why exactly does everyone hate this movie

I never saw Quantum of Solace. I was abroad when it came out and never got the chance. Now that I’ve seen it, however, I’m curious how it ended up being the much-loathed film it is today. Sure, it’s a bit busy, but:

1.) The female lead gets to wear pants. And a tank top.

2.) Said female lead also gets to be competent, and have goals. She even gets to meet them! Guy kills her dad and rapes her mom and sister in front of her. She takes revenge, and gets to live long enough afterward to question how much good she actually did.

3.) Have I mentioned she doesn’t sleep with Bond? She’s got shit to do. Other than him. They make out, sure, but by that point they’ve shared enough that it makes sense. And then, instead if boning him in the Bolivian graveyard, she goes back to her life. As one does.

4.) As in Spectre, we see Bond in an unexpected moment of altruism. When the room goes up in flames and our heroine curls into a ball in the corner in shock, Bond folds her into an embrace–for, as he and we know, the flames, too, are part of her childhood nightmare. It is a kindness that he offers, before figuring out how to escape at the last minute. He offers shelter out of kindness.

5.) However obtusely, QoS does attempt to question the narrative of queen and country–or perhaps more relevantly to US audiences, the narrative espoused by Britain’s allies. “Yeah you’re right, we should just deal with nice people,” sneers the American CIA operative. “If we didn’t deal with villains we’d have no allies left,” we hear minutes later. And, “The CIA doesn’t care about another dictator as long as they get their end.” Heavy-handed, yes, but at least not blind to the injustices of the times. Our times. As with the overt ecological overtones of the villains’ threat–which should ring bells of Captain Planetesque familiarity for any child of the 90s–the message is overstated, but it came  from a good place.

I’m sure there are those who hate the movie precisely for points #1-3, but they can’t account for everyone. And while those who say it can’t compare to Skyfall are correct, they don’t comprise the group of people who hated QoS long before its successor. A group which was pretty large.

And yet, of all the things QoS tries to do that bear merit even for the attempt, perhaps the most important is the effort to distinguish optimism from nationalism. “I don’t think you’re half so cynical as you act,” quips Bond to Felix, the American agent tasked with killing him–even as Felix gives him the information he needs to survive the encounter and escape to safety. Like a lot else in QoS, this doesn’t come off flawlessly, but even a cursory effort toward revealing the tangled web–rather than the direct route people imagine–between faith in one’s country and the integrity to question that faith; between confidence that good can be found in people and vain self-assurance that one’s nation is “good” by default–is surely worth something.

I realize of course that the prime target demographic for Bond movies probably aren’t terribly concerned with the moral integrity of nations, or with female leads who keep their clothes on. But I don’t want to sell the critics of QoS that short either. Because we all trooped out to see the thing, didn’t we? This despite the fact that this Bond’s awesome introduction also included a (mostly) competent female lead and a Bond capable of non-smarmy emotion. So what was the nail in Quantum’s coffin? Was it just the imbalance of fight scenes vs. content? Was it that we spent time somewhere other than Morocco or Diverse and Sundry European Snowscapes? Why did people detest it so much?


the places you retreat to

About a year ago, without even having properly finished Dragon Age: Inquisition yet, I started writing Feathers. Please don’t confuse this for vanity–I’m old enough to have seen big movers and shakers (zing!) in slash fandom, and I am not one of them. But that fic, and the writing of it, were precisely what I needed, when I needed it. I treasured every comment, the erudite and the giddy, the maudlin and the occasionally biting. I never had any doubt of how I wanted to feel at the end of it, because of how I felt every moment I wasn’t writing it, those first weeks.

Again, as is probably known all too well on this blog, my mother has early-onset dementia. A number of factors led to this but it is much messier than Hollywood would like you to think. We aren’t all granted crystal-clear moments of lucidity where we make decisions for ourselves. Even those of us who told our daughters in their teenage years, point-blank, “Let me die before I get as bad as you see your grandmother right now”–even they will not be prepared. My mother wasn’t. Isn’t. My father isn’t, either, and by no fault of his own: you can’t be prepared for something like this. Long before she became this bad, he would fantasize aloud about how he wanted to die: while mowing the lawn in his swollen, overtaxed body in the too-hot summer sun, “bam, just like that.” Thus would he be free of the misery of facing a wife who doesn’t remember him at the best of times, and who confuses him for some conniving devil he isn’t at the worst of times.

That is what I retreated into fanfiction to escape. Mom’s confusion, Dad’s fury at her, her fury at him, the kind but ultimately helpless pity of my husband. My family was more supportive and true to itself than most, and it is shattered. I wrote Feathers in the next room as Mom watched the same episode of Castle for the fifth time that day, which Dad put on just to calm her down. I wrote it between trying to make meals she would eat instead of shove away from her haggard frame; I wrote it in between trying to coax Mom into telling us where she hid her ID and being bragged to about the new gun that my wretched sister-in-law had enthralled Dad with (would he kill himself with it, tired of waiting for the longed-for heart attack to do its work?) I wrote it because I couldn’t escape into a game–I’d left DA:I and anything to play it with at home–but I couldn’t spend every hour of every day swirling around the toilet bowl of what had been my family’s life together, either. I wanted Dorian and Cullen to suffer, but I had no intention of leaving them there. I was going to lift them out of their shit the way I couldn’t lift my family out of ours.

Now it is the holidays again, and we are slated to pay a visit again*, and I am frightened. Because there is no bulwark against the tide of despair that is my childhood home. Everything is worse. Incontinence, petulance, surgery, a refusal to take medicine and a refusal to hire a visiting nurse. Obviously I will push for help. I will argue the benefits of nursing, and cook, and clean, and I will try to cheer them up. But anyone who has dealt with dementia knows what a sisyphean task that is.

I try not to follow much what meta comments people want to make about pairings or fandom at large. But over the past few months, in media and in real life, I’ve been privy to little off-handed remarks that seem to belittle the whole enterprise as a waste of time. A way to diddle away feelings the writers and readers are too scared to bestow on other people. A way to avoid the world.

To the latter accusation, yes, I confess. But it’s not because I’m hoarding my feelings for a world fictional or internal. It’s because there is not enough feeling in this world to account for the loss that seeps from the wreck of my family like a rusting oil  tanker at the bottom of the sea. It slicks over everything, making it impossible to see the depths you once loved. It kills, dammit.

So yes, fanfiction is an escape. It will result neither in money nor real-life fame. But it is necessary. As surely as the escape of sport (on the field or on your screen) or music or published literature is. Because the medium doesn’t matter. You can’t feel this all the time. Better to watch fictional characters fall in love than to watch your parents fall out of it.

Do not be so quick to judge those of us who treasure the dalliances of people made of pixels and paper.

* to clarify, I have been back since, but the holidays are particularly painful

solas as pulitzer prize-winning author : even more da:i trespasser readings


Recently, thanks to luck and geography, I was able to hear David Mitchell speak on writing. During the Q+A period someone asked that utterly predictable, do-my-thesis-for-me question: What is the role of fiction in modern society? And Mitchell answered as authors do, with one difference: he described, in an ancillary fashion, how fiction was writers’ way of manifesting change in the world–from their imagination to reality.

At which I commenced quietly choking on my tea. For where have we heard that before? Is that not almost exactly how magic is described in Thedas? Are mages not described as being able to manifest their imagination in reality? And is that power not what so frightens people?

Okay, you know the drill here. Spoiler power is go!

Read More