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I became more aware of this conflict when I was reading Jason Aaron’s beautiful and well-written Star Wars comics. These graphic novels take place during the time period between Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. They showed some of the adventures Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Artoo Detoo, See Threepio as well as their enemy, Darth Vader had during after the destruction of the first Death Star.

Vader’s growing obsession with Luke and acquiring the means to pursue it was beautifully developed within these books. A major part of this obsession is the Sith Lord's realization that Luke Skywalker is Obi-Wan’s last hope and what he died for. Acknowledging that hope is accompanied by a determination that this untrained youth is going to be his weapon, not his former Master’s. Determination becomes obsession when Vader discovers that Luke is his long lost son, whom Obi-Wan successfully hid from him for years.

The fact that Obi-Wan managed to conceal Luke infuriates Vader. Realization that the Emperor told him Padme died in childbirth cracks his loyalty to his new master and kindles a new goal, to kill Palpatine and take the Empire from him. The only person Vader wants or needs at his side is his son. Luke becomes the prize in the silent dialogue Vader has with his old master when Vader retraces Luke’s steps and searches for him, for the past Obi-Wan was a part of and he was not. It’s an intense conflict, a deeply personal one which Vader shares with no one, even as it intersects with Luke’s own quest to find a teacher, anything that’s left of the Jedi, to become what Obi-Wan wished him to. The dark side and light of the Force are pitted together through its agents as they both strive to guide this young man toward his destiny.

It’s a fascinating struggle and brings back memories of another mentorship rivalry which was quite intense in the X-Men comics between Emma Frost and Ororo/Storm. No hint of any romance between Scott Summers and White Queen existed at the time. Emma was every inch the White Queen, devoted to acquiring and training young mutants to serve the Hellfire Club. Storm was a member of the X-Men and would later become their leader. The two of them encountered Kitty Pryde, a young mutant Emma wanted to acquire and Storm wishes to nurture. This conflict over Kitty had an arc over several stories, including one where Emma Frost and Storm switched bodies. Both of them wished to teach the girl, impart their particular values to her. It was intriguing to watch. In many ways it was a battle for mutant future. Whose path would this young representative of their kind choose to follow?

Kitty’s loyalties were to Ororo, much as Luke’s were to Ben. Kitty did, however, have the potential to become a member of the Hellfire Club, which Emma pointed out to her several times, just as Luke had the potential to become one of the Sith. (In truth, it was Leia’s morals which were challenged, who found herself veering closer to the darkness in Jason Aaron’s comics, but that’s another story.) Conflicts with their mentors led both Kitty and Luke to question their mentors, leaving them more vulnerable to the other’s outstretched hands.

Those who shape our beliefs have a lot of power over us. Their visions live on through us. Those we shape carry on our thoughts and ideas. They carry on a vital part of us, even when we’re no longer here.

If two viewpoints come into conflict, two ways of life, two paths are destined to struggle to reach their goals, those on these paths want others to follow them. They could strive against each other for a particularly gifted and potentially strong student, who has the ability to take this path further.

It’s one of the most intense, powerful forms of conflict I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps this is why in story, I find it fascinating.
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It’s very difficult for me to write an unbiased review.

Bias forms while I comprehend a story or document, taking shape along with its words, its impression, the personality and character they form in my head. The more absorbed I am with the book, the more biased I become. If I’m not absorbed, engaged, or wrapped up in the words, an opposite impression is formed. Once again, I am biased.

I call these impressions like or dislike. Yes, they are very biased words. Nor are they particularly helpful to other readers in deciding whether or not they want to read a book. They’re of little use to a writer in letting them know what are their work’s strong points or weaknesses. Not if I simply say that I like or dislike something I’ve read.

It’s far more honest for me to try to explain why I liked or disliked a book. To express how the language and word choices created a bias in my head.

It’s not easy, no. It’s a craft I’m struggling with, yet it’s a rewarding struggle, both as a reader and writer.

I find myself drawn to certain books, particular use of language. I sense that my own word craft and mind with expand with my absorption of a particular piece of writing.

Combine this quality with engaging material and a book is irresistible.

At the same time, I shrink from certain stark, unadorned expressions of language. I’m not talking about simple words. Some of the most beautiful prose I’ve after used relied upon simple words. I’m talking about a flat, disjointed manner of expression whose very rhythm feels harsh and jarring.

I fear I myself will pick up the book’s dissonance.

Possessing this sensitivity to certain volumes makes me more biased than ever, even less capable of writing an unbiased review.

Even so, I don’t want to stop writing them.

Reviews force me to slow down and truly absorb the book I’m reading. I draw a far richer and more rewarding impression from its pages if I do this.

With this in mind, I’m going to apologize for my bias when I review my impressions for a book. What I can offer you is an effort to explain my bias. How did it form? What qualities created my impression of this piece of writing? Are they traits you’re interested in reading about yourself?

This is something I strive to express in each book I read and each review I write. It’s a skill I’m learning more and more about as I go along.

Wish me success in learning. Wish me joy in the process of absorbing this craft.
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All right, I didn’t want to spoiler anything in my book review for Volume 26. I’m going to say what I suspect here.

It’s vampires. They’re the ones that represent the stars. Blavat has been feeding them at the music hall. Lizzie is under the spell of one of them.

I think the other Ciel is in league with them, too. He’s joined them to free his twin from Sebastian.

Lizzie is helping him because he’s the Ciel she truly loves. At the same time, she’s not without feelings for the boy who tried so hard to play the role of her fiance.

Another possibility is that the other Ciel is a vampire himself. He may have risen as one of the undead once the cult was finished with him. At which point, the boy we’ve known as Ciel up to this point was certain he was dead.

Our anti-hero decided to become Ciel Phantomhive, bear the burden of being earl, all to avenge his twin’s death with Sebastian at his side.

Only the true Ciel rose as a vampire or perhaps he was given enough vampire blood to heal. He stayed in the shadows and watched, knowing it was too late to safe his twin. His twin already belonged to a demon.

The Ciel we knew didn’t care. All of what he did was not only to avenge his mother and father but his twin as well.

One Ciel smiles more than the other. Is he really any less ruthless than the Ciel we know? Especially considering what he’s done to Agni.

One boy is determined to do whatever he has to do to avenge his twin. The other is willing to do anything to free his brother.

I’ll admit, this is similar to some of the drama I have planned for Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest; The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, and A Godling for Your Thoughts? Tayel can be quite relentless when it comes to protecting Danyel, while Leiwell can be downright ruthless in order to keep both Danyel and Tayel safe.

I wonder if Yana Toboso has similar ideas or plans?
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I've been doing Flights of Fanciful Fandom here. I'm starting a new topic, Misplaced Reviews.

This is where I post reviews for books which aren't listed in the Goodreads database.

I just finished reading Werewolf the Apocalypse again, trying to achieve my goal of reading 100 books by the end of this year. Alas, the edition I have, the first edition isn't available on Goodreads. I don't feel quite right posting my review there since there will be changes in the version they've got.

It may not make much of a difference considering what I talk about in my review. I still don't feel comfortable posting there, looking at a book cover years old and very different than the volume I read.

Hence the new topic. Here it goes...

I was going to post this on Goodreads. This particular edition isn’t listed in their database, so I’m putting it here instead.

A richly developed roleplaying sourcebook for the World of Darkness, offering up its own paranormal landscape where all sorts of supernatural creatures walk the earth, including werewolves. This is your opportunity to play one of them.

Here is laid out how to play a Garou, a werewolf character in the World of Darkness, fighting an ineveitable Apocalpyse in the form of an environment corrupted by a malign influence known as the Wyrm. Here are the basics to become a Storyteller, a Game Master of a World of Darkness roleplying game where your players are werewolves, engaged in this never ending battle to defend the planet and the Wyld.

Readers learn of the triad which dominates a a thriving Garou spirit world, also known as the Umbra, the unbalanced balance of the Weaver, Wyrm, and Wyld spun out of control. They also learn what sort of werewolves they can expect to play, the various Garou tribes which exist, along with the many foes they’ll find themselves facing, such as vampires, fomori, and other werewolves driven mad by the power of the Wyrm.

A simple system similar to the World of Darkness’s other roleplaying games is offered, which includes a character sheet, character samples, the beginning of a possible story, requiring ten side dice and ample creativity.

This particular World of Darkness game comes with immediate, clear conflict as well as a foe the players need to fight, the Wyrm and its agents, yet like all World of Darkness games, it emphasizes in depth stories and the roleplaying aspect of this form of entertainment as opposed to combat. Combat is there, though, if you wish to have it.

This book stimulated my own creativity, inspiring many a character within this universe when I first read it. The terminology stayed with me. To this day, I find myself calling particularly foul coffee Wyrm juice. :) For all of these things, I give this book four stars.
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One of my resolutions for this year was to return to a lot of my favorite books and read them again. One of them was The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, published in 1988. Reading the intro, I realized that it had been published when the WB movie, Batman, which first hooked my interest in the Dark Knight.

still remember that movie, all the complex emotions and interest it inspired. I saw it over and over again in the little theatre in the town of Davis. It was one of the two other films playing besides Ghostbusters 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. All three movies I watched, over and over.

This was the same summer I discovered Anne Rice, falling in love with her Vampire Chronicles. Batman caught my interest at the same time.

The movie Batman was gorgeous. It brought the gothic out of Gotham. Yes, something was missing from Jack Nicholson depiction of Joker. I got the impression that the Joker became Jack Nicholson rather than Jack Nicholson was the Joker. That classic villain was still so iconic, along with his adversity with Batman as his opposite, the power of both radiated from the big screen. Nor was it completely denied, although I sensed we were only scratching the surface of what could be. Vicki Vale, played by Kim Basinger was lovely against this dark, gothic setting of mystery and danger, even if she screamed way too much, especially for a hardened photographer who’d been on site in war zones. I detested the Joker’s romantic interest in her, yet I kept returning to it in renewed, homoerotic forms.

There was a lot of complain about in that movie, but it got me interested. It started an interest which continued to this day.

When I read Scott Snyder’s gorgeous graphic novels about the Dark Knight, or Marguerite Bennet’s equally stunning tales of Batwoman, I realize I owe that movie a lot. It introduced me to a fandom I’ve been part of for 20 years.

It introduced me to my husband. The first night we met, we stayed up, obsessing and talking about Batman. He created the beginnings of another bond which lasted to this day.

Batman changed my life. That movie in 1989 changed my life.

Thank you, Batman.
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I find doppelgangers fascinating both in art and literature.

One of the things I loved about the Witchblade TV show with Yancy Butler was its use of exquisitely artistic surrealism, often employing doppelgangers.

In the pilot, Sara Pezzini looks into a mirror, to see her dead friend, Maria looking back. The two women almost seem to mimick each other’s movements. Sara falls back on her bed in Static in almost perfect time to Lorelei, falling from a roof.

This was one of the reasons why I wanted to write a fanfiction cross over between Witchblade and Angel with Kate Lockley being not only Sara Pezzini’s long lost sister and a blood heir to the Witchblade, but someone who mirrored, echoed, and Sara’s experiences with the supernatural weapon.

I saw Kate Lockley, played by Elisabeth Rohm in an alley, hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a jacket in the Angel episode, Sense and Sensitivity. She seemed to mirror Sara in the pilot at the Rialto, acting as a doppelganger for her heart and rage. Both of them were going after an untouchable bad guy, on a one woman crusade other cops shrank away from, a crusade the bad guy wouldn’t tolerate.

The likeness struck my imagination and inspired me. I wanted to channel some of what I saw, the likeness of the two women into a story. The idea for the fanfiction, Sisterhood of the Witchblade came to me.

This story has been growing in my imagination for years, coming out in bits and pieces. I only just posted the first two parts of it.

It’s quite a task, channeling this into a coherent form, especially while juggling many other projects. It’s one that’s quite dear to my hear, expressing much of my love for the beauty of the Witchblade TV show. It also gives Kate Lockley a chance to fight back against a world which has gone insane to use Sara’s own words.

Kate fought the same battle Sara did. I wanted to give these two warrior women a chance to join forces.

This flight of fanciful fandom has been a long time coming. I hope its results intrigue you as much as it intrigued me.

Everything is connected in the Witchblade. This is often true for me in fandom as well. Stories overlap and spill into each other, becoming part of a vaster universe.

Enjoy the overlap at Archive of Our Own.
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I just finished reading Vampire Game after all these years, wanting to return to one of my favorite manga series, giving each volume a rating and review for Goodreads.

Much as I enjoy it, one thing which never satisfied me was the answer to the Phelios question.

Warning, this is where things get spoilery. If you haven’t read Vampire Game (and it’s an excellent manga which I strongly recommend picking up) you may want to wait on reading this blog until you’ve finished it.

There’s been plenty of hints that Phelios may have been in love with the Vampire King Duzell. Ishtar once asked Duzell if he’d been in love with Phelios. He replied that his was the stupidest question she’d ever asked.

Was it? Why did Duzell devote himself to hunting down Phelios? Why did Phelios tell Duzell that he wanted the vampire king to be his, only to forge Sidia, and cast La Gamme, destroying both of them?

More than revenge, I think Duzell wanted the answers to those questions.

And what of Phelios? What did he want badly enough to die in battle for? Enough to reincarnate as Duzell’s brother in the last pages of the last volume of Vampire Game?

Duzell and Phelios didn’t just reincarnate as brothers either. They reincarnated as Ishtar and Darres’s sons.

Whose dying wish was to reborn in his next life with Ishtar and Darres? Whose blood was never sampled by Duzell before he died, even though he cut himself and offered it for the vampire king to sample? Who gave Duzell a dramatic, teasing look in the very first volume, back when Duzell was pretending to be a krawl kitten? Who was devious, manipulative, heroic, and caring, much like Phelios himself may well have been? Who put those qualities to work for Pheliostra and the people he loved, pitting them against Sharlen, the enemy of the realm and the heir to Duzell’s former dark dreams? Who else would have had the nerve to call the Holy Knight Phelios inconsiderate other Phelios’s reincarnation himself? (Well, Ishtar would have, but everyone, including Duzell himself thought she was his reincarnation at first.)

Perhaps someone who’d proved throughout the series that he had a melancholy, self hating, self destructive streak under his teasing smile. Someone who always wanted what he couldn’t have, yet did the best he could for everyone around him.

Think about it.
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Even at age 12, long before I became enamoured with homoeroticism, I sensed something intense, charged, and powerful about the relationship between the Duke of Warwick and Edward IV. Something possessively powerful or perhaps a powerfully possessive?

Edward IV was King, but the Duke of Warwick was Kingmaker. He’s the one whom put Edward on the throne of England, brought the White Rose of the House of York into bloom. Edward IV was Warwick’s creation, the sovereign he’d raised to greatness, Warwick’s ultimate triumph.
Only Edward slipped from his grasp. He was lured away by Elizabeth Wydeville, by the entire Wydeville clan. They threatened Warwick’s power, his hold over the King.

In 1494, Warwick could stand it no longer. He betrayed Edward, allying himself with Edward’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence. He was ready to put Clarence on the throne, until Edward fell into his hands.

Warwick could have killed Edward. How different history might have been if he had.

Warwick hesitated, though. He hesitated to destroy his creation.

Edward might have sensed this hesitation, drawing on every ounce of charm, every shred of a hold he had on his former Kingmaker to increase.

It’s not a story of love. It’s a story of power, something we look upon with repugnance in this day and age. Such a relationship seems very dark to my modern eyes.

It still held me enthralled, unable to look away. This was one of the most intense moments of the War of the Roses for me, that moment of hesitation.

Aya Kanno depicted it in all its dark beauty in Requiem of the Rose, making me recall how enthralled I was by that moment.

Her panels made me realize just how intense it was.
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Perhaps last month’s blogs were a waste of time.

I wanted to take a moment to honor certain cherished characters whose names began with certain letters. I wished to hold them in my memory for a moment. I hoped to thank their creators for bringing them into the world of story and imagination.

I’m not sure if anyone I thanked noticed. I’m not even sure if anyone enjoyed the blogs.

Guess this is a reminder to me. If I read something I enjoyed that’s posted somewhere, thank the blogger. It can make all the difference in the world whether or not they feel appreciated. It can make all the difference whether they feel like their time and effort posting is appreciated.

At the same time, this is my own doing. I chose to explore my more fannish side as a writer here at dreamwidth. I chose to use this medium rather than tumblr or livejournal.

It’s much more difficult to use. I can’t load any pictures other than the main one here. This diminishes my visibility. Nor have I figured out how to use any links elsewhere. I’ve been unable to add this account to my Amazon Author Page or Goodreads.

This is why this blog gets a monthly minimum visit instead of something more frequent.

I don’t regret giving this site a little extra attention, though. It was hard work, but fun.

I hope people enjoyed these April blogs. I particularly was hoping to allow fans of CLAMP and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles down memory lane. To reach out to other CLAMP fans…I can’t help feeling they’re the ones who’ll really enjoy my original work. Among them might be potential readers.

After all I became the writer I am today in part because of CLAMP’s work. I remain a devoted fan of certain manga they drew to this day.

How to reach out to potential readers within the fandom? How do I let them know I’m here?
I guess I’ll just have to keep trying, keep working. Keep growing and hope my readership grows with me.

If you’re reading this, if you enjoyed my work, I hope you’ll remember my name. It’s K.S. Trenten, a.k.a. rhodrymavelyne. Look for me on Twitter, tumblr, Goodreads, and Amazon.

I have books for sale, books you might enjoy. I’m working on more. If you enjoy my blogs, you might want to give them a second glance.

Think about it.
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If you have a wish you want granted, you may find yourself at Yuuko’s shop. Not everyone can see it. Only those who have a need to enter can.

If you do, you may find Yuuko-san sprawled out in a kimono, smoking a pipe, drinking, or fondling one of her cute, soulless minions. She won’t be surprised to see you. After all, it was destiny that you came to her.
Who exactly is Yuuko-san? Often dressed in traditional Japanese attire, she wears a sly smile that hints of all the things she knows which you don’t. For Yuuko knows a lot. She’s acquainted with quite a few prominent people involved in the occult, such as Clow Reed, Sumeragi Subaru, and Kakei of the Green Drug Store. She’s got a keen nose for when supernatural trouble is brewing and often drags her helpers straight into the middle of it.

Sometimes Yuuko-san saves people in trouble. At others, she leaves them to the fate they’ve brought upon themselves, no matter how horrible.

After all, she runs a shop, not a charity. She’ll grant a wish in return for something else, but there are some things she has no right to fix.

These qualities make Yuuko-san intriguing neutral. She and her shop made me realize just how much story potential a small setting, like a shop have in speculative fiction. The transactions and interaction which happen there can be just as exciting as a rugged journey across the landscape of another world, fighting monsters. A shop could sell items like a ring which absorbed your lies until it shattered, or give a monkey’s paw to someone who didn’t have an affinity for it and destroyed herself with her wishes.

It’s thanks to Yuuko-san and her shop that I didn’t just come up with Tales of the Navel and the Shadow Forest. They inspired the concept of ambient fantasy, emotionally driven stories which contain magic, monsters, and otherworldly things.

Readers are offered tantalizing glimpses of these and of Yuuko-san herself through the people around her. Yuuko-san never reveals the whole mystery she’s at the heart of. She strides boldy into people’s lives, offering them what they want for a price. It’s not that she doesn’t care or isn’t fair. She insists on taking no more than what her gift or service is worth.

I got the impression that Yuuko’s role as shopkeeper was a mask, or a guise she adopted as an agent of balance. She made certain people got what they were owed, what was coming to them, and saw to it that they always paid up. They couldn’t escape from the murders they’d committed by entering her store. They faced the consequences of the lies they told or the words they used. They’d acquire the means to travel between worlds, regaining someone’s memories, by sacrificing a magical tattoo, a sword, and a relationship.

Not all of the wishes were granted. Sometimes they changed. One of those less than lucky wishers was Watanuki, the main character. He fled into Yuuko’s store, fleeing from the spirits pursuing him. He hoped to no longer have to see them. This changed when he learned more about himself, found himself more and more compelled to help others, including Yuuko-san. In the end, Watanuki ended up taking over the store in Yuuko-san’s place. He ended up becoming more and more like Yuuko herself.

This makes me wonder, especially since Watanuki looks very much like a young Clow Reed. Was Yuuko-san once in Watanuki’s shoes? Did she wander into the store that would become hers one day with a wish? Did she meet, say Clow Reed when he was running it? Or Fei Wang Reed?

I could see one of those two as being in the business of granting wishes. Perhaps Yuuko-san was around when Clow created Yue, Kerberos, and the Clow Cards. Or perhaps Clow left Yuuko-san running the store so he could go do those things?

It’s an imperfect theory, yet I still wonder about the connection between Yuuko-san, Clow, and Fei Wang Reed. This may be another one of those CLAMP mysteries which is never explained. It could be part of Yuuko-san’s character to collect such mysteries along with everything else.

Perhaps she might be willing to offer up more information about her past if we offered her something of equal value in return?

We might not be willing to pay, though. :)
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I became a Xena fan quite late.

I saw an episode here and there, but the ones which really hooked me were The Gift, The Bitter Suite, and Adventures in the Sin Trade, stories which transcended and moved beyond the action drama, incorporating elements of other things. The stories where Xena herself became so much more than simply an action hero.

Not that she wasn’t an awesome action hero or I didn’t enjoy the action. It was wonderful watching a tough female character kicking butt, but this wasn’t what got me into Xena.

She wasn’t alone. She was exceptional, yes, but she was at her best interacting with or pitted against other strong female characters. I’m not just talking about Xena and Gabrielle, although that relationship was a driving force at the heart of most of my favorite stories and plot arcs. Xena was also wonderful with Lao Ma, Cyane, and Alti. Nor were these women always depicted in skimpy leather armour (although there was a lot of that). One of the most beautiful, sensual moments on the show was when Xena and Lao Ma floated in the air in long, silken gowns, defying gravity with a grace worthy of an action scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Hero. This was no action scene, though. It struck me as being a love scene between two women, a beautiful, fantastic love scene the likes of which I’d never seen before.

I hadn’t watched a lot of love scenes between women on science fiction, fantasy, or action TV series. I’d gotten very excited over the budding relationship between Talia and Ivanova which was revolutionary at the time. Alas we saw little of the two of them together as a couple, although it was openly acknowledged that they were.

Xena and Gabrielle were in a way the exact opposite of Ivanova and Talia. They were never acknowledged as being a couple, yet there were many displayings of them acting like one. It wasn’t just the epic displays of self sacrifice or the tender moments of passion. It was there in the comedic moments when the two of them fought over all of the little things which drove each other crazy, or tackled the daily problems which faced them together. Their journey allowed them to grow together, get to know each other, and learn as a team. They explored new philosophies, sometimes going their separate ways in the process. Gabrielle became a pacifist for a while or Xena went off to deal with unfinished business from her past. The two women returned to each other for the bulk of the journey, finding each other again and again. Often their changes were beautifully expressed in costume. Xena was a gorgeous show, exploring a variety of outfits for our lead characters besides their usual. Special arcs were often punctuated by a costume change.

Don’t get me wrong. They were plenty of female warriors in skimpy leather. Often our two leads were among them. They got to go beyond that, though, exploring imagery which reflected their character changes which I found fascinating.

The characters were constantly facing change and development, even when they resisted it. Xena was a warrior, a former villainous warlord turned wandering hero. That original premise in itself was fascinating. She was much more than that. She wasn’t just a strategist, but a singer, a mother, and a lover. At times she was unrelentingly sultry. At other times, she was crude enough to party with a group of Tolkien’s orcs. Xena had many facets, which the show explored in great detail.

Often Gabrielle was at her side. Some of the most romantic stories were ones where she’d thought she’d lost Gaby and was trying to get her back, or reconcile with her loss. Others concerned another woman entirely, such as Lao Ma.

When Xena wasn’t revealing a new facet to her personality, she was discovering one. Nor was she alone in this journey of discovery.

Traveling at Xena’s side, Gabrielle went from a sidekick and would be bard to an Amazon princess, and the mother of a malevolent demigod. These experiences transformed her, making her embrace total pacifism for a while. Xena being in danger summoned up her warrior’s spirit, leading to follow a similar path to Xena herself.

Gabrielle went through as many spectacular changes as Xena herself did.

This show ended up turning into an epic woman’s journey unlike anything else. I’ve never seen anything quite like it on television.

This is why to this day it occupies a special place in my heart. Thank you, everyone, who brought this epic to life.
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Buffy wasn’t the only female character who stood out for me on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There was another who broke new ground, bringing a new dimension of development to what I’d seen on television.

Willow seemed as revolutionary and as exciting as Buffy, even if she required a lot of rescuing. There was no attempt in the beginning to make her sexy, to draw attention to her clevage and legs. (This had been done with so many other female characters often enough to give the allure a cookie cutter sameness.)

Willow wore loose jumpers and looked mousy. She came off as a wallflower and a nerd. She was treated like one, too. There was a sweetness, though and a vulnerability about Willow that touched my heart. Seeing her getting bullied by Cordelia in her first scene with Buffy really got to me, striking home to my own past experiences of being bullied.

I could see it got to Buffy, too, even though her experience of being a nerd was fairly fresh and new after having been popular at her old school before becoming a Slayer. I could see it in the way Buffy watched Willow walk away from the drinking fountain after Cordelia shooed her away.

It was more than pity or even sympathy. Something clicked between those two girls from the very beginning.

I’ve been lucky enough to feel this magic with people myself. It’s something I never get tired of.

I saw that connection again, deepening between Buffy and Willow in their first private conversation. Buffy sought Willow out. Willow, shy and wounded after being bullied by Cordelia, wasn’t unfriendly, but reluctant to accept Buffy’s company. Buffy persisted with a charm that made me like her all the more. She admitted to having a burning desire to pass all her classes and said she’d heard Willow was the person to help her with this.

Willow warmed up instantly to this, dropping her guard.

I think the Slayer acquired her best friend at that moment, when she, the superhero asked for this shy girl’s help.

Not that Buffy didn’t return the favour tenfold. She became Willow’s champion, protecting her from the monsters that went bump in Sunnydale’s night. Many of them underestimated Willow as well, thinking she was easy prey.

Willow was more than that. Buffy protected her, but in other ways Willow protected Buffy. Willow became Buffy’s accademic and emotional champion, defending her against the many students and teachers who regarded Buffy as a freak. She also defended her against Xander, the person she loved most in the world when Buffy fell for Angel. Yes, she and Xander both had ulterior motives, Xander with his crush on Buffy, and Willow with her crush on Xander. At the same time, Willow truly did become Buffy’s champion in defending Buffy's feelings, even coming to rescue and returning Angel's soul to him.

The two girls had each other’s back. Willow didn’t stop at just being Buffy’s emotional and accademic champion. She started to have her back against the creatures of the night, in the on-going fight against the Hellmouth.

Willow started studying magic, becoming a quite powerful witch. She became more and more Buffy’s equal.

Eventually she threatened to become her superior.

This was the beginning to the real split between the two girls.

Things had divided Buffy and Willow before. Buffy’s tragic battle with Angel, sending him to hell, led to Buffy running away from Sunnydale, leaving all of her former friends behind. This divided them, but danger brought them back together. Buffy’s intense connection with Faith, a link with another Slayer which Willow couldn’t share caused friction, but the dark direction that took and the emotional fall out brought Buffy and Willow back together again. Willow’s delight in finding herself at college while Buffy just felt overwhelmed divided them. Buffy got involved with Riley while Willow had her secret relationship with Tara, driving them in opposite direction.

The great division was Willow getting power, Willow wanting power apart from Buffy, and Willow becoming her own woman. It was a natural, organic development which came out of many seasons of the characters and the show developing, growing, and changing.

Willow found herself no longer wanting power to accomplish special tasks or to help with the fight. She started to crave magical power for its own sake. Her power corrupted her. She ended up becoming one of the monsters Buffy had to fight.

In the end, it was Giles and Xander who saved Willow from herself, not with power, but with vulnerability. Xander opened his heart to Willow at the crucial moment, touching upon Willow’s own heart, and convincing her to stop.

It was one of the most emotionally charged moments in the series. It left Willow and I both weeping.

It also left an unanswered question. Where would Willow go from there?

She’d proved that she wasn’t weak. Willow had power. What was she to do with it? How could she use it without abusing it?

For a while. Willow returned to being vulnerable. She ended up getting her skin flayed off by a demon. Buffy saved her in this state.

For a brief time, the two women returned to what they’d once been. Willow’s wounded state stirred up Buffy’s former protectiveness. This moment allowed Buffy, who’d been getting more ruthless to open up to Willow. The two women regained some of the natural ease which existed between them at the beginning.

The two of them couldn’t go back, though. Willow had a find a place for herself and her power in Buffy’s world.

Eventually, Willow found a way. She used her power to give girls all over the world power. She activated every potential Slayer in existence, surpassing the men who’d created the first Slayer. She shared strength around the world.

It was an epic ending for the girl who’d once been a shy wallflower. It’s a female hero’s journey from being shy and not knowing her own strength to confidence and power.

Like Buffy’s, this journey is not without pitfalls. Ultimately it’s an upward climb, going beyond the limits others have determined for her to find out who she really is. She seeks out power that women are often discouraged from seeking.

Yes, that power corrupts. Willow doesn’t avoid the trap of being corrupted. She climbs out wounded, much more wary than she was. She learns from her fall, allows herself to heal.

She comes to accept her power, tempering it with her experiences. She figures out a way to use that power to help countless other women. She and Buffy share their strength, making others strong in turn.

In the end, Willow proves that a powerful woman can do good as well as evil.

It’s her choice.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
When I read Magic’s Pawn, by Mercedes Lackey, it felt like she’d written the story of the character I’d always wished for, fulfiling a secret desire of mine.

At least, the handsome young hero was going to fall in love with the charming, likeable boy I could appreciate along with him instead of some girl whose attraction I simply didn’t get.

I’d suffered through a lot of shallow boy meets girl scenarios in fantasy and science fiction. Barely developed, thrust upon me as a reader, viewer, or other helpless consumer of what was meant to be entertainment, unable to object or protest.

Vanyel’s youthful feelings of blossoming love for Tylendel was a welcome relief from this. It was a truly sweet relationship which made me swoon.

In the end, it turned tragic. Vanyel never would have become a Herald Mage of such power if not for what Tylendel did to him. The way ‘Lendel drew Vanyel’s dormant magical energy from him to create a Gate becomes more chilling the more I consider it. Perhaps it was this deed which got Tylendel repudiated as much as summoning a group of monsters to kill a bunch of people whom he saw as his family enemies who killed his twin.

The backlash of the Gate energy and Tylendel’s subsequent suicide ripped Vanyel’s channels open, activating his considerable power.

The first book in The Last Herald Mage Trilogy is about all of this happening to Vanyel, followed by his being Chosen to become a Herald. He’s forced to deal with all of this.

Much unwritten story likes between Magic’s Pawn and the other two books in The Last Herald Mage Trilogy. Hopefully Mercedes Lackey or someone else will decide to tell it. What he do know of Vanyel is remarkable.

He went from being a lonely boy to a hero. There’s a sense from the very beginning that Vanyel is doomed. Sensing this impending fate, Vanyel finds he’s unable to leave others to theirs. Not if he can do something about it.

This isn’t an easy choice. It doesn’t happen instantly. Vanyel needs to gain control of his power and his grief. He comes to realize that even though he’s lost the love of his life, he’s not alone.

It’s inspiring and beautiful to watch this understanding transform Vanyel into something greater than he once was. Vanyel is someone shaych boys can look up. He’s a shining example to everyone else of what a shaych boy can become if he has people who aren’t willing to give up on him, who’ll do what they can to support him while he becomes something remarkable.

This is why Magic’s Pawn remains a very special book to me with Vanyel as a very special hero. May they touch other’s people’s hearts, giving them hope to go beyond their own grief in becoming what they need to be.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
There’s a type of boy I’ve seen a lot in manga and anime. He makes hordes of girls blush and swoon. He’s good at sports and has a certain flair which catches everyone’s eye.

Often he’s regarded as more than a boy. He’s a prince.

In Revolutionary Girl Utena, this prince is a girl. Her name is Tenjou Utena.

Utena met a prince once when she was a little girl, who gave her the courage to go on living. Inspired and impressed by his example, she decided to become a prince herself. She wears a boy’s uniform and tries to rescue girls who are in trouble.

Something struck as being very sweet and perfectly natural about Utena’s reaction. Why wouldn’t she wish to be like someone who gave her courage?

There’s more to her wish to save girls in trouble, to be a prince that rescues princesses, a reason she’s forgotten. This is explored when she becomes engaged to Anthy Hinemiya.

Utena’s resolve to save girls in trouble leads her to avenge a friend’s humilation at the hands of a popular school heartthrob. She challenges this young man to a duel, only to find out there’s more to duelling at her school than she ever dreamed of.

Anthy Himemiya is at the heart of it. Whomever emerges from victorious from the duels in the Forest under the castle in the sky (which are the only duels allowed on campus) becomes engaged to Anthy, the Rose Bride. Once Utena defeats the duelling champion, she becomes engaged to the Rose Bride and all duelling challengers come after her.

Utena, along with her readers/audience, doesn’t understand what’s going on, what the purpose of the duelling game is, or how the Rose Bride is involved. At first, she doesn’t want to be engaged to Anthy. Utena still has hopes of being in relationship with a “normal boy” to use her own words, even though she’s chosen not to be a “normal girl” herself. Her attempts to try to be “normal”, like everyone else end in her unhappiness and weakening.

Utena comes to realize what’s normal for her isn’t normal for everyone else. She has to figure out what Anthy means to her, decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. Even if it means abandoning any hope of being normal. Even if it leads her to eventually abandon her dreams of her prince.

Utena’s heroic journey is that of an eccentric, an oddball who dares to follow her heart even if it thumps to a different beat than everyone else’s.

Daring to be different isn’t enough. Not for Utena. Eventually she finds her childish illusions which inspired her and gave her strength can trick and trap her. She’s forced to look beyond them, to face them for that they are.

Sometimes she finds herself fighting the embodiment of those dreams, those who represent her prince himself.

Utena never stops trying to be true to herself. When her dreams, her very memories turn on her, she tries to find what lies beyond them.

No series have ever come closer to doing what I’m trying to achieve in speculative fiction than Revolutionary Girl Utena. Not that my message is exactly the same as that story’s. The idea that there’s an ambiguous reality within an alternative reality, created by the thoughts and dreams of those that inhabit it is a concept I use in Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest. The theme that this reality can be beautiful as well as terrible is another concept I channel into my work.

Utena is very close to my own characters in her uncertainty about who and what she is. Like my characters, her reality has been tampered with. How much of what she sees as “normal” is the result of a distortion in perception?

How much of what we see is?

Utena gets me thinking about what we take for granted as being “normal”. Who creates the rules of normalancy? What shapes our perceptions of what is normal and what isn’t?

How much as been contrived and repeated in mindless rituals, much lke the duels in the forest? Just how much odder is Utena truly from other people, who seem normal to her? Just how normal are those people, really?

Utena and her world made think like few stories have ever done before. It made me think about the very nature of reality itself and how it’s constructed.

I’m really grateful to Utena for heading for the dueler’s forest and opening the door. She showed me another perspective through which speculative fiction can be viewed.

This is one of the reasons why she and her story remain especial favorites of mine.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
When I first saw Tomoyo in Carcaptor Sakura, she reminded me of Ozma. The long, full hair, the sweetness, she had a fairytale princess’s beauty.

Tomoyo wasn’t a princess, at least not in Cardcaptor Sakura. She was the daughter of a wealthy, powerful woman. I could see how she might grow up in a sheltered sphere of prosperity and power much like that which might engulf a princess.

Such a girl might well see herself as the center of the world, being pretty and priveleged. It would have made a certain amount of sense.

Tomoyo didn’t. Her world centered around Sakura, to whom she dedicated herself to heart and soul. She designed Sakura’s wardrobes. She accompanied Sakura on all her adventures, capturing them on camera. Her entire purpose was to help Sakura. Her happiest moments were ones that involved Sakura.

In another character, this might have seemed clingy, co-dependent, or creepy. Tomoyo made these qualities charming. Eccentric, yes, but cute.

Another brilliant bit of homoeroticism CLAMP managed to work into their manga in a sweet, wholesome way. I watched Tomoyo grinning, blushing, at times rolling my eyes, and finding her crush on Sakura utterly adorable.

Tomoyo makes her support an essential part of the plot of Cardcaptor Sakura. She designs all of the distinctive costumes which are an essential part of Sakura’s ensemble as a magical girl. She tries to make the costume fit whatever Clow Card Sakura finds herself trying to capture and tame. She’s often the sounding board Sakura bounces her ideas and thoughts off of when Keroberos isn’t available. At times she mediates between Sakura and Kero-chan, when he’s feeling especially cranky or missed out on cake. :) If anything is bothering Sakura, Tomoyo is the first person to see it.

It’s an impressive thing, holding her own as a character in a cast including magical girls and creatures, but Tomoyo manages to do both.

It’s also refreshing to see a little girl in a speculative fiction manga series showing a crush on another little girl. This was done in a Japanese manga back at a time when I almost never saw such a relationship, certainly not in this sort of setting.

This is one of the reasons Cardcaptor Sakura remains one of my favorite CLAMP manga. To this day, Tomoyo remains one of my favorite CLAMP characters and manga characters in general. I was sorry Tomoyo and Sakura didn’t get thrown together in different worlds in the Tsubasa Reservoir multi-universe as often as other characters did. Nor does the Tomoyo I loved from Cardcaptor Sakura show up quite as I remember her in that multi-universe. (It is easy to imagine a version of Tomoyo crossing paths with a version of Hokuto and the two of them opening a clothing boutique together. Actually, I did picture the two of them doing so in fanfic with a very young Kotori acting as their surrogate daughter and model. :))

It was wonderful to encounter a little girl like Tomoyo in a story who was beautiful, smart, and in love with another little girl. If there were more characters like that in stories, maybe little girls who get crushes on other little girls would feel less alone.

Thank you, CLAMP, for easing some of that loneliness by creating Tomoyo. Thank you for showing that a child’s crush can take a variety of forms that are OK.

This is another reason I think Cardcaptor Sakura is a great find for young readers.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
It’s impossible for me to bring up Naruto without mentioning his opposite.

Sasuke defines Naruto. The two rivals are a study in contrasts. Naruto is blonde and wears orange. Sasuke is dark and wears blue. Naruto is a rebel, a loudmouth, and a screw up. Sasuke is often silent, a genius, and born of a long, proud tradition.

They’re completely different, yet they discover they’re more alike than they realized in their stubborness and loneliness.

Naruto is constantly screwing up in little ways. Sasuke screws up less often, but in spectacularly tragic ways that plummet him into the darkness.

It makes a certain amount of sense that his opposite would respond by turning hero and try to save him.

A major part of Naruto’s hero’s journey is getting Sasuke back. The journey was quite the epic one. Ultimately it was a success. The two friends and rivals were reunited.

Sasuke didn’t stay at Naruto’s side. This made sense to me, too. I get the impression Sasuke can’t remain too close to Naruto because the two of them are so close.

They’re opposites, so they’ll always be at odds with each other, yet there’s an intimacy between them unlike any other for the same reason. This relationship fascinates me because of its powerful paradox. Watching Sasuke and Naruto has taught me how much conflict can be channeled into a bond which is as loving as it is adversarial.

It’s been a learning experience, following Sasuke and Naruto on their journey. I’ve discovered a great deal from their interaction not only as a reader and a fangirl, but as a writer as well.

As a SasuNaru devotee, It was a crushing blow when Sasuke and Naruto didn’t get together. I truly wish the ending had been a more open one without the decisive marrying off of both characters to other people which dashed my dreams.

Regardless of how Naruto ended, it doesn’t change the power of that driving relationship in the story.

Sasuke is the inspiration for Naruto. The thought of him is what keeps Naruto going, giving him an extra boost of strength to overcome his challenges.

It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. To me, it’s always romantic in the most primal sense of the ideal. Its rawness cuts to the heart as much as the moments when Sasuke disappoints Naruto, not living up to this ideal.

After a certain point, Sasuke claims to no longer care about Naruto or to admit their bond still exists. I never quite believed him. He protested (and fought) a bit too much to be believed. Besides, unlike Naruto, Sasuke has always been a little more mysterious about his motivations (although I’ve explored them a great deal in fanfic). There have been parts of the story where we never quite knew what he was thinking.

It can be fun filling in the blanks. (Like I said, I’ve done it myself in fanfic) This bit of intriguing mystery is something I should consider when crafting my own original stories and exploring my antagonist’s motivations.

I’ve been disappointed in Sasuke, furious at him, yet I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic between Sasuke and Naruto. I’ve often been brought to tears, witnessing the strength Sasuke inspired in Naruto even the two of them were apart.

Their relationship remains one of the most epic I’ve ever encountered. It won my heart.

Thank you, Kishimoto-sensei, for crafting it.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
There’s been several remakes of Dark Shadows. Barnabas Collins is in all of them. Quentin Collins has been in none of them.

Perhaps it’s because his character is drawn from so many classics; from The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Perhaps because unlike Barnabas, whom is consistently shown as a vampire, punctuated by moments of humanity, Quentin has been many things.

A hostile ghost. A werewolf. An immortal suspended in time by art. A completely different person all together.

Quentin is complicated. It takes some doing, figuring him out. He dabbles in forbidden practices and indulges in forbidden passions.

Unlike Barnabas, whom was an upright young man whom made one big mistake (Angelique). Quentin has made a lot of big mistakes. One might argue he goes from mistake to mistake.

Like Barnabas, love made him linger beyond the grave after death. For Quentin, it’s the sadness that the one person he truly loved, his little nephew, Jamison rejected him. He’s unable to rest because of that rejection.

Alas, feelings beyond the grave have a way of turning sinister on Dark Shadows. Barnabas’s desire for Josette compelled him to recreate her in the girls he stalked and fed upon. Quentin’s yearning for Jamison led him to possess young David Collins.

It was powerful stuff. It easily played upon the metaphor of abuse. Perhaps this is one of the reasons a lot of people shy away from the character of Quentin.

On Dark Shadows, you have the monsters and the humans. There are human whom love the monsters. There are monsters that struggle to be human, to be good, but often fail. And there are the shadowy characters in between.

Quentin is one of these. He isn’t easy to classify. He had a sinister side, often willingly flirting with the darkness even though he was human. He has a softer aspect, though, even when he’s being bad. There’s a playfulness to Quentin, a sarcastic honesty as he says and does openly what others do covertly.

This often inspires a self righteous wrath in other characters. This wrath is usually hypocritical. I find myself cheering Quentin on silently at times even when I’m shocked by him.

It’s not a simple task, classifying or defining Quentin. Perhaps this is another reason why the remakes shy away from him.

It may also be why he’s one of my favorite characters in the Dark Shadows cast, past and present. It’s why he keeps popping up in my imagination, often appearing in my Dark Shadows fanfics.

Some characters are impossible to resist.

Thank you, Dark Shadows for daring to add such an interesting and complicated character to your menagerie of monsters. Thank you, David Selby for doing such a marvelous job of bring Quentin Collins to life.
rhodrymavelyne: (Default)
I’ll never forget the descriptions of Ozma in the original Oz books, how beautiful she was. This description was backed up by the illustrations of John R. Neill, which captured her beauty perfectly.

I think those illustrations shaped my developing aesthetics as a child, forming a base for what I would find attractive later.

There was something utterly enchanting about Ozma. She was a little girl’s princess. She saw other little girls in trouble and whisked them away from it, often to the land of Oz. She gave those girls a home where they never had to grow up. She provided a home for their families and pets, too. Those pets gained the ability to talk once they reached Oz (although Toto pretended not to for a long time :)).

Ozma was beautiful, but there was no expectation of her beauty being there to attract a man, a husband, or a prince. It simply existed. Nor was Ozma in a great hurry to grow up, although she had a great many adult responsibilities as a ruler of Oz. She remained a child ruler, although she was at times described as being a teenager.

Ozma’s purpose was to rule Oz by making her people happy. She loved each and every one of her subjects. If she found out any of them were suffering, she’d do something about it.

She did have her special friends, though. One of them was Dorothy.

There’s something so charming about Ozma and Dorothy’s friendship. Not only did they become best friends, but Ozma made Dorothy a princess.

If you think about it, the closest thing Ozma had to a consort was Dorothy. Not that I was aware of how that might be interpreted as a child.

I just liked Ozma better than all the Disney princesses who had to have a prince. (I grew up long before Frozen.) She was our princess, not some man’s. She belonged to little girls, since she was still part child. She’d never grown up, get married, and leave us all behind.

Ozma showed me at an early age that you didn’t have to do any of these things. A girl could still a beautiful princess without any of them.

Thank you, Ozma, for offering me that insight at an early age. You were an example which gave me a certain measure of internal independence which not everyone has.

For that, I’ll always love you.

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