Tag Archives: television

I Want To Believe: Sex Magick and Strange Angel

1 Sep
rupert as ernest

Rupert Friend as Ernest Donovan in Strange Angel. He’s going to get you in trouble. You’re probably going to enjoy it.

By Alexa Day

Remember when Jason Isaacs seduced me into paying six dollars a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery? Yeah, that was about a year ago. And I’m still paying, even though there hasn’t been any Discovery in months.

Now I’m paying for Strange Angel.

I’m sure you’re not watching Strange Angel. After all, it’s on the same platform where you wouldn’t pay to watch smart, diverse science fiction with brilliant female characters.

That’s all right. I’ll give you a little taste of it.

Set in California in the 1930s (and based on a true story), Strange Angel introduces us to Jack Parsons, a working class guy with an extraordinary dream. Jack wants to go to the moon, long before going to the moon would become cool. During the day, Jack’s a lowly janitor, but by night, he and his childhood buddy head out into the desert to test rockets.

It’s not easy to live with a dream like space travel in Jack’s world. Jack can’t get funding from Cal Tech for the experiments, so his wife, Susan, is bankrolling the nightly launch tests, at the expense of the couple’s mortgage payments. Because Jack isn’t home all that often, Susan spends a lot of time hanging out alone at the house, bored. The marital sex is unsatisfying for both of them. And then there’s a new neighbor moving in next door, in the middle of the night.

The new guy on the block is named Ernest Donovan. The fun starts on his doorstep.

Ernest is the sort of free spirit who keeps a goat in his house (Temporarily. Sorry. I wish I had better news). He’s married, but he and the missus aren’t together just now. He has a weird, unpredictable energy about him. He’s the kind of guy who brings peyote on a camping trip the way the rest of us bring s’mores. He looks like he’s about to explode into waves of maniacal giggles.

Ernest doesn’t believe in rules, at least not the way society encourages people to. He’ll take a dip in a stranger’s pool and howl at the moon just for kicks. He’s taken a shine to Jack, so he shares the only rule he lives by with the rocket man.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

It’s the central principle of Thelema, a religion developed by Aleister Crowley. Thelema’s roots run deep, all the way to the ancient world, but in the California of the 1930s, Thelema is all about rituals meant to help its adherents manifest their true will.

And there’s sex magick. Did I mention the sex magick? Let’s stop for a second and talk about the sex magick.

About the k in sex magick. Crowley put it there to differentiate sex magick from sleight-of-hand stage magic, also super popular in the 1930s. In no-k-magic, it might look like things are disappearing, but nothing actually does. In magick-with-a-k, the sex is actually sex.

How do we manifest our individual will through sex magick? Well, Thelema might have only one rule, but I’m going to suggest some helpful guidelines.

1. Prepare to have your marriage melted. It’s not a huge surprise to say that partners are going to get passed around as part of Thelema, is it? I mean, if sex with your partner was enough to manifest your will, shouldn’t it already be manifested? Strange Angel mixes things up a little. Susan is initially reluctant to participate in that sex magick foolishness — she’s a Catholic in the 1930s, after all — and so she’s not a super willing participant with her very open-minded husband, Jack. Susan is, however, interested in getting Jack out of Thelema, which leads her back to the temple alone, which leads her to the high priest … which leads to sex magick. And once Susan has her first orgasmic vision, well, maybe that sex magick isn’t so bad after all.

3some strange angel

Just a couple making room for a little magick.

2. Prepare to have your will manifested. Don’t you love it when folks get whatever they want, all at once, and their lives buckle under the weight of it? Thelema has a way of doing that here. Jack’s rockets start working, which is what he wanted. Sure, some of them explode, and it’s hard to find a test pilot, and the military is a little too interested in the technology. But Jack wanted them to work, and they work. Susan wants to see behind a repressed spot in her memory. Soon, she has a pretty good idea what happened back there, but it’s some stuff she can’t unsee.

3. Prepare to learn something surprising about yourself. Marisol takes up with Jack’s partner, Richard, at the direction of the high priest. During their courtship, she discovers the depth of her powers — the innocent Richard looks at her like she’s a goddess. In turn, she confides that she’s more than willing to get past that timid personality and expand his horizons for real. No magick. Just the two of them. Learning that the sexy Marisol is into him — that way — gives him the confidence he needs to take the rocket project to the next level, without the far more charismatic Jack.

It’s a lot to take in. But I started with Ernest, right?

While everyone is finding their way into, around and through each other through Thelema, all that sex magick has separated Ernest from his wife for good. What Ernest wants, at the center of all that fun-loving, peyote-toting madness, is to be loved. He’s trying to fill an emptiness that’s going to swallow him whole, even with sex magick. He’s popular enough. But he’s not loved. And remember, he only knows one rule.

How far will a man like that go to be loved? And more importantly, how much will we get to see him do? Because I’m paying six dollars a month for all this.

I’ll try to keep you posted.

attending_romcon_button

In the meantime, I will be hanging out at RomCon this very weekend, October 6 in Richmond, along with a lot of really awesome authors. We will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midlothian, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by swag, checking out cover models, and hip deep in all the romance you can manage. Come join me in the Sweet Virginia Breeze!

Altered States With Altered Carbon

19 Feb

With Altered Carbon, that great god of television glory—aka Netflix—has once again launched a binge-watching worthy series that’s smart, sexy, mind-boggling, bloody, engrossing, and, honestly, a total mind fuck. It crosses genres, subverts expectations, and sucks you in like damn and wow. It’s science fiction and romance and film noir and cyberpunk and futuristic and murder mystery and cop show and conspiracy action thriller all at the same time. It’s Max Headroom’s violent, sexual, mind-bendy grandchild. (Appropriately so then, Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, shows up for two episodes as Carnage, who runs a real death cage fight.)

Carnage

Welcome to Altered Carbon.

The world of Altered Carbon

WARNING: there will be mild spoilers ahead. I’ll do my best not to ruin the Big Reveals, because they should be experienced organically to properly appreciate the storytelling. But no promises.

THE STORY: In a cyberpunk future, the consciousness of every human being is now downloaded into a hard drive, called a “stack”, that is stored at the base of the skull on the brain stem. The body, now called a “sleeve”, has become merely the shell that encases the “soul stack” of a person. This means a person only truly dies, known as “real death” or “RD”, when the stack is destroyed, like a gunshot directly to the stack. It also means people can live for hundreds of years, changing sleeves along the way.

It’s all in the bag

If the sleeve dies, a stack can be dialed up into a new sleeve, the person therefore inhabiting a new body. A person’s original body can be kept in cold storage while his or her stack is stored elsewhere, for example, when a man is imprisoned, he essentially “goes to sleep” for hundreds of years while his sleeve goes on ice. However, there’s no guarantee that sleeve won’t be used by someone else in the interim and possibly killed while being used, so that when you’re dialed up, it may not be into the sleeve in which you were born. Race, gender, height, weight, health—it’s all a lottery now. You get what you can afford. This is the same for damaged sleeves if you’re attached to your existing reflection. If your arm is injured and can’t be saved, you can get it replaced with an upgrade, bionic arm in moments—if you have the credits. People can also dial up “dead” loved ones, especially if those loved ones are “coded” not to be re-sleeve after sleeve death for religious reasons, and have them live again if, perhaps, not in the same sleeve in which they’d led their lives. (This makes for a hilarious re-use of a biker gangster as a Spanish grandmother and a Russian mobster.)

People can also “double sleeve”, essentially copying their stack and downloading into two different sleeves at the same time. While technically illegal, when you live forever and have unlimited wealth, the sky’s the limit. Literally so, if you’re one of the super rich.

Hundreds of years old, these “Meths” (aka Methuselahs), live far above the common man in sky palaces. Their wealth enables them to grown clones of their sleeves and constantly download themselves over the years into new sleeves that match their birth sleeves. They have a system that regularly uploads their consciousness into back-up drives that protect them against real death. They’re untouchable demi gods to which the lower classes only dream to rub shoulders against.

And one of them has just been murdered.

Enter Envoy detective Takeshi Kovacs who has been in stasis for 250 years and was just woken up by industrial magnate Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve the man’s murder. From the moment he awakens, Takeshi is plague by the attentions of Detective Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), a bad ass cop with a jones for catching Bancroft in what she is sure are corrupt and nefarious dealings—if only she can prove it. She also has a deeper connection to the sleeve Takeshi now inhabits, one that deepens the stakes for them all.

Tak was once a super soldier for the police force that menaces the outer worlds. When he’s betrayed by the unit to which he’d dedicated his life, he becomes an Envoy, a revolutionary operator with scary potent observational and investigational skills. Envoys were renown for being able to be dropped in on any world, into any situation, and quickly adapt and manipulate the environment and the people to their own ends—until they were betrayed and wiped out. Tak then became a mercenary, one who eventually was apprehended by his former commander, earning him a sentence of hundreds of years for his crimes.

Until Bancroft wakes him up.

Once an idealist under his battle scars, Takeshi has awoken to a world he doesn’t recognize, on a different planet than the one he was on when he went to sleep, and with the people he loved long lost to real death. He is now a grumpy tool only in the job for himself and the promise of a fortune and his birth sleeve as a reward for solving Bancroft’s murder. Except Tak can’t fight his true nature, the core of him that still cares no matter how much he protests to the contrary. And the list of people worming their way into his circle of protection keeps growing…whether he likes it or not.

Clearly, there’s a LOT going on in the ten episodes of Altered Carbon. And fan as I am of the series, it I have to admit, it ain’t all good.

THE BAD STUFF:

While the show runner on this one is a woman, that doesn’t mean, in a Game of Thrones world where rape is an acceptable plot device, there isn’t a lot of violence and nudity in Altered Carbon. There’s a whole hopping lot of both, though violence prevails most of all. This includes a naked fight scene a la Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, where Ortega engages in a bloody knife brawl with a number of cloned sleeves. This is one case of nudity in Altered Carbon, though, where the nudity is designed to be empowering and deliberately used as a manifestation of the character’s head self-perspective and how she sees her body as a tool, rather than objectifying her for the male gaze. For more on this, check out this interview with actress Dichen Lachman about that scene and her character, Rei, who is the naked combantant. Be warned, it includes series spoilers galore.

There’s an argument to be made that the prevalence of nudity stems not from producers’ desire to curry favor with permanently adolescent fans boys, but rather an outgrowth from a society that has made the human form an interchangeable commodity. How can modesty persist when your body may be interchanged with another’s at any time?

Sexy times for the sake of sex.

And yes, the violence is such that it may as well be another character in the cast. This is a world that uses virtual reality, where time has no constant, as a means of torture. Here, one can kill a victim over and over again in the most brutal and bloody of ways including chopping off limbs and removing innards, all virtually but while being connected to the physical body’s pain receptors, only to start a new VR session and begin again for a seemingly endless amount of time. A sleeve holds no inherent value; there are instances in Altered Carbon where people fight to the sleeve death for the promise of a sleeve upgrade as a reward. Naturally, that makes for an inherently violent world.

For a show with so much female bad ass representation, it’s still driven by a moody, growly, maladjusted white man, one who all the women he comes into contact with want to bone, no matter how badly he treats them. It’s a film noir construct, the Bogey hyper masculine hardliner disdaining all the Bacall femme fatales that rotate into his sphere but banging them nonetheless. Even in a futuristic society where the consciousness can be transported from form to form, women are still portrayed stuck in the past.

THE GOOD:

THE MAIN CAST:

Joel Kinnaman, late of The Killing and the forgettable Suicide Squad, anchors Altered Carbon with his big presence. Seriously, the guy is huge and his normally beanpole form is ripped and cut and beautifully bulked out for this role. Hoo. Shah. He broods and grumbles and bad asses through the entire series, but he also brings out Tak’s tortured sweetness, an idealism that even 200 years of cold storage hasn’t fully frozen out of him. It keeps popping up to conflict him when he wants to be a cold, ruthless operator, but he can’t quite keep his heart from getting in the way.

As Ortega, Martha Higareda plays the perhaps typical cop with a mission, but she does it by distaining a typical approach and instilling Ortega with a man’s attitude and vocabulary. She doesn’t play a lady cop; she plays a cop and has an attitude that would do John McLain proud. Ortega takes on the unlikeable heroine mantle with pride and spews ferocity and anger and complexity all over it.

James Purefoy, a personal favorite in everything he does, oozes through his scenes with smarmy confidence, exuding the charm and power of the wealthiest man on several planets, sprinkled with the comfortable arrogance of someone who genuinely believes himself to be a god. As in the TV series Rome, his…erm…talent is on display here, including The Purefoy, as I like to call it, once again making a casual on-screen, full-frontal appearance. No, I did not hit the pause button, nor did I screen cap it, and I’m sticking to that.

But truly, the one who steals the show is Chris Conner as Poe.

Once Tak accepts Bancroft’s case, he embeds himself at The Raven, a hotel run by an AI (artificial intelligence) named Poe, as in Edgar Allen. Poe hasn’t had any guests for hundreds of years, due to the AIs reputation of getting obsessively attached to their guests. Tak genuinely couldn’t give a shit about this and sets up shop at The Raven. Good thing too as Poe almost immediately proves his worth when Tak is attacked before he can even register as a guest.

Poe is an absolute delight. Snarky, smart, sweet, ruthless, loyal, dedicated, and oh so funny, he’s the land-locked sidekick/valet/butler Tak’s been missing in his life. Alfred to Tak’s Great Detective. As an AI, he’s tied to The Raven, but he can move about in VR (and does) and adds a rich depth and complexity to what’s nominally a bunch of ones and zeros. For a programable entity, he’s the most human and most humane one of the bunch.

THE ROMANCE:

Yes, there is romance. As mentioned earlier, Ortega has a prior connection to the sleeve that Tak is put into, which takes the idea of a love-triangle and really fucks with it. But Tak is also nursing a broken heart from this lost love, and his hallucinations, a side effect of being re-sleeved, keep her front and center in his journey. As Tak and Ortega get closer and the complexity of their connection deepens, the emotional risks of their relationship add texture and stakes to the on-going mystery and the threat of the enemies stacking up against them. It’s no surprise that in the end, Tak’s big heart, and not only for Ortega, is nearly both their undoing.

Sticking close together.

THE MULTICULTURALISM:

Altered Carbon, like Max Headroom and Firefly and Blade Runner before it, builds its world on an Asian heavy multiculturalism. Set in a re-envisioned San Francisco, called The Bay, there are flying cars and neon signs and prevalent blinking screens that never turn off, pummeling the eyes with images and adverts that recall pretty much every science fiction show of the last 20 years. People speak all kinds of languages and understand one another. There’s no Farscape-esque universal translator either. Ortega speaks to her partner in Spanish and he replies in Arabic. There are subtitles; we can read them. There is no spoon feeding required. Tak’s Japanese/Croatian lineage speaks to the show’s inherent multicultural nature too, even if the tone-deaf move of folding an Asian character into a white man’s sleeve stomps all over that same multiculturalism with a pair of Kovacs’ combat boots.

THE STORYTELLING:

The storytelling is complex and deep, but so well paced. Nothing is revealed too soon, but once the revelation is made, one can look back and see the layers being laid in past episodes. That’s bloody hard to do and especially in a visual platform as rich as this show where there’s always something to see on the screen, nothing is wasted, no image thrown away in building the rich texture of this show. One of the appeals of the Harry Potter franchise from a craft perspective is how deftly Rowling plots the series over the length of the seven books; events happen in book five for which Rowling lays the groundwork in book two. Altered Carbon does that too, enough so that when I finished the series, I wanted to immediately watch it again so as to see those touchpoints again, this time with the benefit of foreknowledge of what was to come.

Accompanying this deep plotting and detailed planning is a respect for its audience that is rare to find in entertainment today. In Romancelandia, writers often debate the idea of dumbing down our storytelling, our writing, in order to reach a wider audience, a significant percentage of whom may not have a large vocabulary or an extensive reading and comprehension ability. I deal with this a lot in my day job where much of which we’re producing needs to reach an incredibly large audience, as in millions of people, whose lives may depend on being able to read and comprehend our message. As a writer, I think it’s my job to enhance my stories with complex writing, words that enrich as much as the story they form. If my readers have to look up a few words, then I’ve done my job right. (This is much less an issue in historical romance where a certain complexity of phrase and flowery language is expected.)

Altered Carbon doesn’t dumb down to its audience. The show presents complex word-building from the outset and it doesn’t waste time spoon-feeding the audience as to the nuts and bolts of things. We are plunged right into the muck of things and as the show presses on, it expects its viewers to keep up or catch up. That’s not to say it doesn’t give us a map; the trope of dropping someone new into the situation as a proxy for the audience is used in episode one to bring us all up to speed, but the information we need is parceled out as part of the storytelling without any recapping or “As you know, Bob,” retreads along the way.

THE IMPLICATIONS:

Nearly a week after viewing, my mind is still buzzing with all the implications and raised by Altered Carbon. The show raises questions of the nature of the soul and the value of a bodily form. When a soul can be kept in a hard drive and uploaded at random, what then makes it a soul rather than simply more data? Morality reforms in a world where sleeves can be killed and then the victim dialed back up to testify against his or her murderer. Where a person can voluntarily agree to have his or her sleeve killed for sport with the promise of an upgrade for the trouble. Where death suddenly has several degrees.

It’s a referendum on torture and an examination of whether love can last over hundreds of years. It’s a dissertation of gender identity: when your spouse can be dialed up into a sleeve of the opposing gender, are you still attracted to each other. Do you still love that woman who is absolutely unchanged except for the fact that she now wears a man’s shell? Do you recognize her soul inside that sleeve?

What makes memory when that memory can be obliterated by dying before the next upload. Is any event truly real if the memory of it is destroyed before the backup kicks in?

Overall, I found Altered Carbon to be compelling television. Underneath its science fiction, film noir trappings is an exploration of identity and morality and the nature of self and the soul that still has my mind spinning right round, baby. Right round.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll mind-fuck you in the very best of ways–but only if you ask really, really nice.

Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the award-winning author of Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novels.

A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life. Find out more about Kiersten and her books on her website www.kierstenkrum.com

Jason Isaacs and the Six-Dollar Seduction

6 Oct
harmless at a distance

He looks harmless enough from here, but in one hour, Jason Isaacs coaxed six dollars from my tight fist.

By Alexa Day

My longest, most functional relationship is with Star Trek. We’ve been together since I was a teenager. We got through the frosty cynicism of my college years together. I stood by it through the worst of the movies and the first unsteady steps of The Next Generation.

Star Trek is my heart. It’s my family.

So when I found out that we were getting a brand new Star Trek television series, I felt a deep, warming joy that sustained me through some pretty dark times. The rest of the world might be going to hell, but new Star Trek was coming, and it would be here every week. Constant production delays didn’t bother me. Weird staff changes didn’t bother me. I just thought of Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh together, on the bridge of a starship. How could this be wrong? How could anything ever be wrong again?

At or around the last minute, CBS said they were going to put the new Star Trek behind a paywall. We could have those first two episodes for free. After that, new Star Trek was going to cost six dollars a month.

I had a little mental argument with CBS.

Me: Six dollars?

CBS: Well, it’s not that much in the larger scheme of things.

Me: That isn’t the point. Six dollars might not be much, but it’s more than I’m used to paying for CBS, which is zero.

CBS: Look, Alexa, we think you’re going to be cool with giving us the six dollars.

Me: That isn’t really the point, either. Star Trek is my family. You know how Star Trek people are. We’re going to give you the six dollars.

CBS: Oh, good.

Me: But then we need to ride you about it. I can’t just give you six dollars on a silver platter. You need to work for it. Otherwise, you get things like Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.

CBS: I thought we were done talking about that.

Me: I did, too, but now you want six dollars. What is my six dollars for? What are you doing to earn six dollars?

CBS: You get Sonequa Martin-Green for an hour a week for six dollars. Sonequa plus Star Trek. That’s good for six dollars, right?

Me: I’m not giving you six dollars for Sonequa. Look, I saw the first two episodes. Sonequa is turning it out as Michael Burnham. She’s a brilliant badass with a tough past and big trouble in her future. I’ve seen some of that before, with The Walking Dead. They didn’t want six dollars.

CBS: Right, but —

Me: Plus, I think you could put Sonequa and her brilliant badassery into any of those free shows. Seal Team 40. NCIS: Des Moines. Washington Crisis Mode. Whatever. So if I pay you six dollars for Sonequa, that’s like saying it’s okay that she’s not on the actual network for free. That’s not okay.

CBS: Okay. How about the effects? That stuff’s expensive.

Me: Dude, I’m not crowdfunding your special effects. Star Trek is about making more with less. Grab a salt shaker and make us use our imaginations. Seriously, what is the money for?

CBS: What do you want it to be for?

Me: Well, in an ideal world, I want you to surprise me. I want to be excited to give you six dollars. I want to do a giddy little dance when I give it to you. I want to lie awake in bed, wondering when I can give you six dollars. I want to be seduced. Seduce me into giving you six dollars.

I really did not think Star Trek: Discovery would seduce me into paying six dollars a month to watch a single television show. I didn’t think Star Trek could seduce me at all anymore. This is what happens in these long-term relationships. The fire dies, and it’s just familiarity and requests for six dollars.

But then something special happened. On Sunday, Star Trek seduced me.

It’s all spoilers from the music video to the end. Proceed with caution.

I was told that Jason Isaacs would be in Star Trek: Discovery quite some time ago. I admit, I was distracted by Sonequa and Michelle. I didn’t know any better. And those tiny photos on my phone make a lot of people look the same. So I was not really ready for Jason’s entrance as Captain Lorca toward the beginning of episode three, “Context Is For Kings.”

He has a way of occupying the darkened room. That voice is an invitation. And those eyes. Hmm.

Later, I took this question to my esteemed colleagues at Lady Smut: “Where has Jason Isaacs been hiding his fine self all this time? I know nothing.”

Madeline Iva responded that most people who have not been under a rock like me recognize Jason as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies. So apparently, he’s spent part of this time hiding his fine self underneath that wig. I’m glad we rectified that. For six dollars, the absolute least I expect to see is a man’s face.

Kiersten Hallie Krum provided me with a syllabus. I cleared a Saturday on my calendar for tax-deductible research, so that I can better work FOR YOU. Then I returned to the man who is going to earn that six dollars.

Context Is for Kings

That moment when you’re trying to determine exactly how much trouble this is.

Back to the darkened room. The six-dollar seduction awaits.

1. The mystery. Michael Burnham meets her next commanding officer in the dark because his gorgeous eyes are sensitive to changes in the light level. He’s more comfortable in the dark. He says he thinks it adds an air of mystery to him. It’s working. He’s got mystery in spades, and charm to go with it. But all that charm has a predatory undercurrent. The mood lighting and the man himself create a subtle tension. It’s hard to look away and dangerous to get too close, and Michael keeps up her end of the dance, sliding away as he advances toward her.

This is not a very Star Trek thing to do. There are only a handful of Star Trek captains, and we usually know everything we need to know about them within minutes of being introduced. Captain Lorca is not a complete mystery — he feels dangerous. Immediately. Still, this is a new experience. I want to know more … but maybe not this second. Maybe right now, I just want to enjoy the danger and not know what happens next.

2. The Innocent Look. Michael was on her way to prison with some other inmates, when her shuttle was picked up by her new captain in the middle of a storm. Michael is no fool. She suggests that her encounter with Captain Lorca’s ship is not entirely coincidental.

His response to this implication is a prize-winning Innocent Look. Me? I rescued you and your trashy prison friends from a storm. What are you suggesting? He glides smoothly from injury to confusion to offense, without being too genuine. If we had a hint before that the man was trouble, the Innocent Look is confirmation.

I like trouble. Trouble is where the real story starts. But mostly, I’m into the dirty, tangled potential of it.

3. The Wanting and the Getting. It’s not that Captain Lorca won’t take no for an answer. Michael spent much of the episode saying no to him, and he’d listen and nod and let her come all the way to the end of what she was saying. But he’s used to getting what he wants. He’s good with just pulling rank if he has to — and with Michael, he had to, at least the first time. The second time, he had to seduce her.

Not like that. I’d have paid CBS sixty dollars for that, and you would be reading a very different column.

The captain seduces Michael in a very traditional way. He reassures her that he already knows everything about her, including whatever flaws she thinks she is hiding. He identifies something she wants. He shows her that he has something she wants. And then he waits for her to reach for it.

It’s not sexual in this instance, but practiced seduction always has a sexual undertone. That’s worth my six dollars.

4. The fearlessness. Captain Lorca is described by his first officer as “a man who does not fear the things normal people fear.” Trek nerds like me get a quick glimpse of that right away; the captain has exactly one tribble on his desk, not far away from food. But there are less subtle clues. Michael is on her way to prison because she’s been convicted of mutiny. She assaulted her last captain in order to take command of the ship. Her belief system is the mirror opposite of Captain Lorca’s. But he knows everything about her, and he must know a similar showdown is imminent. He’s just not worried about it. That means Michael is going to get a long overdue comeuppance, or her captain is in for a big surprise. Either might be worth six dollars.

5. Who is we? So I’ll be honest. By the end of the episode, I was still a little conflicted about giving up my hard earned six dollars. How do I know Jason Isaacs and his delightfully wicked character won’t go the same way as Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou? (If you were going to spend six dollars to see Michelle, you can maybe hang on to it. Sorry. I wish I had better news.)

I think CBS knew I was having some doubts. But seduction is about anticipating resistance and acting on the other person’s hesitation. So they waited until the last few minutes to make a play for my money.

Star Trek has historically been a little short on sex appeal. Sure, the new universe has its share of pretty faces, and Chris Pine’s Jim Kirk is unabashedly sexual.

But Jim Kirk is a frat boy at a party school compared to Captain Lorca. Kirk is all about straight-ahead flirtation on a highway flanked with a few laughs and the occasional sweet gesture before we arrive at the inevitable destination. Captain Lorca is a fearless, mysterious man who is used to getting whatever he wants. It’s hard to say what to expect, but I doubt traditional flirtation will be involved.

I see your skeptical expressions. Fine. Let’s skip down to the end of the episode.

The captain and his security chief Landry, played by Rekha Sharma, are standing very close together indeed. The two of them don’t have a lot of screen time together yet, but the way she talks about him is pure something-is-happening-between-us. I’m kind of on the edge of my seat, intrigued but not fully committed to giving up that six dollars.

The captain turns those eyes to his security chief. In the dark, the room seems very small. I give the television a side-eye. Are we going there? Is that what we’re doing with my six dollars?

Ever have a moment when you think you’re giving someone 100 percent of your attention, and then they say something that makes you sit up? Yeah. Here it comes.

Very quietly, in the dark intimacy of this room, he says, “I think we will spend some time together this evening.”

Not a question. This is what we are doing.

In return, I have two questions. Who is we? And what will we spend this time doing? Because for six dollars, I expect to be fully integrated into this evening’s activities. Fully integrated.

Alas, Lorca and Landry are not going there. Not right now, anyway. Turns out she’s brought him a little something. It’s kind of like a lethal cockroach about the size of an ATV. She and Michael barely escaped it with their lives earlier that episode, and I’m sure no one else knows it’s on board. It’s a little secret on a ship full of secrets.

Anyway, something about the way Landry says, “Anything, anytime,” is telling me that this conversation has gone a couple of different ways and might head down those familiar paths again soon. I hope it’s before I have to give up another six dollars.

Back to Sonequa.

I had started to worry that Sonequa had gone from playing one brilliant badass to another. She had only just started to explore Sasha’s vulnerability and emotional depth when she was cut down on The Walking Dead, and I worried that she was going to be just another Strong Black Woman on a TV show I was paying six dollars for. Who was going to test Michael Burnham? Who was going to break Michael down and watch her rebuild herself? Who will make her giggle? Who will make her sigh?

Michael is in an untenable position; Captain Lorca is trouble on a stick. He is going to make her life difficult in ways she hasn’t started to think about yet, and she’ll have to evolve outside her comfort level to survive that.

And Jason Isaacs is hot. I’m telling you that the man seduced me so thoroughly in one hour that I put a song from Fifty Shades on a blog post with my name on it.

Once. Don’t get crazy on me. You’re not getting anything related to Fifty Shades from me EVER again, unless it’s vitriol and scorn.

Two minutes after the episode ended, a receipt for six dollars landed in my inbox. Well played, CBS. I am already wondering about how you will get the next six dollars.

I didn’t do the giddy little dance, though.

For that, I’m going to need someone to take off some clothes.

Follow Lady Smut.

Looking for something to read? Check out this big, beautiful fall giveaway — 24 hot romances running the gamut from age play to dark BDSM to futuristic fun to historical heat. You’ll even find my short story, 1-800, for your amusement. Find something new! Click here to try out a new kink!

 

Beta Me, Baby

26 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

By now, pretty much everyone on the planet with the slightest connection to me knows of my mad love for Wonder Woman the movie and Wonder Woman in general. Loud and proud, baby. Loud and proud.

 

The film has stuck with me for weeks. I saw it a second time with a friend for whom it was a first-time viewing, and found even more to love about it. Those Amazons. Strewth.

 

I’m currently caught on the marvel (heh) that is Steve Trevor, the beta male. Amongst all the awesome female kick-assedness of the film, Steve Trevor is not so quietly being equally awesome. I touched on this a bit in my blog about the movie.

Because Steve respects her and he is absolutely not at any moment ever made to feel less of a man by her or because of her. He also doesn’t hesitate to follow her, to have her back while acknowledging her leadership. Nor does he think she’s less due to her gender. He doesn’t have to make her little to feel big. There’s no proving to be done by either one of them. She has her part and he has his and they both go to do them, no matter the personal cost. They are fully partners. When Steve fights with the Amazons on the beach, he doesn’t try to protect them or underestimate them. He immediately assesses their skill and fights side by side with them. More, he learns from them and proves this later in the movie when he copies an Amazon move in order to help Diana during another battle, sure she’ll instantly know what he means because he’s aware of her skill and training and more, confident she can carry it out to fruition. And he loves her, fast and sure as happens in such movies, but he doesn’t love her expecting her to change or become someone else or to set aside what she believes in or must do because of that love. He loves her for who she is, and makes him better, makes him want to be better.

Any cursory scan of my blogging history shows my affinity for the alpha male, at least in print and TV/films. In real-life, I can put up with that bossy, tough guy BS for about half a second before the guy has to show me something more. A guy can be masculine and manly and not be a jackhole about it, alpha or no. And this, I’m begging to believe, is the core of the beta hero, of which Steve Trevor may be the perfect example.

You lead, I’ll follow

I texted with my best friend about Steve Trevor this week.

Her: I dig the beta hero, so I’m biased.

Me: A lot of women do and if they were all like Steve Trevor, I’d definitely go there. I think he’s a mix of  both [alpha and beta]. Goes to show that beta doesn’t automatically mean weak or not a leader of men.

Her: He’s absolutely both and definitely a good example of someone willing to share the load. Smart enough to take the reigns and give them back as the situation changes. He doesn’t constantly have to prove himself. And I think the beta part comes through in that he doesn’t try to change everyone’s opinions of [Diana]. He tries to keep her somewhat within the social boundaries so they can be effective (not because he feels those boundaries are good) but lets her prove her own worth to others. So, not take-charge in that way, but sexy because he knows it’s unnecessary.

My bestie is one super smart lady.

With Steve Trevor on the brain, I paid more attention to Mon-el in the TV show Supergirl.

Chris Wood as Mike/Mon-El and Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not a fan of Supergirl, or, more accurately, I don’t want to be a fan of Supergirl. I really don’t want to like this show for Reasons. Yet I find myself absently watching it, usually reruns and usually around 7 AM on weekdays when I’m doing my FitBit and lifting free weights and need the distraction. But Supergirl is girlie and feminist, empowering and a little campy. And in season two, it introduce a perfect beta male.

Mon-el starts out as a self-serving boy toy who isn’t so much interested in using his powers for good as is for using his powers to score. But as the season progresses (I’m guessing here a bit; I haven’t seen most of the season, only the first three and the back nine episodes. Don’t want to like it, remember?). Anyway, as the season progresses, and he and Kara, aka Supergirl, fall in love, he becomes less a dude bro and more the perfect beta male and partner for his super-powered woman.

Ah. Young, superpowered love.

Mon-el is not left with no role to play. His powers are different than Kara’s and so how he can help in their missions differs too. But he’s learning from her all the time, much like Steve Trevor learns from Diana and the Amazons. At the end of the season, again like Steve Trevor, Mon-el sacrifices himself and his and Kara’s happiness in order to save the world. Literally. He does this because he’s learned this kind of sacrificial service from Kara. And, again like Steve Trevor, he knows in making that sacrifice that he’s leaving the more powerful person behind to carry on.

I’m not of the belief that only beta males can be this layered and complex, this manly and yet not the primary in all things. Dyson of the Lost Girl series is unabashedly (and literally) an alpha wolf (and, admittedly, occasionally a bit of an emotional dumb ass). As he falls for the succubus Bo and as, episode by episode, they become partners in crime solving, he defers to her when the situation warrants it, none of which makes him any less alpha be it wolf or man. They save each other, time and again, not because one or the other is weak or incapable, but because they each have their own strengths and often, Bo’s is the greater one in the situation. (At least in season one. I’m still trying to ignore most of season two, all of season three, when the man-hating began in earnest, and the majority of seasons five and six.)

Above all, these “beta’ males are not de-fanged of their masculinity because of a powerful woman. Powerful in their own rights, be it as a super-powered alien from another planet or as a superior leader of men, a truly heroic person, who is as human as the guy next to him, or an outright alpha male who isn’t a bully or a jackhole, when partnered with a woman vastly more powerful than they are in physical capabilities, they are not made lesser–they do not feel lesser–which is super sexy.

We need more of these complex, empowered, layered, kinds of men in fiction today, because there are, I’m convinced, far many of them in real-life than media would lead us to believe. In which case, beta me, baby. Beta me.

Do you have a favorite book or TV beta boyfriend? Give him a shout out in the comments.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Follow Lady Smut and sign up for our newsletter so you never miss the sexy. Alpha, beta, or gamma–we take all comers.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is a finalist for InD’Tale Magazine’s prestigious RONE award! Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

Scandals, Secrets, and Subversion: Why I’m hooked on CW’s Riverdale

14 Apr

riverdale

Die hard fans of Archie and Betty and Veronica Comics will either love or hate the CWs new series Riverdale. Aside from the characters names and appearances, pretty much the only thing that is consistent with the old school comic series is the setting–the small, idyllic, East coast, town of Riverdale. Most everything else everything is different and way more scandalous. The series pushes the boundaries for sure and, as a die hard vintage Archie Comics fan, I’m here to say I love it.

**Spoiler warning: from here on out I will tell you some things about the story-line. Not enough to ruin it, only enough to entice you.

The series starts with the death of Cheryl Blossom’s brother, Jason Blossom. A suspicious death isn’t scandalous but the near incestuous relationship between the twins it. Its hard to ignore the did they or didn’t they questions the relationship provokes. Don’t believe they’d put that on mainstream  TV? Check out this picture.

incest-on-tv-600x315

Many of the relationships go beyond what you typically see in a teen series. All-American high school football player, Archie Andrews, and Mrs. Grundy, the music teacher, are making music. But not in the classroom.

tumblr_inline_olal39fJS91ra5gj4_540

The characters are awesome too.

Moose, a stereotypical dense jock in the 1950’s Riverdale, is a more realistic, complex, and actualized human in this new version. He has a brief  fling with Kevin Keller who quickly moves on to the town’s bad boy.  Who could blame Kevin? We’ve all fallen for the bad boy. At least in our minds.

riverdale

Is it wrong of me to think the brooding writer Jughead is hot?

3405ff56056b44241c91acace353f160

Vixen Veronica provides a continual vintage-inspired fashion show.

image rrr

Already checked out Riverdale? Love gritty, scandalous YA stories? Tell us about it in the comments.

Follow Lady SmuOne Queen (1)t … all the way to Atlanta! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers.

Turned on by wires & circuits? Intrigued by the opportunity to pre-program your experience? Robot fetish 101

13 Jan

By Isabelle Drake

Want to get busy with a techno man?  Interested in androids? Love the AMC show Humans?

If you are a Duran, Duran fan, or remember the old school video to Electric Barbarella, the sexy robot thing is nothing new to you.

Here’s something that might be new. Robot fetishism, considered part of technosexuality, is divided into two usually separate fantasies:

  • Sex with a person dressed in a robot costume, a person acting like a robot, or sex with pre-made sex android robot.
  • Sex with person who has been willingly or unwillingly transformed into a robot or being transformed into a robot oneself and subsequently having sex. The transformation is of key interest in this fantasy.

Both of these interests stem from the uncanniness of the android.

Ernst Jentsch, credited with being the first to identify the state of the uncanny in a 1906 essay, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny,” defines the state as a person’s “doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might be, in fact, animate.” He was quick to note that awareness and understanding of such a state is important to a fiction writer. “In telling a story one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton and to do it in such a way that his attention is not focused directly upon his uncertainty, so that he may not be led to go into the matter and clear it up immediately.”

In the show, Humans, Anita confesses her love for Ed the scene is both compelling and disturbing. According to Sigmund Freud the basis for this reaction in the uncanny.

In his essay, “The Uncanny” Freud expanded this concept of the uncanny state being linked to the relationship between the animate and the innate. Additionally, he examined concepts of human development in regard to maturation as having a key relationship to a person’s perception of what is uncanny. For example, in childhood humans enjoy repetition. This appreciation begins before the child is old enough to desire, or even understand, control. As the child matures, and begins to understand the advantage of control and thus desires it, the child takes less pleasure in repetition.

Therefore, continued, undesired, and uncontrollable repetition is disturbing because it represents a lack of control and thus regression and is therefore potentially alarming. Freud asserted that the state of the uncanny is linked to the subconscious in additional way. He stated that a person experiences something as uncanny because it reminds the individual of the conflict between their repressed desires, desires which the individual presumably struggles to control, and feared punishment for deviating from societal norms.

Tell us what you think in the comments. Are human-like robots sexy or scary? Want to get busy with an android?7818008_f260

And – follow us here at Lady Smut. We’re always here to inform, entertain, and keep you up to date.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers. She’s also working on her own sexy android erotica.

Pitch Is Perfect

3 Jan
Is hair like that the secret to happiness? Can I give it a whirl and get back to you?

Is hair like that the secret to happiness? Can I give it a whirl and get back to you?

By Alexa Day

Right up until the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, I was prepared to complain about the direction the show had taken. I’d spent most of the seventh season tuning in to listen to the endless rambling of Negan, who is basically a schoolyard bully with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. I could not figure out why people who had driven glass into their enemies’ eyes or torn out their enemies’ throats with their teeth were afraid of a big Chatty Cathy doll with a bat, and I’d started to lose interest in that particular mystery.

But I have to thank Negan for something. If he hadn’t annoyed the living daylights out of me, I might never have spent half an episode looking for other things to watch. If I hadn’t gone shopping for alternatives, I would never have found Pitch. I think I may be the last person in North America to have found the Fox series about the first woman to play major league baseball, but my tardiness meant I could binge-watch the whole season, so I’m grateful for it.

Pitch rescued me from the depths of television despair. It’s amazing. It’s given me reason to believe in regular network television again.

How?

Well, the easy answer is that it’s clearly put together by people who give a damn about what they’re doing and have the talent to do it well. I think that’s getting lost in television these days. How much television is being produced by people writing random stories that don’t make sense because they don’t think you’ll ever quit watching? Too much.

The true beauty of Pitch is that it isn’t about baseball at all. It’s about a large group of tight-knit characters who interact with each other and each other’s issues against the backdrop of baseball. Baseball is more of a setting in the way that New York City is a setting. It’s important but it doesn’t drive the story.

A lot of other things make Pitch beautiful.

1. There are no one-dimensional characters, even in the secondary cast. We know that Ginny’s agent, Amelia, used to represent celebrities, and so we know why she needs to protect Ginny from herself. We also know that Amelia’s struggle with infertility cost her a relationship, which adds a touch of vulnerability to her hard-charging facade. The general manager (Mark Consuelos, looking good) recruits a Cuban player by pitching a doll’s head at him. It’s the opening to a very well written conversation about two immigrants whose lives were changed by an all-American game. Ginny’s teammate, Blip, and his glamorous wife have an argument about how their marriage is not built on what they each wanted from life. It’s hard to create an entire cast of well-rounded characters, but there is a giant payoff in feeling every character’s fears, joys, and crushing disappointments. There’s a bigger payoff in not knowing whether a beloved character will find the happiness they want so badly or face another setback.

2. Complex feminism. I missed Pitch when it first showed up in September because I thought it was going to depend on one-note feminism. If I knew that a woman could do the job, and she knew she could do the job, I didn’t want to spend a whole season watching her prove it to the world at large. (In September, that felt a lot like the real world.) Pitch establishes right away that Ginny can do the job well enough to stay on the team. Much of the rest of the season touches on the kind of things women have to deal with in the universe outside professional baseball. Ginny has to balance her job with her social life; her groupies are all female and with her job, she struggles to find time to date. Ginny and her agent have to deal with leaked nude photos. (Their solution, which involves the ESPN Body Issue, is brilliant.) Ginny’s entire family has always wanted her to achieve this level of success, but once she’s arrived, they all have different issues with her. None of us are strangers to the pressure to maintain an image, build friendships, find romance, and establish a solid professional standing. Watching Ginny try, and sometimes fail, to do it live on the JumboTron made me want to cheer for her all the more.

I was surprised by how badly and how quickly I wanted to put my face against all that beard. Very badly. Very quickly.

I was surprised by how badly and how quickly I wanted to put my face against all that beard. Very badly. Very quickly.

3. Mike Lawson. Mike’s not the typical sports hero. The bottom half of his face is hidden beneath a thick beard. He’s starting to go to seed. Much is made of his bad knees. Age is catching up to him and he knows it. He’s the team captain, and he keeps the younger guys in line with the knowledge and wisdom that come with a long career. But that career has cost him just about everything, and when we join the story, we’re watching him deal with the ruins of the marriage he sacrificed to baseball, the erosion of his body, and the threat of being replaced. Mike’s earned his alpha status with the team, but we get to see him in private, too, at his most vulnerable. I’m not sure that we as romance writers are creating enough characters like Mike, but he’s the reason I keep coming back. I have the highest hopes for him, along with the deepest fears.

Of course, there’s bad news. Nothing’s free in this world, right?

As magnificent as Pitch is, we won’t see new episodes until next fall. That’s criminal, but I can see how it might have happened. It just bothers me that I have to wait that long to rejoin the story, and I’m scared that Fox will come up with some baseless reason to get rid of it.

I’m also worried about what will happen to Pitch if it does come back. Right after watching the world fall apart for all these wonderful characters, in exactly the way the world should fall apart in a season finale, I sat back with a contented sigh and wondered if I’d ever felt so happy with a television show. That’s when I remembered Sleepy Hollow. That first season finale was a thing of beauty. After that, it was like the writers became jealous of its glory and tried to destroy it. They finally succeeded by killing one of the leads, but they worked really hard to wreck that show before then.

(Sleepy Hollow isn’t completely dead, by the way. It’s just dead to me.)

So while I’m working through the next several months, waiting for Pitch to return, I’m on the lookout for other distractions. Fanfiction writers are already linking Ginny and Mike, which sounds just lovely to me but might not be the best idea for them. And I imagine I could be seeking out more sports romances during this long interval.

Just be warned. Pitch has presented me with an appropriately diverse professional baseball team. I will be pretty disappointed to find that romance can’t do the same.

Follow Lady Smut.

%d bloggers like this: