Friday, June 26, 2015

From Now on, Let's Just Call it Marriage

On this day in 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and effectively struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage. Two years ago, I was crying.

And I'm crying today. We are finally, finally living in a country that recognizes same-sex marriage as nothing special. It's just marriage. It's strange to think about it that way, I guess. We were fighting to be like everyone else, for the things we do to just be something. Not gay marriage, not a lesbian wedding. A marriage. A wedding.

I've been crying on and off since a friend posted it on my timeline this morning. And when I heard, and it finally sank in that this was done and that this was real, not just in my state, but no matter what part of the country I was in, I heard a voice in my head. A familiar voice. One I remember from my childhood.



Well, Mr. Kermit the Frog: we finally fucking found it. The Supreme Court of the United States has made it illegal for a state to ban same-sex marriage. I don't think we're done fighting, but for now, I want to put everything else aside.

Some day we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me...

Voss

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Military Fantasy

I am a big ol’ subgenre slut. That’s pretty much why I do this column or series or feature or whatever you want to call it. I enjoy looking into the different subgenres of speculative fiction, especially the weird ones and the obscure ones. Which is what we have this week.

Now, military science fiction is actually pretty popular with a lot of SF readers. I’ll get into it more next week. This week is to the sister that kind of sits in the corner waiting to be noticed – military fantasy. It doesn’t happen that often, I don’t know for sure why. I do, however, have a theory (When do I not?). I think the issue comes in with the fact that it is fantasy. It seems simple on the surface, but putting in that magical element can really throw a wrench into the works for a lot of authors when it comes to military strategy and inner-workings and such. It’s just such a foreign thing to work with. Depending on how powerful the magic is that’s available, you could be looking at two sides of a conflict bringing nukes onto the battlefield. I think it’s daunting to have the threat in the war amped up so high, and it subconsciously turns people away from it.

The fact that it’s uncommon is part of what makes me want to read it. Military fantasy has to fill in some very strange gaps, and it can be very well-done. Or it can fail pretty spectacularly.


There are some pretty big names playing in the military fantasy pool, too. Jim Butcher with the Codex Alera series is possibly one of the most popular, right along with Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives (The Way of Kings).

But to me, the most interesting is sort of a subgenre that falls underneath this subgenre, and it’s small enough that I won’t be doing a separate post on it: gunpowder fantasy. Magic and wizards and elves… and rifles and railroads and lots of warfare. It’s a genre that’s pretty much dominated entirely by two authors: Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns) and Brian McClellan (The Powder Mage), with a smattering of others in their for good measure (Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge books come to mind). I put gunpowder fantasy under here because, for the most part, it deals with war, and is set in worlds that, if not Earth in the past, is fairly recognizable as equating to the 17th-19th century, which was an incredibly war-torn era to be on our big blue marble.

When it comes to other media, military fantasy tends to be either totally nonexistent or, if you’re an optimist, just skirted around. If things had gone differently in Hellboy II, we would have had military fantasy. War is a part of a lot of fantasy books and movies (and movies based on books), but it’s not the focus, which keeps it from being the focus.

If you find yourself longing for military fantasy and can’t find it, just know that you’re not alone. The struggle is real, and there are a lot of people who wish they could find something more. Alas, publishing is a business, which makes it harder to make a sale of something with a fringe audience. So if any of you know any military fantasy that you feel should absolutely be on this list that I’ve forgotten, let me know in the comments. And as always, if you want more Subgenre Saturdays, make sure to subscribe.

Voss

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Splatterpunk

So, we’re back again. If you’ve been around Subgenre Saturdays with me, or just around this blog, you’ve probably figured out that I’ll take just about anything if you slap the word punk on the end. I know this about myself, I accept it, I’m good with it. So yeah, a lot of the subgenres here are going to be X-punk or punkpunk or whatever your preferred catch-all is.

Write along with this (I realize that was a typo. I did catch it, but it seemed too good not to leave in.) is something that isn’t quite the same as most of our other punkpunk genres. See, most of them fall under the big category of ‘retrofuturism,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘tech/science that just doesn’t belong.’ High speed zeppelins and complex difference engines and machine guns that run on kerosene.

The key there is that they somehow subvert their given time period. Steampunk balks at Victoriana, dieselpunk at the ‘greatest generation,’ and cyberpunk at the distant world of the 80s. All punk genres are subversive, I think. That’s the binding theme, and today’s entry is no exception to that rule.



Ladies and not-ladies, I give you splatterpunk. Right around the dawn of cyberpunk, there was something else going on in the horror community. If you read horror, you’ll probably notice that it’s mostly about the psychological side of things and the suspense and tension. Which is amazing. I don’t do well with horror because of those things. However, there were several authors who, all independent of one another, decided that horror was too clean and distant. So they decided to muck it up and bring in intense gore and violence (hence the splatter) and, yes, a little bit of weird sexuality, too. It was very in line with the general ‘edgy’ vibe a lot of people were going for in the 80s, but splatterpunk was cranked all the way past eleven. While it’s something of a flash in the pan, as far as duration is concerned, it does still exist out there and, more importantly, it shook up the world of horror and brought back the gore.

Probably the most famous splatterpunk author (and director, screenwriter, artist, etc) is Clive Barker. Yeah, that Clive Barker. Candyman and Hellraiser and Books of Blood Clive Barker. They were dark and bloody in a way that wasn’t really seen at the time. This was the era of books like Misery and
Red Dragon. Clive Barker wasn’t the first splatterpunk, necessarily, but he more or less codified a lot of the things about this subgenre. He was to 80s horror what Lovecraft was to 20s horror. Both of them still have ripples flowing out into the world, influencing what people create to this very day.

Other well-known splatterpunk authors: Poppy Z. Brite, Jack Ketchum, Matt Shaw.

But it’s not just books (is anything ever just books?). If you want splatterpunk, look no further than the Saw franchise, or any of the horror movies directed by Rob Zombie. Hell, for that matter, just go watch some Clive Barker movies and really cut out the middle man. Hostel would fall into splatterpunk as well, and there’s a large movement in Japanese filmmaking involving splatterpunk as well. I can’t come close to naming them all, but Tokyo Gore Police comes to mind.

A lot of people will notice a similarity between splatterpunk and bizarro fiction… and they’d be right. I describe bizarro as ‘magical realism meats splatterpunk’ (Another good typo I just had to leave in.), and I think that about captures it. So if you’re not quite ready for the intense gore and sex and violence in splatterpunk, I would point you at any number of bizarro books. If you are ready? Have at it.