All posts by Alyx Dellamonica

After twenty-two years in Vancouver, B.C., I've recently moved to Toronto Ontario, where I make my living writing science fiction and fantasy; I also review books and teach writing online at UCLA. I'm a legally married lesbian, a coffee snob, and I wake up at an appallingly early hour.

What’s your favorite dumb TV show? More telewitterings.

imageOn February 27th I posted a general question to a bunch of social networks: What is the dumbest show you would happily rewatch in its entirety?

This came about as Kelly and I were contemplating rewatches of both Farscape and the live action The Tick. I said, as I have said before, that my candidate for ‘dumbest’ rewatchable would be Alias. My chief memory of watching Alias was frequently turning off the TV and having a discussion that boiled down to:

One of us: That was fun.
The Other: Yep.
1: Did any of that make sense to you?
2: Nope.

Anyway, the question spawned a lot of response, especially on Facebook. Many of the responses surprised me, and were a good reminder that dumb is one of those words that means a lot of different things to different people.

Some people mentioned shows I don’t think of as dumb: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape (where you land on Farscape, I think, depends on your stance on Muppets) and Red Dwarf.

Others went for childhood nostalgia trips: Gilligan’s Island, Rocket Robin Hood, Lost in Space, The Monkees, Wild Wild West.

Another category was things I haven’t seen: Gilmore Girls, Married with Children, Full House.

The stuff I did think was dumb but likable included Stargate Atlantis, Xena, X-Files, Smallville. All of these are shows I began watching but didn’t finish out.

The Facebook discussion is here.

We have a tendency to be embarrassed by some portion of our TV viewing. I’ve heard people apologize for liking reality TV, or super-violent stuff, or slapstick comedy. The friend from university who mentioned Married with Children mentioned, regretfully, that it’s pretty sexist.

I think we tend to offer disclaimers when we know a show a) isn’t Shakespeare and b) isn’t something the person we’re talking to would much care for.

How do you define dumb TV?

Sunnydale is getting Empty on the #BuffyRewatch

slayerThis week’s Buffy essay is about “Empty Places,” a.k.a. The One Where They Kick Her Out of the House. Were the Slayettes and Scoobies wrong to do this? There’s a lively discussion unfolding here, in the comments thread.

This week I am actually writing the essay on “Chosen,” which will conclude the Buffy Rewatch. I may jump into another rewatch at some point, but I plan to take a few weeks off, maybe write a wrap-up post about rewatching Buffy, and then do some “That Was Awesome” columns for Tor. Don’t worry–whatever I’m up to, I’ll keep you posted.

Telewitterings: Hannibal, a.k.a. When Crafters Attack!

imageSeason Two of Hannibal has begun and I am so happy to have it back. It’s stylish, gory, well-cast, and, as a weird bonus, filmed around here. Kelly walks past the building that plays Hannibal’s home and office on her way to work–it tickles us every time we see it on screen.
But geography aside, the show is about things that are dear to my heart: art, arts communities, and artistic critique.
The always-interesting serial killers in Hannibal are demented and horrifying artists. Or possibly, artistes. Hannibal is, of course, making food of his victims. In S1, we see killers making use out of human remains, over and over again, either sculpting the corpses directly or staging crime scenes around them. One makes throw pillows out of leather and hair; another prepares strings for musical instruments using his victim’s guts. There are body collages and mushroom farms.
Will Graham’s oft-repeated line as he assumes their point of view: this is my design.
There is an intense aesthetic sensibility to this show that pervades Hannibal the character and spreads outward, from him, to every element of the show.
Other crime dramas, of course, have put significant effort into creating disturbingly pretty crime scenes. Even some murder-of-the-week shows, like Life, did this. But Life would have been the same show, more or less, if the set dressers hadn’t bothered to take the occasional pre-Raphaelite extra, dress her in angel wings and crumple her beautifully all over the hood of a car. In Hannibal, this improbable design sensibility is integral to nearly every murder.
There is a degree to which these people are scrapbookers on a homicidal materials-collecting spree.
Within this entirely bent community, this fantasy circle of destructive creative spirits, artistic dialogs take place. Will Graham functions as a sort of critic, trying to understand what the killers are working to achieve and communicate. Interestingly, he’s an instructor when we first see him. It’s an interesting riff on that old saw: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Killers imitate each other on this show, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. They embroider on each other’s themes. When they get called out for plagiarism, heads can literally roll.
The process begins in the very first episode of S1. When Hannibal takes on the role of copycat killer to the Minnesota Shrike, he stages a crime scene whose explicit intent is to show Will the Shrike… by demonstrating all the things he isn’t. He creates a corpse-sculpture that is a reverse image of the Shrike’s work.
It is the beginning of Hannibal’s obsessive fascination with Will Graham. As the person who is both an expert in the field and who stands apart from its practitioners, it is Will whose understanding Hannibal craves. He wants to hear what Will thinks about his “work.” He wants to draw him into participating more actively. He wants to be seen, even though courting Will’s comprehension is an immense risk.
It is a strange and compelling portrayal of monster as aesthete, demon as artist. It’s gruesome and scary and weird, and I don’t know, yet, what the show will ultimately say about the practice of art. I am incredibly excited, though, to see where they go next.

Toronto: Day 293 (Nice Ice Lady)


When I lived in Alberta, I hated winter. I hated waking up in darkness and leaving school or work in the black.  I hated being wet of foot, dry of skin, and bone-chilled every time I came in from outside. I hated mushing around in heavy winds while snow accumulated on my forehead, melted its way down my face and glued my glasses to my nose.
I hated forty below for weeks on end and occasionally getting into cars that were iceboxes and shivering all the way across town in same, arriving–inevitably–five minutes after the crappy heaters had begun to pretend to kick in.
Here in Southern Ontario, we are reportedly having the worst winter in twenty or so years. It has snowed often. It has been twenty below three or four times.
Now, here, I have a warm feather-filled bag that covers me from crown to toe. I have sweaters, and thermal tights and toasty waterproof boots. Good stuff, none of which had to be bought by a parent who was weighing a certain amount of poverty against the general concept of Why buy quality for a kid who’ll outgrow this all in a year?
Even in the chill, it has been sunny, so sunny. The amount of light here is amazing. Hazy days seem few and far between.
And you may have noticed that I am nuts for icicles.

This isn’t a new thing. I would try to get good icicle pictures in Vancouver, or on our trips to the Prairies to see the kin. Opportunities were few and far between, but I tried. Here… ha! The old gutters on all these picturesque Victorian houses overflow, and ice over, and spill. Constantly! The resulting frozen structures are spectacular. They stay in place until the light’s good. You can get close to and atop them. You can get under.
Which would be how I’ve worked out that any patch of ground beneath a good series of icicles is also slippery as shit.
Anyway. It’s March. Nobody in Vancouver has sent me a crocus photo yet, though I did make a point of telling all my west coast loved ones that they should gloat. This winter, this unusually cold and terrible winter–as the locals would have it–I have been cold and miserable and sad to be outside all of twice.
It feels like I’ve gotten away with something.
I haven’t enjoyed everything. I am a bit tired of bundling up, which is a wearying chore. I have realized or remembered that the primary thing that I dislike about snow is the stage where it’s dirty and festooned in various types of dog waste.
I am also headed somewhere warm in a couple of weeks. And, in the meantime, here’s some ice for you all.

New Story – “The Ugly Woman of Castello Di Putti”

ugly woman small
Here’s what Tor.com says about “The Ugly Woman of Castello Di Putti,” which is live on the site today. (The lovely cover illustration is by Richard Anderson)

Returning to the world of Stormwrack where she set the Tor.com story “Among the Silvering Herd,” A.M. Dellamonica offers a new story that takes us deeper into this fascinating world, the setting of her new fantasy novel Child of a Hidden Sea.

The Fleet, integral to the governing of a world that is mostly water sprinkled with a number of islands, must deal with a unique form of magic, inscription, which is so subtle that its effects can sometimes only be known in retrospect. When a ship of the Fleet visits an island where scripping is common, the crew members of the sailing vessel Nightjar are at a disadvantage when faced with local matters of which they know little. Strangers on the shore, indeed, they may enjoy the local customs… but also may attract unwanted attention that could cost them more than embarrassment or money.

The Castello di Putti has a suggestive sound to it, but don’t be deceived. This is a story of civil strife, of culture shock, and ultimately of the risks and rewards of naval duty. Filled with Dellamonica’s fresh, inventive worldbuilding and the joie de vivre of a society in flux, it shows a side of Stormwrack very different from that presented in the previous tale.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

They had barely come ashore before the riot started.
Sindria, capital of Erinth, was a city of black marble and volcanic glass, a dark architectural foundation layered in color and light. Carved urns and stone window boxes built into the structures all burst with bougainvillea and daisies. Fruit trees nodded along the avenues, laden with oranges, lemons, and sun-burnished golden plums.
As they strode up from the landing, they passed a young couple, a fine-featured woman and handsome man, decked out in vivid fabrics, leaning on each other and sharing the support of a sturdy hardwood walker.

Things are getting dirty on the @Tordotcom #Buffyrewatch

slayerThis week’s Buffy essay covers “Dirty Girls.” I hope you all enjoy it! One of my favorite things about S7 is the return of Faith, in her new, less evil and slightly more grown-up persona. It’s still a delight this time around.

It has been an action-packed few days: Kelly and I attended the SpecFic Colloquium hosted by Chizine Publications. One of the guests, writer and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia, stayed with us, and it was a pleasure to get to know her better. (Silvia has recently bought a story, “Snow Angels” from me for her FRACTURED: TALES OF THE CANADIAN APOCALYPSE anthology.)

Later this week we’ll be hooking up with more friends of ours from Vancouver–Rachel Ashe is in town and has an art opening at the Gladstone; the show is called “If These Walls Could Talk.”

Before then, though, there’s grading to be done and the penultimate Buffy essay to be written. I am a few weeks ahead of Tor, of course, so I’ll be writing about “End of Days” this week and “Chosen” after that. I can’t believe I’m so close to wrapping up the rewatch!

Cover Reveal: Child of a Hidden Sea

Here it is–the cover of my upcoming June novel, Child of a Hidden Sea. The artist’s name is Karla Ortiz and her blog’s here.

Ready? Okaygo!!

The text from the book jacket reads:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language Sophie has never heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a new-found sister, and a ship’s captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world…or is doomed to exile.

Things that are Wild: Peter Watts and I share a Polish cover…

My Tor.com story “Wild Things” has been translated into Polish! It’s in Nowa Fantastyka, and the issue also includes a column by Peter Watts on… I may have to get back to you on that.

This is my first foreign translation of any kind, so it’s a landmark of sorts for me. It’s also just plain nifty.
photo
Here’s the cover.

Other things in the life of me: my Creating Universes, Building Worlds students have turned in their final stories, so I am writing critiques not quite day and night. My next course offering will be the more advanced speculative fiction workshop, Writing the Fantastic and as of today there are still slots left for new students. I plan to spend this Saturday at the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, listening to the above-mentioned Peter Watts, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Madeline Ashby and other amazing writers talking passionately about writing, reading, and all the things we fans know and love.

Finally, to all of you who sent birthday greetings yesterday, on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, thank you! I won’t have time to answer you all individually, but I appreciate so much that you are out there wishing me well.