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Number One Lady Detectives July 16, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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Down to my last 48 images on Photobucket. Have a rescued picspam.

It’s Mma Precious Ramotswe and Mma Grace Makutsi, the heroines of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Hugging. Seriously, it’s just screencaps of this one great time they hugged.

Precious and Grace

That’s Mma Ramotswe on the left. She’s the detective. Very smart, very good with emotions, lots of tragic backstory. IIRC she’s feeling the tragic backstory pretty hard in this moment.

And Mma Makutsi on the right. Very serious secretary/manager, first in her class, doesn’t much approve of Feelings. The fact that she’s having some is a big deal.

(more…)

Erin Watches: The Doctor Falls July 3, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Watched the last episode of this season live when it aired, had so many thoughts that I had to go back and rewatch/liveblog, just to make sure I got them all in order.

Spoilers ahoy!

(more…)

In which I have a lot of thoughts about Michiru March 7, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Meta, Uncategorized.
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All caught up with the Sailor Business podcast. They get better about doing research as it goes on! Plus, by now they have a large-enough listener base that a lot of solid, deep information is being called/sent in. Good stuff. Very listenable.

Followed a rec from one of their episodes to the Love and Justice podcast, where the shtick is that they compare plots across all the different versions. Starting with the Crystal episodes.

I did wince when they got to Ami’s introduction, and were confused that the manga was “more modern” than the ’92 anime, because she uses a CD instead of a floppy. Guys, your whole thing is comparing different versions, and you don’t realize the manga had two different releases? (Well, three at this point, but the uber-high-quality edition hasn’t been released stateside.) The version used for the Kodansha translations has a whole lot of updated art, most of which involves fixing wonky figures and adding more details, some of which involves the Dark Kingdom tech getting an upgrade.

Again, it’s still early episodes, and fun enough that I’m sticking with it. Hopefully someone eventually clues them in.

***

I ended up writing a long thing to Sailor Business, because they’ve been really doing a disservice to Michiru’s character. And apparently I have a lot more Feelings about her than I realized.

Context: They just passed the two-parter where Usagi is a daimon target. Before Uranus and Neptune arrive on-scene, Michiru asks Haruka if she’s really okay with the possibility of that cute girl being sacrificed. Haruka, stoically, insists that she’s fine. They gotta do what they gotta do.

…So our hosts keep saying Michiru is “passive” or “go along to get along.” Because Haruka is the more overtly loud and confrontational one…and that means Michiru is just following her lead, taking cues from her.

But now they’ve seen Michiru’s episode with Ami — she didn’t waver or wait for direction, she went straight for the jugular. And that’s a microcosm of how she’s approaching the whole quest: do something ruthless and cruel in the short term (pulling no punches with Ami/killing the Talisman holders) for the sake of a greater good in the long term (making Ami stronger/saving the world).

There’s an old butch-femme trope/cliche, that femmes are “steel wrapped in velvet,” and that’s Michiru. On the surface she’s all soft graceful feminine hobbies, but underneath she’s perfectly capable of knifing you in your sleep.

The flip side of the trope is that butches are “velvet wrapped in steel,” i.e. Haruka has a tough exterior but is a marshmallow underneath. Which lines right up with the podcast’s favorite relationship trope — “which of these people is the dog, and which is the cat?” Haruka is the dog! She barks really loud, but she’s a sucker for belly rubs. She yells a lot about how they have to kill the Talisman holders, to cover the fact that she’s the one who wrestles with it most in private.

Michiru handles the idea much better. Michiru is the cat who will knock all your stuff onto the floor, and look you in the eye while she’s doing it, with zero remorse. Michiru is the senshi who would win Most Likely To Become A Supervillain — not from brainwashing/hypnosis, we already know who’s most likely to go through that, but based on her own personality and for her own reasons.

So when Michiru asks Haruka if she’s okay with killing that cute innocent Usagi to save the world, there are two things going on here.

First is basically a supervillainy spot-check. Michiru knows it makes sense to her to kill a few people for the Greater Good, but is that really the moral strategy, or just the most coldly efficient one? Well, Haruka wouldn’t be capable of doing this for the sake of cold efficiency alone. So Michiru can reliably calibrate her moral compass by Haruka.

The second angle is Michiru being a concerned girlfriend. What if they get the Talismans and save the world, but afterward Haruka can’t handle the guilt? What if she has lifelong nightmares about Usagi’s death?

We don’t see what would have happened if Haruka had broken down and said “no, I’m sorry, this is too much, I can’t go through with it.” So different viewers can have different interpretations. My guess is that Michiru would say “it’s okay, sweetie, you don’t have to, we’ll find another way”…and then send Haruka home and go to Tokyo Tower on her own, making herself solely responsible for whatever happens to any Talisman-holders who show up.

Because sacrificing three lives for the sake of the world is one thing, but making Haruka feel bad about herself? That’s a bridge too far.

So, yeah, ruthless…but also, to be fair, a teenage girl in a traumatic situation. Part of the way she’s handling it is by telling herself, “look, I know I’m not a Good Person. A good person wouldn’t be this resigned to murdering three innocent people. But at least I can protect Haruka’s soul from being crushed along the way. I still get to draw the line somewhere, and I choose here.”

It takes another level in heart-rending when (and wow, I am looking forward to these episodes) you find out that Haruka got into the senshi game for Michiru. She told Haruka not to do it — trying to protect her, although at that point it was in an impersonal, “nobody should have to deal with this stress” way — and maybe Haruka would’ve listened, except then Sailor Neptune got in a monster fight she was going to lose without Sailor Uranus as backup.

So on some level Michiru is trying to atone for not being strong enough to keep this cute girl out of the fight.

 

…and you know, this makes it all the more satisfying when we get to that one SuperS special. A minor antagonist claims he has world-destroying powers, but Uranus and Neptune aren’t intimidated by that threat anymore. And Neptune cheerfully leans into her ruthlessness — she’s 100% bluffing, but she’s very good. Terrifies the pants off the guy. She has the power to simultaneously be a Big Damn Hero and out-villain the villains.

(Would you believe it, when I was a teenager, Michiru was the senshi I was least interested in? No, really. Even accounting for the context of her relationship with Haruka, who is probably my team-wide fave, I was not expecting to have this many Michiru feelings. But someone was Wrong On The Internet, and bam, here we are.)

Multifandom Works Roundup, 2/13/17 February 13, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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Leif & Thorn
Cotton Candy Nap (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Hy Fashion (art | Hyacinth | worksafe)
Fancy Olive (art | Olive | worksafe)
This Is Not An Effective Sweater (art | Leif | NSFWish)

Danganronpa
You Were My Hope (art | Mikan/Ibuki | worksafe)

Gravity Falls
Pacific Pines Embrace (art | Mabel/Pacifica | worksafe)

Harry Potter
This time I’ll be the catgirl (art | Tonks/Hermione | worksafe)

Homestuck
Soft Lips, Sharp Blades (art | Vriska/Aranea | worksafe)

Legend of Korra
That’s Some Good Handmaidening (art | Korra/Asami | worksafe)

Moana/Home
I Am A Girl Who Loves My Planet (art | Tip, Moana | worksafe)

Moana/Little Mermaid
That Scavenging Collector (comic | Moana/Ariel, Maui | G)

Steven Universe
Modern Dance Opal (art | Pearl/Amethyst, Opal | worksafe)
Are Those Space Pants? (sketch | Pearl/Peridot | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Figure drawings 2-11-17 (sketches, NSFW)

This Week in Leif & Thorn:

Erin Reads: The Last of the Ozicans December 7, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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After putting it off long enough, I finally went through the last two of Baum’s Oz books. Both published posthumously, in case this wasn’t sad enough already.

Book 13 is The One With The Even Gayer Birthday Party, and Book 14 is Baum Breaks His Own Record For Unnecessary Cameos.

***

The Magic of Oz opens with a baby supervillain. Munchkin boy Kiki Aru discovers a magic word of transformation, and decides to fly over the Deadly Desert and visit other countries, then come back to Oz and maybe take it over.

(So of course the readers all had to figure out how to stumble through pronouncing “pyrzqxgl.” Wish some of them had thought to go back and distort the audio, so what the listener hears is something they genuinely can’t repeat back.)

Baum sure does have a thing for fantasy young boy protagonists vs. mundane young girl protagonists, huh? On the one side, Dorothy, Dot, Trot, and Betsy; on the other, Ojo, Woot, Inga, and Kiki, plus I’ll throw in Tip, who considers himself male for the bulk of the book in which he’s the focus of the adventure.

Mundane boys: Tot, Button-Bright. Fantasy girls: Ozma, and…is that it? There are Polychrome and Ann Soforth, but they both feel like young adults to me.

Anyway.

Didn’t even plan this: Kiki Aru drops in on exactly the non-Oz countries from my last review. Hiland, Loland, Merryland, Nol, and Ix.

He ends up in Ev, where he tries to crash at an inn for the night, only to realize that — worldbuilding! — Ev uses money, and he doesn’t have any. You’d think he could turn into a bird in order to sleep in a tree, but as a baby supervillain he decides to turn into a bird in order to steal someone else’s coins.

The ex-Nome King just happens to be in the area, and approves. “I like you, young man, and I’ll go to the inn with you if you’ll promise not to eat eggs for supper.”

***

It’s almost Ozma’s birthday again! Look, it was a serviceable plot device the first time around, no reason not to bring it back.

Dorothy is stuck for gift ideas, which is bound to happen when you’ve been living with someone for, what is it, 30 years now? The Scarecrow is providing a straw-themed gift, and the Tin Woodman a tin-themed gift, but Dorothy doesn’t exactly have a theme.

Scraps wrote a song! The title begins “When Ozma Has a Birthday, Everybody’s Sure to Be Gay…” (“I am patched and gay and glary / You’re a sweet and lovely fairy.”)

Toto’s advice:

“Tell me, Toto,” said the girl; “what would Ozma like best for a birthday present?”

The little black dog wagged his tail.

“Your love,” said he. “Ozma wants to be loved more than anything else.”

“But I already love her, Toto!”

“Then tell her you love her twice as much as you ever did before.”

“That wouldn’t be true,” objected Dorothy, “for I’ve always loved her as much as I could, and, really, Toto, I want to give Ozma some PRESENT, ’cause everyone else will give her a present.”

Glinda suggests Dorothy bake Ozma a cake. Then suggests she put something surprising inside the cake. When asked for specific ideas, she says that has to be up to Dorothy. HMMMM.

Everyone ships it, is what I’m saying.

(Her eventual big plan for the surprise: tiny monkeys that do tricks! She decides to ask the Wizard for help, because she has no idea how to (a) hire monkeys, (b) make them tiny, or (c) teach them tricks.)

***

Worldbuilding update: they’ve decided they aren’t sure whether immigrants to Oz are affected by the “can’t be killed” rule, so Dorothy et al are carefully protected.

Trot, Cap’n Bill, and the Glass Cat head out on their own sidequest: to bring Ozma a magic flower that only grows on a secluded island. As with The Scarecrow of Oz, Trot is missing a lot of the personality she had in her own books. Sigh.

I was going to say “at least she gets a quest,” unlike Betsy, whose only adventuring since moving to Oz has been her bit part in Lost Princess — but on second thought, Betsy being a homebody who didn’t care for her first adventure and would rather avoid having more of them is a nice way to distinguish her from Trot and Dorothy. Let the girl have a quiet, uneventful life at the palace for a few more decades. She’s earned it.

About that island: it turns out to be creepily bare (“How funny it is, Cap’n Bill, that nothing else grows here excep’ the Magic Flower”). Turns out it’s because any living creature that sets foot on the island puts down roots.

***

Ruggedo and Kiki Aru take on some chimera forms, fly back to Oz, and land in a Gillikin forest with an animal kingdom.

Kiki Aru provides the transformations — he’s smart enough not to let Ruggedo in on the magic word — while Ruggedo does the planning and the talking. He spins a tale that the people of the Emerald City are plotting to invade the forest and enslave the animals, so clearly they need to attack first and enslave the people instead. Based on hearsay from some creatures they’ve never seen or heard of before. Yep.

The animals are…admirably skeptical. Kiki Aru transforms a couple of them, backing up the “we’re magicians” part of the story, but nothing more.

And this is the point where Dorothy and the Wizard just walk in. Or rather, ride in on the backs of a giant frickin’ lion and tiger, while the transformed Ruggedo is all ::sweats nervously:: in the background.

The Lion introduces himself: “I am called the ‘Cowardly Lion,’ and I am King of all Beasts, the world over.” The response boils down to “I didn’t vote for you.”

Dorothy and the Wizard are just here to hire some monkeys, but baby supervillain Kiki panics and does a rapid round of transformations on them. Plus on Ruggedo — who gets to be a goose, which terrifies him, because what if he lays an egg?

Eventually the Wizard (as a fox) catches up with them, overhears Kiki saying the magic word, and uses it to turn Kiki and Ruggedo into nuts.

***

Honestly, it’s kinda refreshing how fast the invasion subplot peters out. The animals realize the “magicians” were full of it, and immediately drop their halfhearted sense of grudge. A bunch of monkeys even agree to come join them for the party.

The Glass Cat catches up with them to explain what’s happened to Trot and Cap’n Bill, they take a detour to wrap up that subplot too, and everyone goes home for the party.

“You will have noticed that the company at Ozma’s banquet table was somewhat mixed.” Heh.

Character apparent-age update:

When Dorothy and Trot and Betsy Bobbin and Ozma were together, one would think they were all about of an age, and the fairy Ruler no older and no more “grown up” than the other three. She would laugh and romp with them in regular girlish fashion, yet there was an air of quiet dignity about Ozma, even in her merriest moods, that, in a manner, distinguished her from the others. The three girls loved her devotedly, but they were never able to quite forget that Ozma was the Royal Ruler of the wonderful Fairyland of Oz, and by birth belonged to a powerful race.

It isn’t until the last chapter that the Wizard finally remembers about the nuts in his pocket.

I’ve complained about the protagonist-centered morality before, and the ending here might be the most head-desky example on the whole series. Ozma, Dorothy, and the Wizard talk about not knowing how powerful the mystery magicians might be…but unlike with the invading armies from book 6, they’re not facing a concrete threat of overwhelming force. It’s just a guess. And we, the readers, know for a fact that Kiki Aru is just a kid who knows one trick, while the other nut is Ruggedo, nobody they can’t handle.

In spite of this, the characters repeat the “manipulate the attackers into drinking the Water of Oblivion” trick. They recognize Ruggedo, but have no idea who Kiki is, and don’t bother to ask before he takes a drink. So the kid loses his identity…and all memory of the family he left at the beginning of the book. Now they’ll never find out what happened to their son.

Dammit, Baum, magically lobotomizing characters you don’t like is not a happy ending!

—-

Which brings us to Glinda of Oz, another of those books where the title character isn’t the focus, and in fact is only around for half of the story.

It starts as a Dorothy-and-Ozma quest, kicked off when they visit Glinda, read in her Magic Book about a war brewing between two isolated communities, and decide to go intervene.

At Glinda’s place: “Ozma took the arm of her hostess, but Dorothy lagged behind, kissing some of the maids she knew best, talking with others, and making them all feel that she was their friend.” I’ve joked about Ozma’s harem, but whoo boy, Dorothy isn’t doing so bad herself.

Some final retconning: people in Oz can’t die *or* suffer “any great bodily pain.” So even if you get put through the torn-to-pieces-and-scattered-across-the-world horror show, at least it won’t hurt!

***

The warring communities are the Flatheads, who have no room for brains in their heads but compensate by carrying some around in cans, and the Skeezers, who live on a sinkable island in a lake.

Both of them have fairly terrible, selfish, dictatorial rulers…but both of them make the point that they’ve never heard of Ozma, didn’t know their lands had been declared within the borders of a country called Oz, and so why should they acknowledge her as their ruler the moment she shows up on their doorstep?

Oh, goody, marriage-is-awful jokes:

“I’m sorry we couldn’t have roast pig,” said the [Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads], “but as the only pig we have is made of gold, we can’t eat her. Also the Golden Pig happens to be my wife, and even were she not gold I am sure she would be too tough to eat.”

The Skeezers’ island sinks while Dorothy and Ozma are on it, and the ruler gets turned into a swan before she can bring it back up, so they’re stuck for a while. Baum indulges in some pretty description of the undersea environment. Reminds me of The Sea Fairies.

A bunch of reviews claim this is one of the darker Oz books. It’s really not! Remember the first book, where Dorothy and her companions went through multiple fights to the death, and for a while Dorothy was in forced servitude to the Wicked Witch and spent her nights crying alone in the dark? Now here, Dorothy is imprisoned in a place with gorgeous scenery, the company of her best friend, and total confidence they’ll get rescued sooner or later. Her biggest fear is getting bored while they wait.

***

Glinda resurfaces (hah!) in chapter 13 of 24. She sinks a model island in a pond near her home, for the purpose of testing various island-raising magics.

I was just thinking how comparatively nice it was to have a stripped-down party, just Dorothy and Ozma…and then in chapter 15 it seems like half the Emerald City heads out to rescue them. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, Scraps, Button-Bright, Ojo, the Glass Cat, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Woggle-Bug, the Shaggy Man, Cap’n Bill, Trot, Betsy, the Frogman, Uncle Henry (but for some reason not Aunt Em), the Wizard, AND Glinda.

That’s eighteen people! Tik-Tok, the Woggle-bug, the Lion, and Jack don’t get any lines once the quest is underway. Shaggy, Cap’n Bill and Uncle Henry get one line apiece. One!

Gratuitous magical gizmo for the Wizard: a skeropythrope. He never leaves home without one.

***

All this is doubly superfluous because most of the conflict gets solved by the Rightful Rulers of the Flatheads, working together with a Plucky Skeezer Lad. Also, another magic-user (a Yookoohoo, same type as Mrs. Yoop) who gets talked into helping via reverse psychology.

(The Yookoohoo, Red Reera, is another shapeshifter, and apparently Baum’s original manuscript had her appear as a wired-together skeleton with glowing eyes. Okay, that’s appreciably dark. In the published book, she spends most of her time as an ape.)

Dorothy has a good moment where she figures out how to raise the island. The magic was designed by one person, the Skeezers’ usurper queen, so all she has to do is apply the psychology of the individual. Well done.

In a nice reversal, the end sees the Flatheads all transformed to have round heads, with space to safely store their brains. So they’re much less likely to get lobotomized now.

And the Skeezers get to elect their new ruler! They pick Lady Aurex, a sweet, subversive courtier who took care of Dorothy and Ozma while they were prisoners. Good choice.

The moral of the story, according to Ozma, is that it’s always important to do your duty — meaning her royal duty to step in when a war is brewing, and bring the diplomacy.

The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that you shouldn’t send twenty characters to do a quest that needs, like…six, max.

Especially since it really seems like the locals had this covered! Which is, to be fair, not a bad note to leave the series on. Oz is in good hands.

Monday Works Roundup, 11/7/16 November 7, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Walking into tomorrow (cover art | Miranda, Sparrow, Camellia, Jany, Patrick, Poe, Reseda, Kara Lynn | worksafe)
Autumn Gardening (wallpaper | Reseda, Camellia | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
…and how it harmed you (art | gem!Leif, gem!Thorn | worksafe)
Thorny Fanservice Meme (art meme | Leif/Thorn, Del, Kale | NSFW ish)
Year One (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Costumed in Ceannis (art | Violet, Rowan, Ivy, Holly | worksafe)
2016 sketchpile (sketches | ensemble | worksafe)

Fake News/Politics
Happy birthday, HRC (art | Hillary Clinton | worksafe)

Oz
Dorothy’s Menagerie (sketch | Dorothy, Toto, Eureka, Billina, Lion | worksafe)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Red Bow Gives You Wings -preview- (art | HomuMado | worksafe preview, NSFW full size)

Steven Universe
Luchaquartzes (art | Amethyst, Jasper | worksafe)
My pretty bluebell doll (art | Blue Diamond/Blue Pearl | worksafe)
Got you a flower (art | Lapis/Peridot | worksafe)
Besuited Sardonyx (art | Pearl/Garnet, Sardonyx | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
I been runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load, got a world of trouble on my mind.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Meet the engineers who are going to help sort this mine collapse. The tiny, tiny engineers.

Tuesday Works Roundup, 10/18/16 October 18, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Leif & Thorn, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Pumpkin Spice Beings (art | Cybele, Patrick, Reseda, Poe | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Fancy Peach (art | Peach | worksafe)
Sexy Waiters (sketch | Leif, Katya | NSFW-ish)
Fancy ???????? (art | Woman In Black | worksafe)
Weak…ankles? (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)

Maleficent
True Love’s Revolution (art | Aurora/Maleficent | worksafe)

My Little Pony
Your Future (art | Luna, Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer | worksafe)

Sailor Moon
Tairon Crystal’s Court (art | gem!Mistress 9, Kaorinite, Cenicienta, Eudial, Mimete, Tellu, Viluy, Cyprine, Ptilol | worksafe)

Steven Universe
101 Dalmatian Jaspers (art | Jasper, corrupted Jaspers | worksafe)

Voltron: Legendary Defender
Gives the best hugs (sketch | Shiro/Hunk | worksafe)
Right between the ears (sketch | Shiro/Sendak | worksafe)
So much for the height difference (sketch | Pidge/Hunk | worksafe)
The veteran and the hotshot (sketch | Shiro/Lance | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Unexpected hiatus, then unexpected Bennett eyeing the door of his closet.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Thorn has some good therapy, and a healing chat with his sister.

It’s Oz Conquering O’Clock again here in reread land July 6, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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There’s a Baum-penned book of Oz short stories that came out between books 7 and 8. I’m not sure whether Little Wizard Stories of Oz is objectively better than the stories of Mo, or just feels more grounded because it uses characters we already know…either way, it’s a cute roundup of character moments and worldbuilding details that might not have fit into any of the larger adventures.

And it shows that Baum hates coming up with titles as much as the rest of us.

The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger: in which we learn that Oz has an afternoon siesta! The Lion and the Tiger resolve to finally act on their natural “tearing a person apart” and “eating a fat baby” instincts, but when they head out into the street, everybody’s napping.

Also: when Ozma is holding court, Dorothy habitually sits at her feet. Um. That setup doesn’t say “auxiliary princess” so much as “lounging courtesan.” (I like it.)

Little Dorothy and Toto: probably the backstory of how Dorothy got cured of her getting-lost habit between books 6 and 7. The Wizard keeps telling her that he’s worried she’ll get in real trouble, and when that doesn’t sink in, he stages an object lesson: disguising himself as a shape-changing imp who captures her and forces her to wash dishes.

He kinda learns a lesson himself, when he has to cut the charade short because Toto nearly eats him.

At one point Toto looks at a warning sign “so seriously that Dorothy almost believed he could read it.” One of several bits of serious foreshadowing that he’s secretly just as language-enabled as all the other mundane animals who have visited Oz.

Tik-Tok and the Nome King: in which it turns out that non-Oz fairy countries have currencies: after the king smashes Tik-Tok and Kaliko fixes him, Kaliko’s wages are raised by “one specto a year.”

This is really hard to place in the timeline. The fact that Tik-Tok leaves Oz doesn’t mean it’s pre-Ozsolation; by book 8 some major exceptions have been carved out. The King is intimidated by Ozma and scared of the consequences of breaking one of her things, which doesn’t jive with his angry, revenge-seeking mindset between books 3 and 6…so I guess it’s sometime during the timeskip, while he’s still reconstructing the events he can’t remember, and figuring out that Ozma scares him.

Ozma and the Little Wizard: in which we learn that Ozma doesn’t just hang out on the throne, but tours the country to do problem-solving in person.

Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse: more Ozma problem-solving, this time through sending agents. Jack engages in diplomacy with the King of the Squirrels, only to get his head smashed with a branch. It’s like a mashup of that scene with Kronk intoning “Squeak squeakerson squeak squeak,” and the head-exploding scene from Scanners.

The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman: in which these two queer characters take a romantic boat ride together, and get so wrapped up in each other that they crash into a rock because they’re not paying attention. I’m not even kidding, that’s it, that’s the plot.

***

On to book 8! Tik-Tok of Oz is titled in the fine tradition of “pick one random character who appears in the story, and name the book after them.” It starts in one of Oz’s mini-countries: Oogaboo, a tiny mountain kingdom in Winkie Country. And by “tiny” I mean: “18 men, 27 women and 44 children.”

Baum’s writing is on-point in this book. Strong multi-level plot, snappy humor. Oogaboo “had a royal family of their own. Not especially to rule over them; just as a matter of pride” — and their Queen Ann Soforth (who I always imagined as effectively college-age, immortality aside) gets so frustrated that she decides to head out and conquer the world.

She ropes 17 of the nation’s 18 adult males into her Army — that’s 16 officers and 1 private soldier. Much less capable than General Jinjur’s Army of Revolt, to say nothing of General Guph’s collection of horrors…but, admittedly, a match for the Royal Army of Oz, at least since Ozma promoted their private.

Thing is, the Emerald City is so over being conquered. Glinda sees the Army of Oogaboo coming, and teleports them out of Oz long before they have any idea what they’re doing.

Meanwhile, Shaggy is looking for his brother. The Shaggy Man really is Baum’s favorite, isn’t he? I remembered him being introduced in book 5, and his quest to save his brother here, but had forgotten how Baum stuck him in the party in both of the novels in between, too. He’s like wallpaper. Shaggy wallpaper.

This plot thread racks up a party with remarkable efficiency. Oklahoma girl Betsy Bobbin gets shipwrecked with Hank the donkey, and runs into the Shaggy Man. A detour into the eerily misogynistic Rose Kingdom has them walk out with a Rose Princess (as in book 4, our heroes pick the ripe ruler; but these flowers want to be ruled by a king, so they kick her out). They meet up with Polychrome, lost from the rainbow again — weirdly, she and Shaggy both act like they’ve never met before. Then they yank Tik-Tok out of a well!

I was going to say “maybe this is Tik-Tok on the way back from being fixed by Kaliko,” but no, he was sent by Ozma to help on the quest. One wonders why Ozma didn’t teleport him directly to Shaggy’s side. Or, even better, why she doesn’t teleport them all into the same room as Shaggy’s brother…but I digress.

Asked how to get to the Nome Kingdom: “The best way is to walk,” said Tik-Tok. “We might crawl, or jump, or roll o-ver and o-ver until we get there; but the best way is to walk.” I told you this one was funny.

***

Some thoughts on Betsy. Let’s face it, she’s awfully hard to distinguish from Dorothy at times — plucky young girl from the US who gets shipwrecked in a fairy country with a stalwart animal companion. Ozma even lampshades it toward the end, telling Dorothy that Betsy got shipwrecked “in much the same way you did.”

Some differences: She throws herself into adventure for its own sake, with no wistful thoughts of returning to home or family — in the end she says she has no home to go back to. (We never get that backstory.) It probably helps her adjustment that she’s read some of the Oz books. Not enough to know the Shaggy Man on sight, but she’s all impressed that he’s friends with Dorothy and Ozma.

Dorothy takes weird things in stride, befitting someone whose first fairy adventure happened when she was really little. She’s used to assuming that whatever’s going on is normal. Betsy asks a lot of questions — even about things that are normal by mundane-world standards, like “why are all tubes hollow?”

And she’s nervous about being sent off to sleep alone in a strange place. Dorothy — well, she usually has Toto at her side, but she took it pretty easily in book 3 when Langwidere took away Billina and Tik-Tok before locking her in a tower. Betsy is a welcomed guest when the party lands in Tititi-Hoochoo’s country, and she’s still anxious about being alone for the night, enough that they end up sending Polychrome with her.

***

Okay, backing up: The two quests crash together; Shaggy suggests that Ann can conquer the Nomes while he’s rescuing his brother. Their destinies are further entwined when Private Files quits — he refuses Ann’s orders to take the girls captive — and Tik-Tok obligingl lets himself get recruited to be the new Army of Oogaboo.

Ruggedo may no longer have the Magic Belt, but he still knows a lot of spells and controls a lot of useful equipment. When he spots the would-be invaders, he arranges to drop them down a hole to a fairy country on the far side of the earth. (It’s even pseudo-Chinese. Their formal wear is cheongsams with embroidered dragons!)

All this is very illegal. Kaliko, hearing the plan, sneaks off to his room and starts writing letters of recommendation for himself.

(“I hate mortals more than I hate catnip tea!” You take a lot of that, Ruggedo…?)

Paralleling the army that’s all officers except for one private, this country is all Kings and Queens with one Private Citizen: Tititi-Hoochoo (I didn’t say it was good pseudo-Chinese), who runs the place. A counterpoint to the last book’s legal ideas: “It is wise to ignore laws when they conflict with justice.” Our heroes have broken the law, but it was the Nome King’s fault, so they get sent back to deliver justice.

Along with a dragon!

Serious horror when Kaliko explains how he learned to fear dragons. Another Nome had been torn to pieces by a dragon, you see, and since in fairy countries nobody dies…Kaliko found a chunk of head. That could talk.

I wonder how these dragons relate to the ones whose cavern Dorothy and company snuck through in book 4. For that matter, how do all those underground countries compare with the Nome Kingdom? I’m inclined to believe they’re even deeper — they have no contact with the surface, and the Nomes don’t show any sign of knowing about civilizations like the Valley of Vo. (Not to be confused with the Valley of Mo.)

***

Ruggedo gets insta-smitten with Polychrome, Hades-Persephone style. It’s actually kinda cute. Imploring her to stay: “You shall be my daughter or my wife or my aunt or grandmother—whichever you like.” (Poly: “Are you sure he hasn’t seen the Love Magnet?”)

The dragon came prepared. By the time the dust has settled, Ruggedo has been depowered and dethroned (Kaliko gets his place!); Shaggy has found his brother; and the Army of Oogaboo is sick and tired of conquering and just wants to go home.

Honestly, there’s something shady about Shaggy’s quest. He claims not to remember what his brother looks like. Okay, he left home several decades ago, when the brother was much younger…but when asked the guy’s name, he hesitates. And indeed, only ever addresses the man as “Brother” (while introducing himself as “Shaggy”).

And of course we’ll never see the guy again (the brother; I do expect plenty more Shaggy) in any future books. What was really up with these two? We’ll never know.

In an interesting complication, the characters’ haste in de-powering Ruggedo comes back to bite them. Sure, he deserved the punishment, but he’d put a curse on Shaggy’s brother, and no longer has the power to undo it. Instead the characters have to figure it out through trial and error. Can’t remember any other children’s fantasy fiction that pulls something quite like it.

***

Poly confirmed to be thousands of years old!

The Magic Picture is in a radium frame. Oh geez.

The Wizard invented the cell phone! But didn’t include a mechanism for calling anyone. You just have to hope that you and the other person manage to pick up your handhelds at the same time.

The dragon goes home, the Nome Kingdom adjusts, and the rest of the characters get teleported back to Oz in batches. There’s no legal immigration process since the Ozsolation, and Betsy, Hank, and Shaggy’s brother never got their visas, but obviously in the end they get royal approval to stay.

In the latest edition of I Swear I Am Not Making This Gay Up:

“Well,” said Dorothy, “as far as Betsy and Hank are concerned, I’d like to have them here in Oz. It would be such fun to have a girl playmate of my own age, you see. And Hank is such a dear little mule!”

Ozma laughed at the wistful expression in the girl’s eyes, and then she drew Dorothy to her and kissed her.“Am I not your friend and playmate?” she asked.

Dorothy flushed.

“You know how dearly I love you, Ozma!” she cried. “But you’re so busy ruling all this Land of Oz that we can’t always be together.”

Mmmyep.

Dorothy thinks of Betsy as “her own age,” though Betsy is about 12 and Dorothy has been in Oz at least a couple decades by now. Betsy and Dorothy are about the same height; Ozma is about half a head taller.

And then there’s a brewing fight in the stables (over “who is the sweetest and dearest girl in the world,” with Hank on Betsy’s side, the Sawhorse championing Ozma, and the Lion and Tiger adamant that it’s Dorothy) — which the three heroines interrupt, Ozma standing in the doorway with a mortal girl on each arm. Like a boss.

Finally: this is the book where it comes out that Toto can talk! He just doesn’t want to, okay. Stop invalidating Toto’s life choices with your anthropocentric communication demands. (I kid, I kid. It’s good he told Dorothy, even if he never says another word since.)

***

Programming note: the next Oz book has also been called “the third Trot and Cap’n Bill book”, so I’m listening to the first two of those (The Sea Fairies and Sky Island) first. In case anyone has been reading along, join me on my detour.

Erin Reads: classic Oz, full-of-queer-people edition May 25, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Even knowing what it actually means in context, I get a smile every time these books go on about Oz being “full of queer personages.”

~*~*~*~

Here’s something I didn’t think about until I listened to book 3 (Ozma of Oz) and book 4 (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz) back-to-back:

Book 3: Dorothy’s adventure starts when she gets swept off a boat, which she’s on because she’s in the middle of a boat trip with Uncle Henry.

Book 4: Dorothy’s adventure starts when she falls into the ground during a California earthquake, where she is because she’s traveling back to Kansas from the same trip.

She’s gone on vacation once here, and gotten sidetracked for magical adventures on both ends of the journey. Henry and Em must be thinking “good lord, kiddo, you can’t travel anywhere without mysteriously vanishing along the way, can you?”

(Of course, in the next book she’s walking down a normal Kansas dirt road when it goes all magical. Can’t win.)

~*~*~*~

And another thing! During this mundane-world vacation (it’s a trip to Australia, which is supposed to be good for Uncle Henry’s health), Dorothy and Henry meet “some friends.” They’re never described in any detail, we just know Dorothy is traveling alone at the start of Book 4 because her uncle went on ahead, while she stayed with these friends for a few days.

In San Francisco.

This book was published in 1908. The history of the SF gay scene goes back pre-1900, with its firs “notorious” gay bar founded in…1908.

I’m not saying Dorothy definitely hung out with cool grown-up lesbian mentors in San Francisco, I’m just saying…historically speaking, it’s a serious possibility.

~*~*~*~

Okay, getting back to the (non-figurative) fairy-country content here…

Book 4 marks a huge shift for the series, in that it’s a really blatant case of “wow, no overarching plot here at all, they’re just wandering from set piece to set piece until the author gets bored.”

Of the previous volumes, Book 3 had the most cohesive plot, without any random detours. This one is all detour. Then they hit a dead end — literally, they get stuck in a cave with no way out! — and Dorothy signals Ozma to teleport them safely to Oz. Princess ex machina.

Book 5 (The Road to Oz) is The One Where Everyone Gets Genre-Savvy.

When things initially go weird, Dorothy’s reaction is “eh, this happens a lot, I’ll probably end up in Oz eventually.” And then she literally adds “Uncle Henry and Aunt Em have told me they’re used to this by now, so they won’t be too worried.” Her party keeps running into magical towns where the leaders say “oh, hey, it’s the famous Dorothy! We’ve read about you.”

And when they finally make it to the Emerald City, Ozma reveals she’s the one who started their journey by making things go weird in the first place. Sure, she could’ve just transported Dorothy instantly to the palace, but apparently she thought Dorothy would have more fun getting there via adventure.

What a good girlfriend.

I mean, good platonic friend.

Everything about Ozma attracted one, and she inspired love and the sweetest affection rather than awe or ordinary admiration. Dorothy threw her arms around her little friend and hugged and kissed her rapturously.

I mean, good platonic friend with rapturous kissing that I am going to sit here and enjoy no matter how Baum meant it.

~*~*~*~

Speaking of Baum, the poor guy’s author’s-notes get a little more strained with every book. “Welp, the children keep asking for Oz so I’m giving them more Oz, the little tyrants, haha! No really, I love children and only want to make them happy, aaaaand apparently what makes them happy is not buying any of my other books.”

He really pushes it in book 5, where the big glittery finale of book 5 is Ozma’s birthday — involving a fifty-cameo pileup referencing every non-Oz book Baum had written. It…did not help their sales the way he was hoping for. (You know what I would have read? A spinoff series about Ev. We spend time there in book 3, see the royals as cameos in book 5, and then never visit the place again. Why didn’t you ever write that, L. Frank?)

Honestly, I’ve read a lot of Baum’s non-Oz books, and none of them clicked the way the Oz ones did. But it’s been long enough that I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe that’ll be the next re-listening project.

Femslash February 2016 February 9, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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It’s February again, so it’s time to take f/f sketch requests!

Trying something a little different this year: the Femslash February prompt post is on Patreon. To be clear, it’s still completely free and open to everyone. You leave a request over there, I draw the first ten, no money has to change hands, everything is sunshine and rainbows and girls kissing.

Got it? Awesome. Go forth and gay it up.