KRAD COVID readings #54c: “Right On, Sister!” Part 3

Concluding my reading of my novelette in Limbus Inc. Book 3, stories featuring a mysterious and powerful corporation that hires people out of work, down on their luck, and with unappreciated skills. Wanda Jackson’s latest job for Limbus takes her back to the worst day of her life, only to find out that the day was even worse than she thinks…..

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Darkling”

For the first time in this rewatch — hell, for the first time ever — I write a review of something Robert Picardo is in and I do not say nice things about his performance. I was stunned, too. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch is amazed at how awful Picardo is as the Evil EMH in “Darkling.”

An excerpt:

This is the only time I’ve seen a performance by Picardo that I would classify as awful. He’s been in so many things, from Stargate (SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe) to Hail Caesar! to Supernatural to The Flash to Justice League Unlimited to China Beach to The Wonder Years and on and on and on, and he’s always been superlative.

And yet, he’s just dreadful as Evil EMH, overenunciating everything, and deepening his voice in a manner that sounds like he’s parodying Christian Bale’s Batman (yes, I know that was a decade later, work with me, here). Truly, what his performance reminds me most of is Alexander Siddig’s horrendous turn as Bashir possessed by Vantika in DS9’s “The Passenger,” which is also the single worst performance of Siddig’s career.

now available for preorder: Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours Omnibus with me, Jim Butcher, & Christopher L. Bennett!

In the mid-2000s, Simon & Schuster acquired the rights to do novels based on Marvel superheroes. The first three Spider-Man books they did were by me (Down These Mean Streets), New York Times best-selling author and creator of the hugely popular Harry Dresden books Jim Butcher (The Darkest Hours), and my fellow Star Trek novelist Christopher L. Bennett (Drowned in Thunder). All three novels took place at the same time as J. Michael Straczynski’s contemporary run on Amazing Spider-Man, with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson married, Peter teaching high school science at his alma mater, Midtown High, and Mary Jane embarking on a theatre career.

As part of its “Marvel Classic Novels” line, Titan Books will be putting out an omnibus that will collect all three novels in a single volume, and it’s available for preorder! Click on this link for all the preorder possibilities for Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours Omnibus, coming in May 2021!

Patreon sample: works in progress

I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.

If you support me at $7 per month, you get monthly movie reviews (sample here), regular cat pictures (samples here), between one and six TV reviews a month (sample here), and you also get weekly excerpts from my works in progress.

Here’s a few samples of the excerpts I’ve posted:

from “Unguarded” in the upcoming Horns and Halos anthology:

“How long’s this been going on?” Yolanda asked.

“Couple days.”

Yolanda sighed. “Tell you what, Kamilah, give it another couple days, just to be sure.”

“But—” Kamilah started, but Yolanda cut her off.

“Kamilah. We don’t know for sure that this is a curse. You find any hex bags or symbols in his locker or his bags?”

“Not—not yet.”

Torn between pride and concern over Kamilah’s use of the word “yet” there, Yolanda then asked, “And do we have a client?”

Kamilah looked down at her food. “No.”

“Right. This is a job, remember? Unless someone’s payin’ for a Courser, ain’t nothin’ we can do. All right?”

from “The Gorvangin Rampages,” a crowdfunded Dragon Precinct story:

“What brings you to my favorite eatery?”

“The death of Alessandro,” ban Wyvald said. 

“That’s the blacksmith, right? Don’t know him—what’s he got to do with me? My businesses don’t really have much use for blacksmithing.”

Tresyllione laughed. “Ha! You owe me a copper, Torin.”

Frowning, Jerri asked, “Excuse me?”

Reaching into a pouch on his belt, ban Wyvald pulled out a copper piece and handed it to his partner. “Danthres was convinced that you would deny knowing Alessandro. I gave you more credit for intelligence than that. After all, we wouldn’t have come to see you if we didn’t already know that Alessandro owed you a considerable amount of money.”

“And given that your ‘businesses’,” Tresyllione said, “include moneylending, that is a good reason to be involved with a blacksmith, or anyone else.”

“Especially one who is as fond of playing dice as Alessandro,” ban Wyvald added. “We searched his residence, you see, and we found a large number of playing dice, and also several receipts for the loans he took out from you.”

Jerri winced. “He kept receipts?”

from To Hell and Regroup, my collaboration with David Sherman:

“I think I’ve got me a plan of attack.”

“Good. Hurry it up over to the 121st. Courtney’s waiting for it.”

“Okay, but—”

Kawamura hesitated, and so Jiminez prompted him. “But what, Major?”

“It’s not a very good plan of attack.”

“Mind telling me what’s wrong with it, Marine?” Jiminez asked with a bit of menace.

“It needs about a hundred more Marines, Sir.” Kawamura was not intimidated by the colonel’s tone.

And Jiminez was grateful for that. He preferred his subordinates to be honest. “Well, unless you have a squadron in your hip pocket, you’re stuck with what we’ve got. We’ve been outnumbered before, and you know what? The Corps is still here.”

“Yes, Sir.” Kawamura did not say what he was thinking, which was that the Corps would still be “here” even if every Marine on Troy died—they’d just all be back on Earth and the other colonies. Wouldn’t do the dead ones much good.

But he knew better than to say that out loud.

from “Materfamilias” in the anthology Bad Ass Moms:

“I’m’a shower, we’ll eat, then Analia and I’ll head up to Inwood to check the place out. Kamilah, you hit the books, hit the net, see what can get people wet without nobody rememberin’ how or why.”

“I’m on it, mamí,” Kamilah said with a thumbs-up.

Just as she was about to enter the bedroom, she shot Kamilah a look. “Your homework’s done, right?”

That got Yolanda the look: Kamilah peered over her plastic-framed glasses at her. “Mamí, come on.”

Yolanda smiled. It was rare that Kamilah didn’t have all her homework done long before dinner. 

Continuing into the master bedroom, she saw that Magellan was curled up in the basket in the corner, smoke belching out from his nostrils as he slept. 

The green dragon had followed Yolanda home after a job once, and Kamilah and Analia had both insisted they keep him. A friendly, affectionate beast, Yolanda had named him Magellan after the green dragon in Eureeka’s Castle, one of Yolanda’s favorite kids’ shows from when she was a little girl.

Reaching into her purse, she grabbed the white paper bag from the bodega, pulled out the apple, and tossed it into the basket.

Magellan opened one eye, let out a puff of smoke, said, “Pfui,” and then fell back asleep, his tail wrapping around the apple.

“Saving it for later’s okay, too,” Yolanda said with a chuckle. 

If you liked these excerpts, and want to read more, please consider supporting my Patreon at the $7/month tier!

eSpec Books Author Spotlight on me!

The latest eSpec Books Author Spotlight is up, and it’s all about me! Specifically talking about “Unguarded,” my story in the upcoming Horns and Halos anthology, which is currently being crowdfunded.

Here’s an excerpt:

eSB: Angels and Devils are a common theme in fiction. How did you make yours stand out? How much of a challenge was it?

KRAD: Well, mainly I wanted to do something different from the way angels have been done in fiction, whether the old trope of angels as ethereal paragons or the more recent trend (seen in places like the Sandman comics and on the TV show Supernatural) of portraying them as arrogant snots. I also wanted to do something other than Christian angels.

I found myself really compelled by the notion of hafazhah: in Islamic tradition, everyone has four angels that protect them—one stands in front, one stands behind, and the other two take over after half the day is over. I really love the idea of angels that work in shifts…

KRAD COVID readings #54b: “Right On, Sister!” Part 2

Continuing my reading of my novelette in Limbus Inc. Book 3, stories featuring a mysterious and powerful corporation that hires people out of work, down on their luck, and with unappreciated skills. Wanda Jackson takes the job with Limbus and finds out that it’s much crazier than she realized, as she finds herself traveling through time…..

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

Patreon sample: TV reviews

I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.

If you pledge at $5 a month, you get monthly movie reviews (sample here), regular cat pictures (samples here), and anywhere between one and six TV reviews a month. I cover current shows and old shows and all kinds of shows. Stuff that’s streaming, stuff on DVD, stuff currently airing, it’s all fair game.

Here’s a sample, a review of the final season of Jessica Jones on Netflix from July 2019:

TV review: Jessica Jones season three

In 2015, Netflix launched Daredevil, which kicked off a mini-Marvel Cinematic Universe on the streaming service, focusing on Marvel’s more ground-level heroes: DD, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the Punisher. 

Initially, the shows followed the pattern of the early MCU from 2008-2012: start with a B-lister, introduce the other characters bit by bit, and eventually team them up. You even had the equivalent of Phil Coulson in Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, who appeared in the first seasons of each show except Punisher

However, despite strong buzz, excellent performances, and really impressive villains, the shows fizzled after neither Iron Fist nor The Defenders worked very well, and then Disney announced their own streaming service, and Netflix decided to get out of the Marvel business, cancelling all the series despite their popularity.

This is especially frustrating for Jessica Jones, which is arguably the strongest overall series of the bunch (challenged only by Luke Cage). The first season is one of the best stories ever done in the entire MCU, with David Tennant’s Kilgrave a devastatingly effective villain. The entire season is a brilliant colloquy on rape culture, on gaslighting, on sexual assault. The second season focused more on recovery, on addiction, on family.

The third season—which Netflix dropped last month with almost no fanfare, the final season of a Marvel Netflix show whimpering into our queues—focuses on heroism, and on isolation. When the season begins, Jessica is isolated from Trish (who killed her mother) and Malcolm (who is now working for Hogarth). As we saw at the end of season two, Trish has superpowers now also, and she desperately wants to be the hero Jessica has avoided becoming.

The line between heroism and villainy is all over this season, as Jessica doesn’t particularly want to give a shit but finds she can’t help herself from helping people—whether they deserve it or want it or not. 

Trish wants to be a hero, wants to be Jessica’s partner, wants to be part of her world, but has no idea how to go about it. Her early attempts are hilarious, as the police scanner mostly tells her about piddly shit, and the one major crime she thinks she can help with is over and done with by the time she arrives. And then when she decides to target specific bad people, she can’t stop herself. The line between assault and murder is also a thin one, especially when you have powers, and Trish crosses that line over and over again, to the point where she very obviously likes it.

Malcolm is a very good investigator, and does supremely well as Hogarth’s fixer. But that’s not the job he signed up for. He also wants to be like Jessica, but where Trish wants to be a superhero, Malcolm wants to be a PI. But in order to make his bones, he has to do horrible things for an unethical creep.

Hogarth is isolated, too, as she is going to great lengths to keep her ALS diagnosis a secret. She reunites with an old love from 25 years earlier (played radiantly by Sarita Choudhoury) and winds up utterly destroying her life (though it’s as much by exposing her husband’s preexisting mendacity as anything). Her need to control every situation bites her on the ass, though, as she winds up alone again at season’s end.

This season also introduces two new characters, Erik Gelden and Gregory Salinger, played, respectively, by Benjamin Walker and Jeremy Bobb. Theses are the MCU versions of Mind-Wave and Foolkiller, the former able to detect how much evil people have in them (tellingly, Jessica has none), the latter a serial killer who objects to people who “cheat”—to wit, people with powers.

Erik is a great character. Walker plays him with a relaxed charm—even when he’s in pain, he has a snarky deadpan that works very nicely, and plays well off of Krysten Ritter’s more obnoxious snark as Jessica. And his powers make for an interesting look at people’s darkness—not just that Jessica has none (which is both a surprise and completely not a surprise) but that both Trish and Malcolm obtain more as the series goes on.

Salinger, sadly, is not a great character. The Netflix MCU has had phenomenal villains—besides Tennant’s Kilgrave and Janet McTeer’s Alisa in this show, there’s Vincent d’Onofrio’s superlative Kingpin, Alfre Woodard’s Mariah Dillard, Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth, Paul Schulze’s Agent Orange, Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra, Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao, Mustafa Shakir’s Bushmaster—but Bobb’s take on Foolkiller is not only not one of them, he unseats David Wenham’s dreadful Harold Meacham, Sacha Dhawan’s one-note Davos, and Erik LaRay Harvey’s mediocre Diamondback as the worst villain in this corner of the MCU. Salinger is awful, sucking the air out of the room every time he’s on screen. For someone who’s supposed to be brilliant (the show reminds us of all the degrees he has a lot), and who somehow managed to hide more than half a dozen killings, he sure is an idiot, making dozens of on-screen mistakes (running away after stabbing Jessica, letting one victim go after being kissed by him and lucking into him being an idiot, and so on).

It’s too bad because the notion of a normal person who confounds Jessica and the gang while hitting all the MRE/incel talking points is a good idea on the face of it. Salinger’s actual dialogue is perfectly written, a rhapsody in Early High Manbaby. I particularly love when his wrestling students all cheer loudly when Jessica kicks his ass in a wrestling match, the first time he realizes that his students hate his living guts. But Bobb plays him so blandly and the rest of the writing doesn’t serve him well.

But the main appeal of this season is Jessica and Trish’s journey back toward each other after the Sunderland at the end of season two and then their drifting apart again as Trish becomes more and more unhinged. What’s especially nice is that isn’t the stereotypical “turning evil” where suddenly Trish goes all dark side on everyone—it’s a subtle progression, and she can’t see it herself, still couching everything in being a hero and trying to save people. It isn’t until she beats up one guy who is tormenting Hogarth’s would-be lover in front of the guy’s daughter that she realizes what she’s turning into—and even then, it isn’t until Detective Costa (a welcome return from the always-great John Ventimiglia) reads her the (many) charges against her that she discovers that she’s the bad guy now.

The biggest problem with this season is the same one that plagued the second one (as well as the final season of Daredevil and both seasons of Punisher), to wit, a refusal to acknowledge the rest of the MCU. Luke Cage does make a very welcome cameo in the final episode (one that hints at his now-never-to-be-seen third season), but aside from that, there’s no mention of Daredevil or the Punisher (both costumed vigilantes who have killed or been accused of committing murder, something that should’ve come up when people were discussing Trish), no mention of the other heroes either in town or in the world. No mention of Jessica teaming up with DD, Fist, Cage, and Colleen Wing in Defenders when Trish is trying to team up with her. No mention by Costa of the way Cage worked with Misty Knight and other Harlem cops in his series. It’s frustrating, and makes all the talk of vigilantism feel incomplete.

Still, this is a strong finale for the Netflix corner of the MCU, which has overall done a good job of showing the long-term consequences of super powers on real people. The movies only have a couple hours to tell their stories, and that doesn’t leave much room for consequences. (It’s telling that the real effects of the Sokovia Accords on the world were seen, not in any movie, but on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) It will be seriously missed.

Jessica Jones (and all the other related Marvel shows) are available on Netflix.

If you liked this review, and want to read more, please consider supporting my Patreon at the $5/month tier!

irons in the fire update

Haven’t done one of these in a while, sorry…………….

To Hell and Regroup (with David Sherman). My collaboration with David will be out from eSpec Books any day now, after a most successful crowdfund.

Collaborations with Munish K. Batra, MD. In January, my first collaboration with Dr. Batra will be out from WordFire Press: Animal, which will be out in print and audio both in the new year. Currently, I’m working on revisions of our second collaboration, Pigman, and then after that we’ve got an agreement to do more stuff together.

Tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet. I still have to write the second of the two stories I crowdfunded on Indie GoGo last year (and which you can still support!), “Ragnarok and a Hard Place.” Once that’s done, I should have enough uncollected Cassie stories to make up a second collection, which will also be called Ragnarok and a Hard Place.

Star Trek Adventures. I’ve been given the go-ahead to write a campaign for STA which focuses on the Klingons, taking advantage of the new Klingon Empire Core Rulebook. That’s due 15 October, and I’ll be diving into that once Pigman is revised and “Ragnarok…” is done.

The Bram Gold Adventures. My first spinoff from Bram’s world recently came out in Bad Ass Moms, featuring Yolanda Rodriguez, and a second Yolanda story will be in the Horns and Halos anthology, which is currently being crowdfunded. After I’m done with the STA campaign, I’ll be diving into Feat of Clay, which is officially the title of Book 2 of the Bram Gold Adventures, picking up from A Furnace Sealed. I’ve also been invited to a nifty project that will require me to write a novella, and that will probably be in the same setting, but not involve either Bram or Yolanda.

Precinct series. I’ve written “The Gorvangin Rampages,” which is part of the same crowdfund as “Ragnarok and a Hard Place,” and it’s available to supporters. The next thing on the list after Feat of Clay is done is Phoenix Precinct.

Super City Cops. I’m still under contract to write four Super City Cops novellas for Falstaff Books, and I hope to get to them after Phoenix Precinct is done.

Tie-in work. The STA stuff aside, I’ve got nothing going on in the tie-in world right now. My game tie-in work seems to be dead, a victim of COVID-19 and expiring contracts. My Alien novel came out right after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, and that and the pandemic have combined to slow down development of future projects in the universe. (Though the editor at Marvel who’s now handling Alien and Predator comics is aware of my interest in writing for those properties, though I have no idea if that will translate to actual work.) And I did just send off a proposal for a tie-in novel to the editor in charge, and that may become a thing…..

Other original work. I keep hoping that some day I’ll have a few clear months to write the original mystery novel that my agent loves. We shall see. And there are other ideas floating around that I hope to get to some day.

Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66. Having done an essay for the season one guide, ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE!, I have also written an essay for the season two guide being put together by Jim Beard, BIFF! BAM! EEE-YOW! For the second book in a row, I’m covering a Penguin story, in this case “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin.”

Patreon and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my two primary sources of nonfiction writing: I’m still committed to doing a vignette a month on Patreon (which you should really consider supporting), as well as TV and movie reviews, and I’ve got two regular gigs at Tor — the Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch twice a week and reviews of new Trek shows on CBS All Access whenever a new episode is released — plus I’m doing other stuff for Tor here and there.

Nifty anthology. Not quite ready to announce this yet, but Wrenn and I are putting together a nifty anthology, which is the vanguard of a new thing we’re going to be doing. Watch this space……

Patreon sample: cat pictures

I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.

If you pledge $2 per month, you get monthly movie reviews (sample here) and regular cat pictures. I average 2-3 cat pictures a week, as Kaylee and Louie are incredibly photogenic.

Behold a couple of examples:

Ain’t they adorable? Please consider supporting at the $2 tier (or higher) and get this cuteness in your in-box regularly!