Better Than The Book: A Look at AMC’s Adaptation of “The Terror” by Dan Simmons

On the left is the cover of "The Terror" book by Dan Simmons and the right is a promotional cover for AMC's "The Terror" featuring Jared Harris as Francis Crozier.

“The Terror” is an AMC show and book by Dan Simmons that is a fictionalized take on what happened to Franklin’s lost expedition. The fatal expedition that we’re still piecing together what happened to. 

When I went looking to read “The Terror” after having watched the AMC miniseries I was greeted by reviews on the Amazon page saying how much better the book was than the show. I then made the unfortunate mistake of reading the book.

“The Terror” book is many times more sexist, racist and homophobic than the AMC adaptation. It is particularly fetishistic towards the indigenous woman character as Dimmons seems to enjoy writing about them nude. There are also two widely unnecessary sex scenes, one uncomfortable to the point of nervous laughter and one just flat out gross. 

While there are only three female character in the show, the show does a much better job of giving them agency. Silna/Lady Silence, the only woman of color, in the book is mute and never speaks, in the show she is given the ability to speak until she becomes mute of her own volition. Furthermore, the racism in the show is predominantly the racism of 1800s British sailors, the actual dealing with indigenous culture in the show is, as a whole, much less unabashedly fetishizing and creepy as comes across in the book. 

On to the homophobia. It really does take a straight man to put two gay couples in his novel and then portray them both in two very different, but still bad ways. The big problem is Cornelius Hickey. He’s a gross little man in the show too, and still gay, but in the book it goes out of the way to note that he is a pedophile and his partner is coded as developmentally disabled and therefore easy for Hickey to manipulate. In the show, a different character is his boyfriend and his crimes reduced to just murder, which was always on the plate anyway. 

The second couple is John Bridgens and Henry Peglar. Their relationship is Soft and Tender, and Dimmons still fucks it up. Bridgens is a “Good Gay” because his and Peglar’s relationship is shown as sexless, they are allowed to be tender and keep their distance stationed on separate ships. In the show, they are allowed to be tender and together. This more platonic nature of their relationship is continued in a sense in the show, but they are allowed to be together much more than they are in the book, which stresses distance as why they’re the “Good Gays.” 

I will briefly mention that I am incredibly grateful to the writers of the AMC miniseries for removing any and all traces of the Crozier/Silna relationship and also that I am very irritated with Dimmons for unnecessarily and irregularly switching tenses between chapters. 

Now “The Terror” book is incredibly focused on Francis Crozier, he’s the main character and is in the show too, though to a lesser extent. One of the major things, outside of the gross shit corrections, that the show does well is to incorporate more historical accuracy. “The Terror” was published not long after “Last Man Standing?” the Crozier biography was published and, while I don’t know if there would have been time for “Last Man Standing?” to have influenced the writing of “The Terror,” it feels like it could have. The show, on the other hand, feels more like a love letter to “James Fitzjames: Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition,” which came out several years later in 2010. In the book the character of Fitzjames is essentially a footnote, he’s there, he does things, he dies. The show gives us the backstory that Dimmons simply did not have when he wrote “The Terror,”  and y’all it’s good. 

Furthermore, the character of  John Irving is virtually unrecognizable between book and show. Again, likely because of new and ongoing research about John Irving, who does not as of yet, have his own biography. But the show again is more accurate in it’s portrayal of Irving. 

When it comes down to it, AMC’s “The Terror” is better in so many ways to the Dimmons book. If you haven’t seen either and are interested, go with the show. If you’ve seen the show and are considering reading the book, don’t. And if you’re like me and have consumed both, I’m sorry. 

If you’re interested in “The Terror” it can be streamed on Amazon and Hulu, and probably other streaming services as well. If you’re really that desperate to read the book you can find it on your own.

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Fusion FanFiction: Combining Two Canons

Two book covers placed next to each other "Solaris" by Stanislaw Lem and "Hunter x Hunter Volume 1" by Yoshihiro Togari.

Fusion when it comes to fanfiction, isn’t quite the same as an alternate universe fanfiction. There is definitely overlap, but what makes fusion different from a run of the mill alternate universe fic, be it a mermaid AU or a canon divergence everybody lives AU, is that it’s combining more than one canon. The case I want to discuss below, combines the canons of “Hunter x Hunter” by Yoshihiro Togashi and “Solaris” by Stanislaw Lem. 

“Solaris” is a science fiction novel that takes place on an alien planet, where there is this “living ocean” that is baffling scientists exists. This setting has been taken and fused into the world of Hunter x Hunter in the fanfiction “At the End of Everything” by patxaran on Archive of Our Own. 

Now it’s important to note that fusion doesn’t necessarily mean crossover. A crossover is a kind of fusion, but it’s not the kind of fusion employed in “At the End of Everything.” In “At the End of Everything,” it is the setting and elements of the plot that have been transposed onto the characters of Kurapika and Leorio. The setting, an alien planet and ocean in “Solaris,” becomes an isolated basin with a Lake Solaris in the fanfiction. There is a research base, with similarly odd and stressed scientists. There are unknown beings that have been created by the environment of the lake.

There is also no fictional science dumping in “At the End of Everything.” As I listened to the audiobook of “Solaris,” I kept getting distracted and missing things when it came to the long discussions of the fictional science surrounding the mysteries of the ocean. It’s something I found very reminiscent of “The Martian.” However, Kurapika is not a scientist and as he is the primary protagonist we don’t get the same science dumping that we get in the canon of “Solaris.” 

“At the End of Everything” is not finished as of my writing this and I don’t know how “Solaris” is going to end either as I haven’t finished it yet, but I am curious as to how both will pan out and how similar and different they are going to be.

However, “At the End of Everything” is perfectly enjoyable without any prior knowledge of “Solaris.” I had not even heard of “Solaris” until I began reading the fanfiction and it wasn’t until roughly 13/14 chapters that I sought out an English translation of “Solaris” to read. 

“Solaris” is certainly a bit dated and heterosexual, if you’d like to avoid that maybe just stick with “At the End of Everything.” At the same time, if you’re not into Hunter x Hunter, but like science fiction, “Solaris” is very fascinating. 

“At the End of Everything” can be found on Ao3 and the new English translation of “Solaris” can be found on Amazon. I would recommend either the ebook or audiobook as there is no hard copy of the new translation, and I have heard that the old English translation is subpar.

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Introducing Earring Magic Ken! He’s wearing a what as a necklace?

Last month, after a week of bidding I acquired one Earring Magic Ken doll. Mattel’s best selling Ken doll.

What?

I know what you might be thinking. Thomas you are an adult, why on earth are you buying a Ken doll? And moreover why is that relevant to your blog?

Disregarding the fact, that I still have several Barbies from when I was a young lass. Earring Magic Ken is special, because he was inadvertently designed off of queer rave fashion of the early 1990s. Specifically, he’s wearing a cock ring as a necklace, which was a known queer fashion statement at the time.

Earring Magic Ken

After reaching out to their audience of young children Mattel learned they would like a new Ken doll to be cooler and more hip. So they went out looking for what was cool and as it happened the queer fashion worming its way into the mainstream was what they picked up as cool. Columnist Dan Savage wrote an article in 1993, the year the doll came out, detailing a really excellent explanation of what was going on. I would highly recommend it as reading for anyone interested in learning more. 

“Cock rings exploded (ouch!)—as vest zipper pulls, as key rings, as bracelets; rubber ones, leather ones, chain ones. But the thick chrome variety, the Classic Coke of cock rings, was and is most often worn as a pendant,” (Savage).

In 2017, Savage said in an article by Bryan Young, that he thought the “Earring Magic Ken incident [was] more of an amusing cultural blip than some kind of important moment, noting that neither the doll nor the hubbub is well-known today,” and that he didn’t think that a gay man under 40 would know about it. Well, it’s 2019 and I’m 25, so here we are. 

Now I’m a queer historian so I am well aware that I’m an outlier here, because I seek out this kind of stuff. However, I discovered Earring Magic Ken through a decently popular post on Tumblr. A post which currently has over 270,000 notes. That’s no small amount of people and I’m sure many of them, like myself, are on the younger side of things. With projects like Making Queer History and books like “Queer, There and Everywhere” emerging, younger members of the LGBTQ community are getting more and more access to their history. As a result, fascinating tidbits like Earring Magic Ken are resurfacing. 

The Tumblr post does admittedly have some misinformation attached to it. There’s a reblog that says that there was no corresponding Barbie for Earring Magic Ken. There were two actually, a blonde and a brunette Barbie as well as a Midge doll, they just didn’t sell particularly well opposite Ken, who flew off the shelves. 

Below, I have linked two different iterations of the Tumblr post, as well as a link to the Dan Savage article, the Bryan Young article and a few others. 

As always, if you enjoy my content, please considering buying be a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon.

Tumblr Post: https://transmanreno.tumblr.com/post/159839841850/surprisebitch-fangnominous-m00nqueer-ok

Tumblr Post (the one with the bit of misinformation): https://transmanreno.tumblr.com/post/170000579996/gay-son-of-a-pastor-shoptiludropdead 

Dan Savage article: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/ken-comes-out/Content?oid=882402

Bryan Young article: https://money.howstuffworks.com/barbie-earring-magic-ken-gay-icon-1993.htm

Pride article: https://www.pride.com/90skids/2018/3/16/discontinued-gay-ken-doll-will-haunt-mattel-forever

The Man Behind the Doll article: http://manbehindthedoll.com/mbtd_earring.htm

The Rhetorics of Camp and the Appropriation of Drag Culture

This essay was originally written in early 2018 to compliment a presentation on the rhetorics of camp and the appropriation of drag culture. The first half of this essay details a short history of camp and the drag ball scene, while the second half dives in to the appropriation of drag and other queer and camp signifiers. This is not meant to be a critique of anyone at the 2019 Met Gala. There was some truly wonderful camp, some decent attempts, and some utter failures. My only comment will be to include images of my four favorite costumes. Lena Waithe, Ezra Miller, Hamish Bowles and Billy Porter.

Camp has been defined as, “A style of interaction and display that used irony, incongruity, theatricality, and humor to highlight the artifice of social convention, sometimes exaggerating it to the point of burlesquing it, sometimes inverting it to achieve the same end,” (Chauncey 290). With highly campy drag queens being seen as the height of that camp, with a style of camp that can be hostile, sarcastic, and “bitchy,” (Newton 111), this style of drag and camp is probably most recognizable as what we consider “campy” today. It is this version of camp that is very accessible to the public, though shows like RuPaul’s drag race, but that hasn’t, historically, been all that camp is. What the straight cis public sees as camp, is only one facet of a very complex queer way of interacting with the world. 

Starting in the late 1800s and early 1900s camp came about and played a significant role in the way that gay men would lead double lives. “[The double life] did not necessarily lead them to denigrate their necessarily compartmentalized gay persona. Most men regarded the double life as a reasonable tactical response to the dangers posed by the revelation of their homosexuality to straight people,” (Chauncey 273). A large part of navigating that double life was the double entendre which goes hand in hand with camp. The double entendre does the same thing that camp does with using irony, incongruity, and humor (though with less theatricality) to undercut the social convention and dominant culture. Much of the gay slang thats stuck around such as “coming out” has origins as part of this double entendre culture of the early twentieth century. “Like much of campy gay terminology, ‘coming out’ was an arch play on the language of women’s culture—in this case the expression used to refer to the ritual of a debutante’s being formally introduced to, or ‘coming out’ into, the society of her cultural peers,” (7). Coming out of the closet as a metaphor would not appear until the 1960s, though that’s not to say there weren’t other metaphors for not being out (Waxman), but in this case “A gay man’s coming out…referred to his being formally presented to the largest collective manifestation of pre[World War 2] gay society, the enormous drag balls that were patterned on the debutante and masquerade balls of the dominant culture,” (Chauncey 7). 

This double entendre was not only something that allowed queer people of the time to undercut and subvert phrases and activities of the dominant culture, it helped foster a sense of collective identity as well. “It made them insiders in a world that normally casts them as outsiders,” Chauncey explains and it allowed them to “see themselves as participants in the dominant culture,” (287). Since the dominant culture at the time was not explicitly going to make reference to homosexuality and making oneself publicly visible as queer could have serious repercussions, this hidden subversive language emerged. The camp subversion that emerges from this double entendre culture allows for queer people to “turn ‘straight’ spaces into gay spaces,” (288) which allowed and allows queer people to “communicate secretly in straight settings,” (289). We don’t see this so much today, because there is less of a need for it with today’s society being infinitely more accepting than it was in early twentieth century, however, camp evolves. “Camp is not a thing. Most broadly it signifies a relationship between things, peopIe, and activities or qualities, and homosexuality,” (Newton 105). Today’s camp can be seen in the very specific loud queer hairstyles that pop up, the undercut died a loud, bright color, like pink, purple, blue, or green, could be considered a more modern style of camp. Appearance has always been a big place for camp even outside of the over the top drag costumes. One of my friends had an all denim birthday party in an attempt to, and I quote, “Attract all the lesbians in the Tri State Area.” Knowing denim or flannel are lesbian signifiers is knowing the subcultural camp code of hiding in plain sight that queer people have been cultivating for decades.

The subcultural code of camp does get undermined however, when the dominant culture decides they want in on it. While I don’t think it, as one queen interviewed by Esther Newton claims makes “queens stop it” the “moment it becomes a public cult,” it does do damage to the original act of subverting the dominant power structures. There is no reason that cis women who want to be hyper feminine should be appropriating drag culture and calling themselves drag queens (Pagan). It stops being social critique and it stops being camp. “I was told by impersonators that a homosexual clothes designer made himself a beautiful Halloween [drag] ball gown. After the ball he sold it to a wealthy society lady. It was said that when he wore it, it was very campy, but when she wore it, it was just an expensive gown,” (Newton 107). For it to truly be camp the intent to subvert must be there. Lady Gaga was not a drag queen for her outrageous outfits, it was camp because there was absolutely critique on what was traditionally seen as acceptable to wear to awards shows (ie. Raw meat), and also because Lady Gaga is bisexual, but it wasn’t drag. 

Another example of how this queer camp subtext gets undermined is less obvious, but equally disheartening. “In cities, trendy young people — queer and straight, male, female and non-binary — are blending together, look-wise. That’s because mainstream style is now hipster style. But here’s the thing: Hipster style is just queer style, particularly queer women’s style. Put another way: Lesbians invented hipsters,” (Burton). It doesn’t necessarily mean that these styles stop being queer, it just means they need more context, this is why what camp is changes as queer things become mainstream. Which is why cishet women calling their hyper-feminine over the top costumes drag is such a problem. Drag is too important a thing risk being overrun by the mainstream. That’s not to say that there isn’t drag for cis women. There is very much a tradition of male drag in the lesbian community with drag butches (Newton 100), which has become in today’s terminology, the drag king to compliment the drag queen. To top everything off, trans people have always blurred the lines of drag, with trans people historically having used drag as an entry point to realizing their identity. Even beyond AMAB (assigned male at birth) and AFAB (assigned female at birth) people being drag queens and kings respectively, we now see instances of trans male drag queens, such as Adrian Dalton (aka Lola Lypsinka) (Dalton 93).

To conclude, camp was and still is a “cultural strategy” that helps queer people “make sense of, respond to, and undermine the social categories of gender and sexuality that served  to marginalize them,” (Chauncey 290). And while dominant culture does appropriate and undermine the subcultural codes that camp creates that doesn’t mean that camp culture goes away, it simply evolves, but it doesn’t lose what it ultimately stands for. Codes might be dropped from our language and/or lost to the passage of time, but there will surely be new evolved language that comes into fill those holes. 

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Works Cited (below the cut)

Continue reading “The Rhetorics of Camp and the Appropriation of Drag Culture”

Scott Summers and Public Speaking in X-Men: Schism

Notes:

  1. This is an essay I originally wrote for a rhetoric and writing class in 2015 and cleaned up in 2017. As a result, the tone of the paper is skewed towards the perspective of someone who is unfamiliar with the X-Men, because of this it may come across as over explanatory to fans familiar with the issues and plotlines discussed.

In the first issue of X-Men: Schism, mutant leader of the X-Men, Scott Summers, codename Cyclops, delivers a speech to the International Arms Control Conference in Switzerland. This speech fails quite spectacularly for multiple reasons, many being out of the rhetor’s control. The speech concerns decommissioning the Sentinel weapons that have been created by humans for the purpose of hunting and tracking down mutants, because many humans fear and hate mutants. Scott explains in the speech that he wants to protect the remaining mutants since their numbers have been decimated, going from millions of mutants to just a few hundred, and he states that he believes that there are now more Sentinels than mutants themselves (Aaron #1-8/2). This decimation event, called M-Day within the comics, occurred when the Scarlet Witch depowered 90% of the world’s mutant population (David #1-9/1).

Continue reading “Scott Summers and Public Speaking in X-Men: Schism”

All Your Faves Are Trans! Part Two: Lex Luthor

The second and final episode of All Your Faves Are Trans! Once again featuring comics expert Murphy Leigh.

This episode goes into the reading of Lex Luthor as a trans man particularly in the Smallville television series and his portrayal in the 2016 Batman V. Superman film.

TRANSCRIPT:

Continue reading “All Your Faves Are Trans! Part Two: Lex Luthor”

All Your Faves Are Trans!

All of your favorite characters are trans. All of them.
Feat. Guest Murphy Lee

In my consolidating of the content I’ve created I figured it would be a good idea to get these puppies circulating again. This is episode one of the two episode demo of the podcast I assembled for a class in college. They’ve been wasting away on my Soundcloud since then, but they’ve got some good things to say.

Guest Murphy Leigh has since changed their social media from what is listed in the podcast, and can be found most places as nomoremetaphors.

The second and final episode will go up the week of Christmas  to make up for there being no content last month due to setting up this blog.

TRANSCRIPT BELOW THE CUT:

Continue reading “All Your Faves Are Trans!”

What really happened on Tarsus IV? A Comparison

image

[Edit: Originally published September 9, 2016]

What really happened on Tarsus IV? Aside from, of course, a famine and the execution of 4,000 people. What canon gives us limited, but if you delve into the wonderful world of Star Trek books, you can find more detailed things about Tarsus. In William Shatner’s Avenger, for example, the famine was cause by an act of eco-terrorism. However, the books seem to fall into the territory of apocryphal canon, which in my opinion is just fantastic, because it leaves room for multiple interpretations and you can pick and chose what you want to go with. 

I want to focus this review specifically on two books. The Autobiography of James T. Kirk “edited” by David A. Goodman and Star Trek Academy: Collision Course by William Shatner with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. 

Collision Course was published in 2007 and has a take on Kirk’s experiences with the genocide that reminds me of a lot of the Tarsus IV fanfiction I’ve read. Which sees Kirk leading and trying to protect a group of children. He tends to be more successful in fanfiction than he does in Collision Course. In Collision Course, Kirk is offered the chance to help Kodos (round up and get rid of stragglers) in exchange for a place on the no kill list. Initially, he agrees as it’s not fully explained to him. When he fails to follow through, he (and the children he’s trying to save) end up hunted by someone who’d been a friend of his.

In The Autobiography, published in 2015, Kirk is safe from the outset and remains that way. Kirk only witnesses the execution because he’d snuck out of the house in the middle of the night with Tom Leighton, whose parents were on the kill list, and Tom had wanted to see where they went. That’s also how Tom gets the injury to his face when they’re spotted by a guard.

Tom Leighton is not mentioned by name in Collision Course, though there is mention of the Leighton Farm. 

Brace yourselves cause it’s about to get a little gross. How the colonists are killed is also different in both books. In The Autobiography they’re hit with what I assume are phasers and turn to dust which is then swept up and there’s nothing left. 

Collision Course is significantly more graphic about it. “Instead of life there was death: four thousand bodies crisped by laser fire. A week after the colony’s revolution, they lay blackened, bloated, unburied.” It seems like life on Tarsus in Collision Course has fallen into more of a disarray than it does in The Autobiography.

Perhaps the biggest difference in post-Tarsus Kirk between the books is his opinion of Starfleet. In The Autobiography, Jim’s reaction to Starfleet’s arrival with assistance is a happy one. That’s what he wants to do with his life. It’s that moment that he decides he wants to join Starfleet.

In Collision Course it’s the exact opposite. Kirk is very angry at Starfleet. They came too late. Kirk was nearly killed and he saw many of the children he was trying to protect killed. Collision Course Kirk is heavily traumatized by what happened on Tarsus IV. It’s not clear in The Autobiography just what level of trauma Kirk suffered, but it seemed generally less than what was in Collision Course. 

Do I have a preference? Yes I do. I have to say I favor Shatner’s interpretation. I think it also helped that I got to see Kirk struggling with life post-Tarsus through a whole book, instead of just a few pages out of The Autobiography.

Related reviews: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, Star Trek Academy: Collision Course