The Paladin Caper: The Gang Saves the World

paladin caper

And so Rogues of the Republic comes to its climax and conclusion, and so I come to the end of what turned into a trilogy of review posts. It’s been something of a rollercoaster ride, and, despite these not being my most view-grabbing posts, I’m glad I decided to write up my thoughts on each instalment separately. For one thing, hey, even if these aren’t my most view-grabbing posts, I want to put the word out about a story that I enjoy, and if coming across these gets at least one person to say “hey, that sounds like fun” and discover a new book they enjoy, I have done my work as a blogger and can be delighted with that. For another, I’ve had quite a different reaction to each individual entry in this trilogy, which has been interesting to chart. And the reaction to the third one… well, it’s not as positive as the previous two, but in a way that highlights why the previous two were so successful. Without further ado, let’s get into exactly why. Continue reading


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The Butterfly Effect: Player Agency and Trope Subversion in Life is Strange and Until Dawn

Well, I went and did it–after years of unshakable love-hate fascination with Life is Strange and Until Dawn, I’ve taken the leap into the fire and brought discussion of them into my work life. This video is a recorded version of the conference paper I presented last week in Perth, preserved for the ages and intended to be accessible to those who couldn’t be there to see it in person (which includes folks outside the academic field). I explore how branching, interactive stories give us the opportunity to mess around with tropes and genre conventions, and the weird Schrodinger’s Cat conundrum that these games can both play into historically harmful cliches and subvert them, and neither result is more “canon” than the other. Check it out if you’re interested!

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Dabbing at the Edge of the World: November ’18 Roundup


When this post goes live, I will be on the other side of the country. And jeez, my country is a big country. You can literally get from my state to New Zealand, twice, in the time it takes to travel from one coast to another. But hey, that leaves plenty of time for reading! Or, as it turns out, watching the entirety of Noelle Stevenson’s She-Ra (and injecting magical girl warrior energy directly into the veins to quell flying anxieties. It works surprisingly well!).

Since I’ve been travelling and busily conference-going, there perhaps aren’t as many links as there usually are in the roundup this month. But, as the year winds down, I’m sure we can expect plenty of Good Stuff celebrating the media that has shaped 2018 (I’m particularly excited for the 12 Days of Anime posts that… people who aren’t me diligently put out every year). As for this little corner of the internet, if you like my mythology-meets-pop culture posts, I have an exciting new series (that’s right!) coming your way soon.

On the blog this month:

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Music, Mythology, and Murder Mystery (not one, not two, but three book reviews as I try out a new format showcasing the versatility of the YA genre and show off how much I’m reading)

“It’s Not Over ’til it’s Over”: The Post-Apocalyptic Optimism of Girls Last Tour (a discussion of a surprisingly heartfelt and gentle story set after the end of the world that rolled out of nowhere to be one of my favourite anime I’ve watched this year)

Cool web content:

In which Polygon publishes the results of a Very Important Investigation about the books you can find in Skyrim. It ends up being not only quite funny but also a lesson in effective worldbuilding!

Impossibilities in Translating Queerness: Suki or Not Suki? – the team that brought us the Queerness Quadrants theory I linked to last time continues their dive into the ins and outs of queer analysis of anime, this time launching into linguistics and how sometimes love can literally get lost in translation.

ConCrit in Comments Only: What Writing Fanfiction Taught Me as an Editor – a professional editor who embraces her fanficcy past talks about why it shouldn’t be shrugged off as work with no merit, as it can teach writers (and readers, and editors) valuable skills about worldbuilding, consistency, and what draws an audience to a story.

How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds – a neat piece from Atlas Obscura about the map-making and worldbuilding methods of various authors.

The Flower Language of Bloom Into You (Part One) (Part Two) – Emily Rand brings her knowledge of flower symbolism to an in-depth analysis of the visual symbolism in Bloom Into You.

Why the “Closeted Homophobe” Trope Needs to Die – you know how if someone is really mean to gay people it definitely just means they’re secretly gay themselves and are angry about it so they’re turning their self-loathing into external bullying? You know how that’s actually a really dumb and harmful stereotype? Vrai goes through the history of the trope in fiction, its real-world implications, and exactly why it’s so nasty in this essay.

That wraps us up for November. Now, soon I have another plane to catch, so I suppose I will get to more reading and see you on the other side (…of the country). Take care!


Filed under Monthly Roundups

“It’s Not Over ‘til it’s Over”: The Post-Apocalyptic Optimism of Girls’ Last Tour

2018-08-19 (19)

However ill-founded, however misguided, hope is the basic stratagem of mortality. We need it, and an art that fails to offer it fails us.

Ursula K. Le Guin, in Dancing at the Edge of the World

Girls’ Last Tour is probably the most melancholy slice-of-life series I’ve ever watched—either that, or it’s the most charming and sweet post-apocalyptic sci-fi I’ve ever watched. Generally speaking, setting a story after the end of the world gives you violent thrillers in the vein of Mad Max, The Hunger Games, or Fallout, action adventures that highlight the desolation of the setting and the natural wild awfulness of humans. Not so for this little show, which tells the story of a handful of survivors navigating a wartorn wasteland and, instead of becoming torn up themselves, doing what they can to hold themselves and each other together, making the most of the worst situation. While it’s a tale with a lot of heartache built in, Girls’ Last Tour also has an inescapable undercurrent of optimism and resilience—and that’s something we could all do with a little bit of these days.   Continue reading

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Music, Mythology, and Murder Mystery

YA mini reviews 1

YA is one of the most versatile and interesting fields of publishing right now, full of a glittering spectrum of stories of all genres and protagonists from all walks of life and identities. And you know me, I love a good coming-of-age story, whatever shape it may take… and what better way to celebrate those many shapes than to review three wildly different, but all brilliant, YA novels together? Let’s dive in! This time round we have psychological thrillers, we have mythology retellings*, we have ruminations on fame and friendship and fandom.  Continue reading


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Here Be Dragons: October ’18 Roundup

Dragon Pilot (16)

It’s Halloween season! And there’s nothing spookier than deadlines. I don’t have much to say this time, but I did make my 400th WordPress post this month, and I feel like that’s worth noting. That is a fair few posts!! I’m proud to still be creating content all these years after starting this little blog, and proud to see how much I’ve grown as a writer in that time.

Without further ado, here are the things I wrote most recently (and some other great articles from around the web too):

On the blog:

The Prophecy Con: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Magic Crystals (in which I continue my dive into the wonderful Rogues of the Republic series and discover it gets better the further you go along!)

Warrior Women in the Workplace: Mythic Motifs in Dragon Pilot (in which I examine what Hisone and Masotan has in common with Classical mythology, and how the show also breaks away from these tropes it sets up)

On The Asexual:

Tash Hearts Tolstoy is the Ace Coming-of-Age Story We Need and Deserve (in which I have a lot of feelings about this YA novel, and Michael Paramo and the Asexual Journal squad are kind enough to give me a platform to express them. The author of the novel retweeted this and I think I ascended from my body a tiny bit)

And, as a bonus, here is this thread I wrote about the striking premiere of Bloom Into You. Maybe someday this will become a bigger post, but for now, here are some shortform thoughts:

Good good internet content:

Spider-Man: How a Game About Superheroes Got Super Real — having heard endless reports about how the new Spidey game is fantastic, it was nice to get this more personal perspective on what makes it so good: not just the web-slinging adventure, but the resonant Millennial narrative and down-to-earth character development of Peter Parker himself.

Beyond “Canon Gay”: Introducing Queerness Quadrants — Elizabeth Simins lays out a potential way of talking about queer rep in fiction (here through the frame of anime) that goes beyond whether or not something is “canon gay” and gets into the nuances of the way these things can be written. It’s a lit studies methodology, but in accessible internet language! My God! It’s a miracle!!

What a Naked Batman Exposes About the Comic Book Industry — so uh… yeah, so DC showed us Batman’s dick recently, and while that’s not something I’ve necessarily ever wanted to think about, its appearance and subsequent censorship has sparked discussion about why female nudity is considered acceptable and even expected in “mature” comics, but male nudity is not. Double standards, baby. This article goes into very neatly.

Venom, Subtext, and the Race for Onscreen LGBTQ RepresentationVenom starring Tom Hardy is accidentally(?) one of the queerest movies of the year, and the massive positive fandom reaction to it indicates that, as always, there is a hungry audience for this sort of thing (also, as a personal note, Venom is a ridiculously fun movie… whether it was meant to be or not).

Give Me Heroism or Give Me Death — as part of Uncanny’s “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction” issue, this article examines how action fiction glorifies enduring and struggling through pain, and how this alienates people with actual chronic pain issues.

And of course it was time for a new anime season, which means a pile of first impression posts! Check out AniFem’s guide to what’s good this season (as well as what was good last time too) and the premiere reviews on Otaku Lounge and Rabujoi!

Podcast time!


I’ve been having a lot of fun on Book Riot. Their YA podcast is a lovely conversational series about book recommendations and things going on in the publishing world. If you want something a bit more focussed, scripted, and educational, though, I would send you in the direction of Annotated. It’s full of strange stories and fun facts about various facets of publishing and literary history–this episode about how to hack the New York Times bestseller list (it’s been done!) was particularly fascinating, and nicely presented.

Spirits also had a very fun episode on the fae this month which is worth checking out. It’s their 100th!

And that wraps us up for this month, I think. Take care out there everyone!


Filed under Monthly Roundups

Tash Hearts Tolstoy Is the Ace Coming-of-Age Story We Need and Deserve

Tash Hearts Tolstoy cover Simon + Schuster

Let me tell you a story about art, asexuality, and Anna Karenina.

Kathryn Ormsbee’s 2017 young adult novel Tash Hearts Tolstoy broke my heart and put it back together in the way only a good book can. It has everything you could want from a coming-of-age story: the last summer before graduation, familial conflict, heart-tugging romance, road trips, college anxieties, profound realisations set to pop-rock music, the power of friendship … and the personal story of one ace teenager navigating life and love. That last part, you don’t normally see.

Read the full post on The Asexual!


Filed under Alex Reads