character building that shows her as thoroughly professional and even-tempered.
My right arm had been sliced open twice by a knife. One scar was white and old. The second was still pink and new. My left arm was worse. A mound of white scar tissue sat at the bend of my arm. I'd have to lift weights for the rest of my life or the scars would stiffen and I'd lose mobility in the arm, or so my physical therapist had said. There was a cross-shaped burn mark, a little crooked now because of the ragged claw marks that a shapeshifted witch had given me. There were one or two other scars hidden under my blouse, but the arm really is the worst.

Bert, my boss, had requested that I wear my suit jacket or long-sleeved blouses in the office. He said that some clients had expressed reservations about my ah . . . occupationally-acquired wounds. I hadn't worn a long-sleeved blouse since he made the request. He'd turned the air conditioner up a little colder every day. It was so cold today I had goose bumps. Everyone else was bringing sweaters to work. I was shopping for midriff tops to show off my back scars.
So mature and professional. Then again, her boss also seems like a tosser, so, fight petty with petty I guess. She's in a meeting with a firefighter, McKinnon, who's a friend of her cop-boss, Dolph (not her necromancer boss). McKinnon and Anita get into a pissing contest over who's the manlier man by showing off their scars, until Anita puts an end to it by grabbing the glass off of her desk and maintaining eye contact as she eats the whole thing. There are a lot of pissing contests like this, and honestly, I'm not sure there is ever a time in the series where they don't end with Anita just ending them. We know McKinnon is a tough but good dude because rather than pee on more things, he cuts to the chase of what he wants.

He tells a story about a scary pyrokenetic that went around burning down buildings with people in them and how messy and horrific that was (how he got his scars) before going on to explain he thinks he has another firebug on his hands. It's still early, but he wants to catch this before the bodies start piling up again.  So yeah, Anita isn't officially on this yet, but once people start dying she obviously will be, so, uh, maybe look over the file? Anita, a woman who works with cops in her spare time, shrugs, isn't sure what she can do--pyrokenetics aren't monsters, just people with a rare skill--but she'll look it over. A strange touch of world building, just, yeah, magic happens, it's weird, but, wevs. Then again, if I was shagging a vampire, I would probably have a very different thresh hold for weird.

Before she has a chance, her vampire-slaying apprentice calls. He had been sent to stake some dead bodies that would, in a few days, rise as vampires (it's cool; it was in their will to stake them if this came up).  Basically he's all "Hey mom, can you pick me up from school the hospital" and she's all "Did you lose a fight again? As your slayer mom I'm not mad but I am disappointed; I told you to wear your 'I'm little and cute but I'll fuck you up' shirt until you build up your reputation" and he's all "I'M TWENTY-ONE I'M AN ADULT" and she's like "Do you want me to bring you a juicebox or not?"

He explains that someone tried to get him to stake a vampire but "lost" the paperwork. He refuses, because staking a vampire without paperwork is just murder, which he isn't super keen on. (As opposed to notarised murder, which is fine.) The orderly went looking for it while he went to grab a smoke, but came back to find this woman trying to murder this dude and got mangled with one of his own stakes when he tried to stop her. No one is dead, but this is a handy way to do some world-building and bring new readers up on the setting. She was a member of a splinter group (splintered from what?) called Humans First, which is going around trying to kill vampires like they're abortion providers. There's also Humans Against Vampires who are annoying but operate within the law. There was also a vampire mayor in Michigan who got staked recently, which Humans First is taking credit for. Anita doesn't think they're organized enough to have pulled that off. I assume this will be relevant information later. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Hamilton is just throwing around random world events for funsies. I don't remember if she's actually a good writer or not!

Anita gets her baby sidekick home and tucks him into bed after scolding him for leaving a vampire unattended in a morgue and leaving his vampire murdering kit unattended.

This is why you got mangled, Larry. You're too careless, Larry. You should shoot more people, Larry. Larry, in a great deal of pain, isn't too thrilled with being lectured, but he takes it because what else is he gonna do, get out and walk? His back has been replaced with stitches.

Once he's properly drugged and tucked into bed, Anita returns a call from a mystery number on her pager. I am cackling because googling the number isn't even an option to find out what it is. Also she has a pager. I know, I know, at the time this book came out it was a big deal, but to be honest, I thought pagers were funny when they made sense. Turns out it's a werewolf friend of hers, Stephen, who needs her help. Some were-panther is hurt and he needs her help to keep him from being dragged off by his irresponsible pimp. We get a quick fill in of how things are with the were-panthers: Not Good. (Anita killed their alpha because he was planning to make a snuff film starring the two of them.) It's deeply fucked up, which she owns, and admits she's forcing herself to be blasé about it because otherwise she's gonna lose her shit and she has things to do today still. Like, go make sure no one is pimped irresponsibly, apparently. This series is very pro safe, responsible pimps and sex workers. (Although most of the sex workers we meet are male if memory serves.)

Anita's response to Stephen's phone call is basically "I don't wannaaaaa" and Stephen is like "This guy has the worst pimp, Anita!  STRIPES AND ANIMAL PRINT, ANITA!" and then the villain drops in like "Are you phoning for help?  I have like one rule and it's 'no phoning for help', man" and Stephen begs off with "Please don't violence me I AM A SNUGGLING WOLF not a fighting wolf".  Villainous dude grabs the phone to threaten Anita as well, she yawns for a while and then asks his name (Zane) because she is an old-fashioned lady to likes a proper introduction before she breaks a man.  Zane does some "Grr, I'm a werepanther" posturing, Anita is just "Fool, by hurting my dog you activated my limit break" and hangs up.

She loads her gun with a few lead bullets in preparation. Silver bullets: werekitten is dead. Lead? Just a really bad day. Obviously, telling him "Dude I can literally kill you if I have to so knock this shit off" is not an option, but hurting him is. Anyways, into the hospital we go. Shockingly, Zane is causing shit. He keeps trying to use orderlies as hackeysacks. Not like, murdering anyone, but, you know, really one sided games of catch. She shoots him because hello is for losers, and makes it very clear he needs to stop this shit or she will murder him and feel very little about it. At this point he starts crying, relived that someone has come to be the new alpha of the werepanthers.

That is both my response, and Anita's. She figures if it avoids more people being used for ring toss, she can play along, but this is absurd. She isn't even a were-critter, and also, uh, she's like, the werewolf Queen and also something within the vampire community because now she's riding the local vampire leader on the regular. Also to keep her from exploding or some shit in a previous book the vampire had to mark her, therefore bonding the two and giving her some extra superpowers but also status in the vampire community? If Anita listed all her jobs and supernatural ties on her business card it would need to be two-sided and very small font.

The police come, cart off Zane, and Anita is left in the hospital room with her mangled werewolf friend, Stephen, while marveling at the deeply fucked up shit that happened to Nathaniel (the previously-mentioned werepanther who was being pimped out). I just--I don't even want to summarize it, because I feel like it's gross for the sake of shock value and disgusting, not because it actually adds anything. The only credit I will give is that Anita underlines "It doesn't matter if he's a sex worker, he could still be raped, and that is definitely part of what happened here".

A werewolf reporter pops up to check on Stephen and fill us in on werewolf politics. Richard, Werewolf King and Anita's ex, is out of town working on his Master's degree. While he's gone, since while Anita is Lupa (what they call Werewolf Queen I guess) she is decidedly removed from pack politics, another werewolf has stepped up to the plate to take care of the pups while he's gone. Her name is Sylvie and she is a naturally lovely and kind woman. Hah just kidding. She killed her way into the position to prove a point, and because the werepanthers under their old leader were a sack of shit, she has forbidden the wolves from helping. Cats and dogs, right?

Oh, Sylvie is also planning to like, double murder Richard to become the new Wolf King. We think. Anita still has Feelings for him, even if she made her choice to dump him because he eats people sometimes. For a vampire. Because drinking blood is fine I guess? She's aware that this logic is fucked up. So now she has to bully some werewolves to come watch their mangled friend who broke the rule by helping the pretty boy kitten, and probably have to fight Sylvie to do it. Being a normal human, that fight is going to end in Anita trying to murder her. Anita isn't thrilled with this, but eh, whatcha gonna do? Even Anita is getting concerned at her rapidly dwindling reserve of fucks. (Not the physical kind. She has many of those. So many.)

To keep things moving, Dolph, police dad, comes in to talk to Anita about what the ever-living fuck just happened, and there's this whole scene of them glaring at each other because she's fucking a vampire. He then blames himself for her having to hang out with monsters so much, and wonders if it's his fault, because she does it For Cases. The whole scene is kind of masturbatory, telling us how awesome and tough Anita is, but also that she's Damaged.
"You think like a cop, Anita. It's what makes you good."

"I think like a cop and like a monster. That's what makes me good."

He nodded, closed his notebook and slipped it into an inner pocket of his jacket. "Yeah, that's what makes you good."

That scene is followed up immediately by some werewolves coming to babysit the injured and a whole show of her being the pack dominant, the Lupa, and accidentally tapping into her ex's power to do it. Her vampire apparently bound them all together to keep them alive last book? (Look, none of us want me to wade through the whole series. Just trust me on that. So we're just going to have to accept some things are going to be question marks.) Anyway, it's the first time she felt his magic since they split, and she can tell even though he's very far away it pissed him the fuck off that she touched him that way. Which pisses her off and... you get the idea. Rage boners all around. The wolves then crawl around on the ground worshiping her a bit, trying to get belly rubs, and a nurse walks in before walking out very quickly.

Tuesdays, right?

This book is going to spend a lot of time with people being submissive to Anita, or her fighting to prove she shouldn't be submissive to them.

Tune in next time for Anita to go on a Hot Date with her vampire boyfriend, Jean-Claude Van Damme!

If anyone has read this series within the last decade and wants to point out anything important I've missed so far, please, chime in in the comments. Or just chat there anyways. It makes me feel good about myself.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ask Erika!

Back with no demand whatsoever, I, Erika the Blog Queen, am here to answer your questions. These are definitely reader-submitted questions and not things I've been asked by friends or Will and I made up for our own amusement.

Question: I was dating this one person for years, and we broke up, and now I'm dating someone new (yay!) but I haven't had sex with anyone else but my ex in over half a decade and the idea of having sex with other people is kind of intimidating. Any advice?
Blog Queen: Ok, here, try this. Think of sex like an epic fantasy adventure story. The actual end goal is often unimportant, the real story is the journey to get there, right? You're embarking on a journey full of unknowns and adventure and excitement! That's awesome! So pack your provisions, and get ready to get lost. I mean, you will get lost, it's what happens, and probably get trapped by giant spiders or something like that. That's ok, that's normal. Just remember your quest and the values guiding you on it. Courage, honesty, and loyalty and you'll make it through with minimal tragic deaths. If you don't reach the end goal you thought you were headed for, that's ok, too. Just enjoy the journey! Take in the stunning vistas and the lush smell of the forests and enjoy the feel of the waterfall on your skin and if you're worried about doing it wrong you ask that majestic ass waterfall how it wants to be fucked and go from there. You'll be fine! Also use protection, who knows where that waterfall has been.

Question: How do I tell my fiance that I am actually just a bunch of squirrels in a trench coat? Our wedding is only a few weeks away!
Blog Queen: Tell them after the wedding by dropping your coat to reveal your squirrel body. By then they're already legally tied to you, and there are no laws to annul a marriage just because your spouse is in fact a bunch of squirrels and you didn't notice that. They love you, they agreed to marry you! Have faith in that. You'll work it out.

Question: Which cupcake is objectively the best?
Blog Queen: Nothing is objective.

Question: My time travel machine is only good for one more trip; what ancient animal should I bring back to the present?
Blog Queen: Dawn horse. They're like, horses the size of cats. They would make such good pets.

Question: Fiiiiiiiiirrre!
Blog Queen: Absolutely.

Question: I have found my way into a socially regressive fantasy world; should I remain here to become a ruler and force them towards equality by dictatorial fiat or return home and allow them to progress naturally?
Blog Queen: Being a dictator isn't for everyone, but if you're already considering it, odds are it is for you. There is obviously no way that could go wrong, so I say go for it! Societies being forced to adopt new social standards never rebel and try to commit regicide!

Question: I'm concerned that we will never have a dog for prime minister; how can I have hope for our country's future?
Blog Queen: I share your concern. We can only keep doing our part by voting for the most dog like candidates, and hoping they're dog like in good ways. Or we can create some sort of mind control device and use it to get a dog elected. I'm definitely not working on the mind control device myself. No sir. Not me. So you better get on that.

Question: My boyfriend says he wants to "50 Shades" me. What should I do?
Blog Queen: Run. Very fast and very far. Change your name, get a job waiting tables in a small, sleepy town. Meet a nice single father who works as a teacher at the local school named Jeremy, and bond with his adorable but troubled 11 year old daughter, Vanessa. Help her through some of her troubles over her dead mother as you fall in love with Jeremy. Get engaged, only to have his wife, not-so-dead, return after having recovered from retrograde amnesia to reclaim her life. Have a heart-wrenching talk with Jeremy as he decides to try and make things work with his wife, and remain a part of Vanessa's life from a distance. Eventually Jeremy's troubled younger brother, Robert, will roll into town on his motorcycle, trying to forget the ghosts of his past. The two of you will have a passionate affair where you both discover new depths to yourself, and run away together. Somewhere warm.

Question: How do I tell my father, high priest of Nyarlathotep, that I want to go to a Lutheran college and also not murder anyone?
Blog Queen: Coming out to your parents about ideological differences can be hard. They might feel like they failed as parents because of it, or like there is now a rift between you. Sit them down and gently explain that while their religion and culture have been huge influences for you, they're not you. Try to still celebrate the high holy days and kill someone from time to time (if you're comfortable with it) so he feels like he hasn't lost you while you strike out on your own. He may not respond well at first, so have somewhere else you can stay for a little bit while he processes it!

Question: I have retrograde amnesia and it's really hard feeling like I have no history or past.
Blog Queen: Don't look at it as something you've lost, but something you've gained! You get a chance few people can get. You can invent your own past. You can be, and have done, what ever you want! Plus, if it's outlandish enough, people will be trying to prove you wrong, which will mean that they're helping you in your search to find your more mundane past!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Erika VS Jem and The Holograms: BATTLE OF THE BANDS (episode 5)

FINALLY THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS. It's what we've been waiting for! For four whole episodes. Or at least the title of the episode is "battle of the bands", so I'm assuming that's what's going to happen. After binge watching some weird horror movies Will decided it was time for a "refreshing episode of Jem and the Holograms". I know the movie is out, but I'm not sure I'm ready to see it. Not yet. It looks like it takes away a lot of what makes this show so bizarrely amazing. Like terribly low production values, plots that I could hammer out in an afternoon, and the zero shits given by the 80s. I don't know if you can try to recreate that level of outrageous. I think it just needs to happen. Outrageous is something where organic really makes a difference.

The last episode ended when the PI Eric hired smashed up Synergy and left their secret base in a panic because we all know PIs are known for their panicky smashing. However, it seems that they didn't actually hurt Synergy. She projected a hologram to let him think he did, and somehow he didn't notice the total lack of resistance as he hit things. It was the 80s; people didn't know how computers worked yet. The girls follow the PI, with projections of them being a bunch of little old ladies as they do so, but there is a minute where it seems these random old ladies are stalking the PI and I got super excited for a plot twist that is never coming.

Still, the second Eric is told anything about Synergy, which the PI is on his way to do, he's gonna steal her. So the girls load her onto a truck, because Synergy being a complicated piece of machinery comes apart in handy little modules with a few plugs and screws getting undone is all it takes. Will wonders if she was from Ikea, but I don't think he's ever tried to build Ikea furniture if he thinks it would be that easy.

Zipper, being competent, shows up to steal Synergy with Eric. "THIS IS THE LAST TIME THOSE GIRLS WILL MAKE A FOOL OF ME!" yells Eric into the empty garage. Oh, how wrong you are.

The girls get Synergy home and reassemble her, and then sing an ode to her having the power. The whole song is basically singing about how she is some sort of terrifying amazonian sorceress. WHICH IS REASONABLE.

The girls prepare for the BATTLE OF THE BANDS while Ashley goes to pay The Misfits back the money they gave her before. Pizzazz takes it, and Eric is all "OH HEY WHO IS THIS. ONE OF JERRICA'S WAIFS YOU SAY?" Yes, he calls her a waif. Plot twist, Eric is actually from the past and is trying to take over this music company because he needs to build a time machine to get home. "LEAVE THE CHILD WITH ME. I SHALL CALL JERRICA AND USE THIS HUMAN CHILD AS A HOSTAGE."  HOW IS ERIC RAYMOND NOT IN JAIL?! He literally says "Come here and tell no one or the kids pays the price" What is the price? Is he gonna kill her? Is he going to charge her for overdue library books? Is he going to make her wear solid, moderate colors?

Pictured: Ashley wearing her usual yellow and black button up with a bright pink undershirt, holding a fistful of money ready to bribe her way out of wearing moderate colors.

Even though the it's an obvious trap they go because WHAT ELSE CAN THEY DO THEIR ORPHAN IS IN DAAAANGER! Eric offloads Ashley on The Misfits, who are no longer friends with her, and THROW HER IN A TRUNK. Not a car trunk--like a treasure chest, except instead of treasure there is a traumatized orphan inside. I'm surprised Stormer lets them do this, but it seems likely she'll let her out when no one is looking. Or at least that's her plan, but The Misfits make her choose between them or freeing the child. She shockingly chooses The Misfits. In the name of tension The Misfits perform at the BATTLE OF THE BANDS first, and sing about "Taking it all", which involves going to a money dimension, turning into giant football players, and stealing Rio away from Jem. Shockingly without a burlap sack.

Eric tries to hold Jem at the now empty drive in and kidnap the whole band. There's a chase scene between Jem in the rockin' roadster and Zipper on a motorcycle, but because she's not willing to run him over she loses. The girls are locked up and kept under watch by Zipper and his flunkies. Rio hears Ashley, who's about to get tossed in the garbage compactor, and rescues her. She tells him where to find the band, which I guess is slightly better treasure. She doesn't seem that upset that she nearly just died.

With the help of Synergy the girls nearly escape with some slapstick shenanigans (including fake lions) but are foiled. However Rio turns up with the cops--which shows how serious things are. HE FINALLY CALLED THE COPS. They make it to the battle of the bands in the nick of time and win. The Misfits are peeved and swear vengeance; the girls get everything they want.

The episode finishes with Jerrica and Rio going up to Eric's office, with Jerrica talking about how this is more exciting, it's like coming home. Rio rips Eric's name plate off the door and opens it for Jerrica to see ERIC RAYMOND INSIDE WHAT!? HOW IS HE NOT IN JAIL? Which is what Jerrica asks. Lawyers, apparently. Overpaid lawyers. Or lawyers bribed into giving a shit? It's not totally clear.

He leaves with a MYSTERIOUS ENVELOPE and smacks Jerrica on his way out (which prompts Rio to deck him). Once he's gone Jerrica swears, looking out onto the city as Rio holds her, she's going to make something of Starlight Music. She'll make her Dad proud. I almost wonder if this was supposed to be a pilot run, because this would be a super tidy ending to the series. Or maybe things were faster paces in the 80s? It's hard to tell. I do wish she was embarking on this new chapter of running her Father's business with her sister, Kimber. I think the writers forgot they're supposed to be sisters, repeatedly. Which is a shame, because Kimber obviously has some resentment about always being shoved aside, and if she was ever acknowledged that would hold a lot more weight to compare how often she is ignored. As it stands she's ignored in regards to family matters so often I'm amazed she hasn't fucked off on her own.

Also over the course of this episode it has been established that Rio/Jem are a thing as far as everyone else is concerned, and Rio is no longer concerned about cheating on his girlfriend with his girlfriend. He also isn't worried about her finding out. Despite the fact that The Holograms are Jem's band mates, and see them together, as well as being very good friends of Jerrica. Does Rio just assume she knows, and she hasn't said anything, so... eh? Must mean she's cool with it? 80s cartoons gave me unrealistic ideas about what dating and monogamy would be like when I grew up. I never got the opportunity to trick someone I was dating into cheating on me with me while being a secret pop sensation. I never even got the opportunity to be a secret pop sensation! Just the normal kind.

How about you readers? Have you ever gotten to pull those sorts of dating shenanigans?