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How a Bad Movie Changed the World

Cover of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Cover of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In 1992 I saw a movie that, while it wasn’t a very good movie, made this geek girl happy.  I am talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  No, not the television series starring Sarah Michelle Geller.  That was actually pretty good.  The movie, starring Kristy Swanson with an appearance by the post-Florida-arrest train wreck that was Paul Reubens, well, wasn’t.  Still, in one sentence that movie turned the role of young women on its head, and I applaud that achievement.

At the time I was the mother of a teen-age daughter who was growing up in a post-feminist culture.  Women no longer felt compelled to burn our bras or stage marches, but there was (and still is) a wage disparity, a cultural and career glass ceiling, inequities in medical care and research, and severe restrictions on women in the armed service.

This last, which banned women from serving in combat, among other things, reflected the outdated notion of women as the “weaker” sex.  It was that notion that Buffy challenged.  I am sure our readers are familiar with Buffy – the teen cheerleader who is forced to play the reluctant hero, and who eventually embraces her role.

There was another woman hero that year.  Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Aliens 3.  But in order for Ripley to be a hero, she had to go hundreds of years into the future.  Buffy lived in the here and now.  And she established a beachhead for the kick-ass heroine who became a staple of fiction.  Without Buffy the movie, there is no Buffy the TV series.  No La Femme Nikita.  No Sydney Bristow (one of my personal favorites).  Our current crop of urban fantasy heroines are the cultural descendants of the cheerleader with a stake.

We can argue whether the words of a writer or director, spoken by an actor, should have more authority than a parent.  You can take the position that they shouldn’t and you won’t get any argument from me.  But let’s be realistic.  Our kids, especially by the time they are in their teens, do take many of their cues from the culture around them,  And that includes TV, movies, books, and music.

We can also argue whether Buffy started a cultural shift, or merely reflected it.  Certainly someone was eventually going to lead this particular charge, and perhaps it was a cultural inevitability.  But the truth is, Buffy did do it.  She spoke the line that signaled one teenage girl who put herself in charge of her own destiny; a young woman who most assuredly did not need to be rescued.

The scene in question is the final action sequence.  Buffy and her date are at the prom, dressed in their finest 90s attire, when the vampires attack.  Her boyfriend tries to protect/rescue her, and gets soundly defeated.

At that point Buffy steps up.  She turns to the battered boyfriend and says (if I may paraphrase) “Stay here.  I’ll take care of this.”

With those two little sentences, Buffy went from victim in need of rescue to hero who rescued those around her.

It was a moment every teenage – and younger – girl needed to hear.  Finally, someone besides a parent was telling them they could be the hero.  It was something every parent wanted her daughter to hear.

Thank you, Buffy – you made this geek girl, and all the geek girls that follow, very happy indeed.

Christine F York

Book Review: Inked (spoilers!)


Skin Deep by Karen Chance

The war mage Lia, is introduced to us as someone who has a knack for finding trouble. Or more accurately, being found by trouble. A dragon ward has embedded itself in her skin. Now moving of it’s own will over her body and she is not quite sure what this means. It may just come in handy when she needs help. Her mate is missing, so ignoring orders to stay put, she heads under Las Vegas to find him. The Hunter may have him, may or may not exist, but she is determined to find out. Fighting young wolves and following her connection to her lover, she finds clue

s to who the Hunter is, and why he has been killing.  Weaving a story of love and family that includes humans, werewolves, and magic protection that appears to go on just slightly out of view of the thriving humanity. Never quite sure Lia will survive this battle, the reader is taken along for an exhilarting ride.

Armor of Roses by Marjorie M. Liu

I was fascinated by the use of demons in this story. Sleeping just under the skin as armor for their charge, passed down from mother to daughter. Protecting, but not always very helpful, I easily pictured gargoyle-like demons whose memories cross time. This is a time travel story that doesn’t feel like one. The voice of our heroine never leaves the present so there isn’t the disconnect I sometimes feel when a character changes timelines. Her determination to follow her grandmothers wishes, to save some, drives her to risk time travel paradigms, argue with her very young grandmother, and enlist the assistance of children. Children whose lives she is trying to save in the future from a threat she doesn’t understand until she sees it personally.

Etched in Silver by Yasmine Galenorn

I loved this story. A little bit of heat mixed in with danger and magic moves this story along very quickly. This is a novella of the authors Otherworld Series. However, even those who have never read one of those books will be easily drawn into this world. I think we can all sympathize/emphathize with the annoying boss, but one who threatens your career unless you sleep with him? I wanted to slug him!  Camille gets a little assistance from Trillian, and he is yummy, dangerous, and will end up in your dreams! This novella felt like a mini-action movie to me, and now I’ll break a credit card to get the rest of the Otherworld series.

Human Nature by Eileen Wilks

FBI Special Agent Yu has to fly across the country to investigate the murder of her mates best friend. Six months since the Turn, now humans and werewolves exist openly in the same society. Not everyone is happy with that. And then someone is murdered. The death was unusual, a lupine was murdered without changing into a wolf and his blood is missing. This story fits into a series and if you have not read them, it is a great introduction to two of the characters and their touching passion for each other (panties!). I did not know who the murderer was, completely fooled the entire story until the end. I love that!


Beauty and the Geek

Horsetown Carriage Club presents Rose Festival...

Image via Wikipedia

In yet another example of how geek girls have become part of the cultural mainstream, one local geek girl is a beauty queen.

Portland, Oregon has a tradition known as the Rose Festival, complete with a parade and a court of princesses representing local high schools. In an interview with The Oregonian, Wilson High School’s Rose Restival princess, Bralee Gilday, says she likes the “nerdy stuff,” citing the 2009 Star Trek as her favorite movie.

Miss Gilday also wants to become a math teacher, calling it her favorite subject. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that she’ll get crowned queen!

Chris York/Christy Evans
Out now!  SINK TRAP, Berkley Prime Crime
Coming in April: LEAD PIPE CINCH, Berkley Prime Crime

Jumping the Fence

I’ve been attending science fiction conventions since the early 80s, long before I was writing seriously.  As a result, I have seen cons from a lot of different viewpoints: the wide-eyed newbie, the organizer climbing through the ranks of various concoms,  helping organize a Nebula weekend, chairing a World Horror Convention and a Potlatch, and finally jumping the fence to become a professional writer, and sit on the other side of the table.

This past weekend we (the DH and I) attended Radcon, a fabulous convention in Pasco, Washington.  We had a blast hanging out with friends from several states, talking about books and writing and agents and writing.  I can highly recommend the convention, and they really love their guests.  But there are differences between going to a con as a fan, and jumping the fence to the pro side.

Certainly cons have changed, but the difference between attending as a fan, or even a con runner, and as a pro are greater than I could have anticipated – at times almost overwhelming.

I think the biggest change for me was realizing that I am “on stage” and working at all times.  There is no longer the safety of being unknown, or being able to say or do the silliest or most outrageous things without worrying (too much) about the consequences.  Sure, I’m not going to be stalked by the paparazzi any time soon, but I still need to maintain a certain acceptable level of behavior.

You want an example?  OK, here’s my most embarrassing (anonymous) moment.  Many years ago my husband attended a World Fantasy Convention in Seattle.  We couldn’t afford two memberships, so I went with him and hung out in the lobby, reading.  At one point I ran into some fans I knew, who were running the Hospitality suite, and I offered to help.  I ended up running trays, picking up dirty dishes, and being a general dog’s-body for Hospitality – without a badge to give away my name.

At one point Ed Bryant walked by.  I had recently read his story “While She
Was Out.”  (If you haven’t read it, go track it down.  It is one of the best short stories.  Ever.)  I walked up to him, carrying my tray, and gushed all over him about how great that story was.  Ed was a bit taken aback (terrified might be a better description!) but he managed to stammer his thanks.  At that point my sanity returned and I realized how crazed I must sound.  I looked at him, smiled weakly, and said “And I’m not wearing a badge, so you don’t even know who I am,” and fled.

Of course I confessed to a friend, who knew Ed and immediately outed me, and I am sure I’ve been forever enshrined in Ed’s memory as that crazy woman from Seattle.  (I’ve moved, and considered changing my name – but I can’t afford plastic surgery. )

Would I dare to do that now?  Not on your life!  In fact, the shoe is now on the other foot.  If I ever write a story as good as “While She Was Out” (just in case you’ve forgotten the title), I may be subject to a crazy-fan attack. If so, I hope I can be as gracious – and calm – as Ed was.

But my point is that I can no longer behave that outrageously in public, without risking becoming the subject of gossip and derision.  I am no longer an anonymous fan without a badge, I am a pro with my name emblazoned across my chest, my picture in the program book, and my voice heard on panels.

I’ve been on the other side of the fence.  I know how fans and concoms talk
about pros who are obnoxious, demanding, and self-important.  I know word gets around about who drinks too much, gets grabby with other people’s spouses, or trashes hotel rooms.  I know that my behavior will be judged as an individual, not as an anonymous part of the convention attendees, and I have to act accordingly.

Still, it’s a small price to pay for the chance to meet readers and other writers, to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  And maybe, just maybe, find someone who loves your work so much they act a little crazy.

Christina F York

Review: Dopplegangster by Laura Resnick

I love a good fantasy romp. Especially when the characters are witty, snarky, and the story is fun.  In order to review this book I got a hold of book one in the series, “Disappearing Nightly”, and this review will cover both books.

“Disappearing Nightly” is the first book in the Esther Diamond series by Laura Resnick. This is a fun and funny, as in actually LOL’ing, book. The main character’s voice was easy to hear and her sarcasm was stinging without being grating. The cast of characters that join our Heroine were colorful, fun, and so well described that I could picture their body language during conversations very easily.

The introductions of the “posse” (my term not the authors) working to solve the disappearances was fun. Brief detailed descriptions of hot, sexy, drag queens, a cowboy condom king (seriously great lines here), the pop star with “hooker hair” (heh!), and the snotty wizard were wonderful. Working together to get their friends back still left time for humor and back stories while not letting up on the urgency to find people who may be dying somewhere. I liked that her cop-boyfriend Lopez has a nagging mother. I almost cringed along with him every time she called. It made him very likable and sympathetic. It also made her life a little messy.

This was a fun introduction to a cast of characters I want to know more about. The only thing that took me out of the story for a short while was the speed with which the heroine went from damsel-in-distress to in-charge-of-investigation. Her partner in solving the disappearances, Max, is 350 years old with much more experience, and yet seems almost lost without her from the instant they meet. I would have liked some transition from throwing-up-in-fear to taking-charge-of-posse. I got over it soon enough and was along for the ride quickly.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The story kept me reading straight through to the end in one sitting.

Now, on to “Dopplegangster.” It takes Esther into the world of the mob and Max and the yummy Lopez are along for the ride. I liked the introduction of a familiar in dog-form. The possibilities are wonderful for getting her in almost anywhere without arousing suspicion. I also liked that Esther is emotionally distraught when she witnesses a murder. It should be distressing.

It took me a couple of rereads to get the mob families straight, but once I did the intricate relationships were easy to follow and understand. I love the way Ms. Resnick wrote the dialogue. At times, devoid of description, jumping from one speaker to the next conveyed easily the speed and urgency of these conversations. The complicated world of mob families and the need to adhere to their rules during the investigation was entertaining. Like the main character, I too forgot occasionally that their mob help, Lucky, was a murderer.

I very much liked the way she worked the relationship between Esther and her cop-boyfriend Lopez. I do not know how she would have continued that unless he became part of the investigative group and walked away from the career he loves. I’m hoping to see him again in the next book to find out if his power has grown.

Like the first book, I wanted to know who was guilty from the very beginning and read through the entire book in one sitting just to find out. This book is fun, light, and you will laugh out loud in places. Esther, Max, Nelli (familiar), and Lopez are friends I look forward to meeting again.


Barbie the Geek Girl!

computer_engineer_barbie_revisedOK, Geek Girls, here’s our chance to make a difference!  At Mattel is allowing us to vote on “Barbie’s next

Yeah, I know.  She’s been a vet, a school teacher, a doctor, an animal
trainer, a rock star, and a race car driver.  She’s had a zillion hobbies and
sports careers.  She’s been a fashion icon for a certain segment of the
population for fifty years.  And none of that really applied to us geeks, did

Now we have the opportunity to choose her next career, and here are the
News Anchor


Wait for it …

Computer Engineer!

That’s right, Geek Girls.  Here is the chance for us to embrace Barbie as one
of our own – or not.

Personally I am torn.  I am opposed to the fantasy that is Barbie, the
physically-impossible body, the avarice of her extensive collection of
accessories, and the infamous “Math is hard!” speaking Barbie.

On the other hand, here is a chance to subvert the paradigm and make Barbie a
geek.  A fashionable geek, I’m sure, but still a geek.  And in spite of my own
lack of fashion sense I know that it is possible to be both – there are
several examples I can think of off the top of my head, like the
physicist/author who also fronts an alt-rock group.  If that isn’t glam, I
don’t know what is!

Therefore, I have been to the Mattel site and voted – ghods help me! – for
Computer Engineer Barbie.

At least this way if I have to buy my granddaughter a Barbie doll, I’ll have
the choice of a Geek Girl, and not just a fashion plate.

Christina York

(It worked! Barbie’s new job is Engineer)

“I’m a Geek Girl, world! Deal with it!”

big bang theory new season

Image by Heavybm via Flickr

Watching this week’s episode of ” The Big Bang Theory,” I was reminded that it takes all kinds of people to make a well-rounded society.  Think about it for a minute.  If there weren’t so-called normal people, how would we recognize
our fellow geeks?  Or would EVERYONE be a geek?

No, I want those other people, the mundanes, the normals.  Not just because they make us stand out, but because they make us examine who and what we are.  They make geekdom a choice.  I can choose to get my geek on, but only because I have something to compare it to.

Let’s go back to the example of “Big Bang Theory.”  Penny is the character who actually makes that show work.  Face it, would we watch the show if it was only Raj, Sheldon, Leonard, and Wolowitz sitting around making geek-talk?  Not forever, though I have to admit the tabletop battle with ketchup-bottle orcs and superheroes had me in hysterics – mostly because I’ve had those conversations.  But the real comedy comes from them bumping up against the mundane world – frequently in the person of Penny – and proudly flying their geek flag, even in the face of adversity and scorn.  They are geeks, they know it, and they don’t apologize.

In many ways this is the same battle we women “of a certain age” waged for
decades.  We faced discrimination and scorn, we were paid less because
men “needed” higher wages, we were marginalized in the workplace; to
paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, we couldn’t get no respect.  Yet some of us
learned to hold our heads high, to make ourselves seen and heard, and to stop apologizing.

I still bump up against the “normal” crowd, and I am glad they are there, but
I hope I have learned to live the way Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Wolowitz do: true to my inner geek, proudly standing my ground and proclaiming “I’m a Geek Girl, world!  Deal with it!”

How about you?

Christina York

Technology, News, and Snobs

Recently I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about the impending end of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, and reflecting on the Jonathan Franzen dust-up.  Basically, the author asserted that literature was the last bastion of the snob, and Franzen should have simply said “Thank you” for the one gift that writers want above all: Readers.

While I think there are still plenty of venues for snobs in art and music and film as well as literature, her point was well taken.  Sharing stories, making them part of the popular culture, is my primary goal as a writer.  Oh, and thanks, Graylin, for the readers!

Now I hear some of you out there saying, “Wait a minute!  Don’t you live in Oregon?  Why are you reading the Los Angeles paper?”  Yes, I do live in Oregon, but thanks to technology, I can read papers from all over the country – and the world.

Let me backtrack.  In July, the regional daily raised its price again.  Out here at the edge of the earth, the cost was about $45 a month.  At that time, a Kindle cost $269, and a national newspaper was about $14 a month.  The $31 a month savings, coupled with a collection of several small gift certificates, made the Kindle a cost-effective move.

Not to mention, it’s totally cool!

So the DH (dear husband, for the acronym-challenged) got one for his birthday, and we immediately discovered the downside.  I wasn’t going to read anything on it unless I murdered him and pried the thing from his cold, dead hands.  I’ve invested over 25 years in training him – though not necessarily successfully – and even a Kindle wasn’t worth throwing away that much work.

After stalling a couple months, we broke down and bought a second Kindle.  It was really the only solution.  If we’d waited a little longer, we might have purchases a Nook instead, to hedge our bets.  But, we are enjoying the ability to share books between the two readers.

Which brings us back to the newspapers, DH went with the New York Times.  I sampled both Seattle and LA, and ended up with the Los Angeles Times.  I am happy with what I’m getting for my $10 a month; yes, the LA Times on Kindle is $9.99 a month.  Talk about a bargain!  It will take a little longer to amortize our investment with two Kindles and two newspapers, but getting the paper in an easily portable form, without even having to go outside and pick it up?  Priceless.

And sometimes I find interesting stuff – like why Jonathan Franzen is a snob.

I love technology!

Christina F York

The Geeks Have Won

Once upon a time, there was a group of outcasts known as “Geeks.” But that was in another century. In this century, the geeks have won. How do I know? Look at the most popular segment of pop culture: television.

Every network and every cable channel has at least one series that touches on science fiction tropes, often without any explanation. Not because they can’t explain, but because they don’t need to. They just expect the viewers to know what they’re talking about – and the audience does. We accept time travel, robots, aliens, high-tech spy gear, space travel, parallel universes, and the myriad fantastic creatures without a qualm. Forty years ago Uhura flipped open a communicator and we were gosh-wowed. Now, a Gossip Girl flips open a sub-compact cell phone, voice activates a phone call, and we all understand it. The future is here, and there’s a little geek in all of us.

Want another example?

Crime shows are a staple of network television. Have been since the beginning of television – Dragnet debuted in 1951, Jack Lord protected our 50th state in the 70s, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. spent a decade solving crimes for the F.B.I. Every one of those series showed us men with a strong jaw and a strong right hook serving and protecting, and detecting. But all that changed in the last few years, with the rise of the geeks.

Currently, NCIS is the top-rated show on television. Sure, it has Mark Harmon – a fine actor and easy to look at. But it also has a female lead that breaks all those last century molds. Abby Sciuto is the ultimate geek girl. She’s smart and competent and she does (gasp!) science. She’s still a girl, with many “girly” attributes, including her concern and connection with her co-workers, but she’s not some tough guy’s secretary or girlfriend. She’s a strong person all on her own, and she isn’t the only one.

Face it, Geek Girls. We’ve won!

Christina York

Twilight Addiction

Cover of "Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edit...

Cover of Twilight (Two-Disc Special Edition)

I haven’t read Twilight.  I know, I know, I’m behind in the culture. I should have something to praise or to snark.  Or both. I read Harry Potter as the phenom developed—before the first movie, even. I plan to read Twilight. I do.  Honest.

Okay, maybe I hoped the phenom would die down. Maybe I hoped everyone would forget it before I got to it. But it’s only revving up, and I know it. And I know I need to read it. And I know I’ll probably enjoy it.

Because, you see, I believe way down in my heart of hearts that bestsellers, beloved by millions, have something good in them. Something I will like muchly. So I know I’ll like Twilight. But I’m afraid to.  I’m afraid I’ll get bitten—pun intended—by the Twilight phenom.

And articles like Monica Hesse’s in The Washington Post don’t help. How quickly can a sane adult fall from feminist literary critic to fangirl accessing her inner 17 year old?  (Lemme tell you, as a die-hard romance reader, pretty damn quick.) But don’t take my word.  Check this out because it could happen to the rest of us, those of us who haven’t opened Twilight yet.  Yet, being the operative word.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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