Spoiler-Free Review of Daredevil, Season 2.

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I was sort of excited to stay up all night and binge-watch season two of DAREDEVIL, even though I expected it to be a disappointment. What can I say? I like staying up.

First thing: the show is really good.

Second thing: except for the parts that aren’t.

Third thing: the good parts outweigh the bad by a lot. A whole lot.

The first episode of the season was by far the worst. It wasn’t just that it was unimaginative; it looked weird, too, like cheap video. Were some scenes shot on someone’s phone? I couldn’t tell.

The first, second, and most of the third episodes were also full of bullshit about What It Means To Be A Hero. You know what? At the start of the season, I don’t want to hear two vigilantes have a philosophical discussion. I just don’t.

Then, near the end of the third episode, the show gives us another of its excellent fight scenes, and it seemed to find its groove again.

Part of the problem is the costume. When it showed up at the end of season one, I was upfront about how much I disliked it. The full red suit from the comics would look ridiculous, and while the devil suit at the end of S1 is an improvement, it still doesn’t work. I suspect the showrunners realized this, because they contrived to change it slightly. That’s another improvement, but it still doesn’t quite work.

What’s more, I don’t think they quite understood how to make a live-action masked superhero story really work. Basically: use the mask as little as possible.

The best and cheapest special effect a show can have is an actor’s face, and most masks that are reasonably faithful to their comic book versions look flat and silly on screen even after you’ve been awake for 27 hours and have been watching a show for ten. So I’m not really a fan of actors wearing their supers costumes when they’re not a) hurrying to the rescue, b) scaring the hell out of a bad guy or c) beating the hell out of a bad guy. Action scenes. That’s what masks are for. Otherwise, give us human expressions.

Because a dude in a superhero costume just standing around having a conversation looks like a grade A fool. For example, if a costumed vigilante is going to have a conversation with someone, it should not look like this:

Costume No

Yeah, that’s a bit dark, but you can see Daredevil on the right standing face-to-face with Turk on the left. Just two dudes standing around chatting, except one is wearing a horned helmet.

This is a much better choice:

Costume Yes

In case it isn’t clear from this single shot, the man foregrounded on the left is on his back, slightly raised off the floor. The background is the roof.

It’s an unusual framing. It’s interesting. It’s dynamic. It’s not two dudes chatting.

Oh, one last thing: Hey Karen Page, is season two filled with bloody violence and hair-raising sound effects just like season one?

Sound effects

Gotcha. Thanks.

Again we get great performances and fast-moving plots with lots of twists. Also, instead of a mini-boss structure like season one, there are two separate ongoing plots for each of the featured guest stars that compete for Matt’s attention.

Like other Netflix shows about superheroes, this is more like a miniseries than a weekly program, so get ready to binge or follow a complicated plot over an extended period of time.

So, despite a shaky start and a costume that doesn’t quite work, season two of Daredevil is fantastic. Check it out.

A spoiler post will be forthcoming, I expect.

“Rude Girl is Lonely Girl” My post about Jessica Jones, finally.

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With the second season of everyone’s favorite blind masochist about to air, it’s time I finished this post:

I’ve watched Marvel’s Netflix series JESSICA JONES all the way through three times. Twice on my own and once with my wife. I’ll say this: It’s very good. Flawed, but very very good.

For kindness sake, I’ll do a brief recap on the assumption that there’s one or two people reading this who haven’t heard of the show: it’s a 13 episode Netflix Original series that’s loosely adapted from the comic book ALIAS, which launched in 2001 as part of Marvel’s MAX line. Basically, it’s an R-rated comic, where characters can say Fuck and occasionally do fuck. Nothing ground breaking about that, except that this comic also featured Captain America and a bunch of other characters from the main branch of Marvel publishing, where the Comics Code mentality still had a lingering influence.

The lead character was created at the last minute for the comic; originally, it was supposed to be Jessica Drew, aka Spiderwoman, but Marvel’s editors decided to use her for something else, so Brian Michael Bendis created Jessica Jones to replace her. Jones’s story in the comics: After a traffic accident with a truck full of chemicals (like Daredevil) she gained superstrength, limited invulnerability, and the ability to fly (awkwardly), so she did what she thought she was supposed to do. She put on a costume and fought crime, taking the name “Jewel”.

Then it went all wrong. She fell under the sway of mind-controlling villain The Purple Man for months. When she finally broke free, her life was ruined. What’s more, she realized that she had vanished for months but no one had noticed. She threw away the costume and, with her anger and pain and PTSD, became a hard-drinking private investigator.

It’s a great idea: a super-powered private eye in the Marvel comics, which is a world where superpowers have been around for generations and there are a whole lot of people with dearly held secrets.

For the TV show, Jessica is pretty much the same but the setting is not. Jessica still has powers (superstrength and superjumping, with a smidge of toughness thrown in) and she’s still self-medicating for her PTSD from her clash with a mind-controlling villain, but she inhabits a world where superpowers are a rare thing, largely hidden and mysterious to the public at large.

So the show has some superhuman abilities, but there are no costumes, no masks, no secret identities, and no thwarted bank robberies. Instead, it has great characters. Yeah, the pacing falters late in the season, but those characters carry it through.

Spoilers after the cut

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Have a Nook? In the UK? Back up your books

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If you’re in the UK and you have a Nook (there must be at least ONE of you out there) be sure to back them up. Nook is pulling out of the UK market and relying on a third-party to take over for the Nook books people have already bought.

Personally, I don’t put a lot of trust in maintenance arrangements with third parties.

Details here.

Randomness for 2/20

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1) The Author Who Cyberstalked Me.

2) “Trust me. I’m an engineer.” Video.

3) You have already missed your chance to enter the first beauty contest judged by robots.

4) A small 2009 car demolishes a 1959 Chevy. Oh, what 50 years of safety regulation can do!

5) Surprising applications of the Magnus Effect. Video. This is cool.

6) Highway font Clearview being ditched in favor of older Highway Gothic.

7) Welcome to the future: Hackers hijack CA hospital computers and demand $3.6 million ransom to release them.

Eyes or No Eyes: An Advertising Conundrum

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Among all the good folks checking out my ads for The Great Way and leaving feedback, one of the most consistent is that they don’t like that ad #2 does not show Tejohn’s eyes.

I felt the same way about them, until my son showed me how it looks with the eyes. Check it out:

Original:

"banner" layout

With eyes showing:

ADTGWBANNER w eyes

It seems pretty clear to me that the ad that shows his eyes is weaker than the original, which is not what I would have expected.

I dunno. I find it interesting.

Ads for The Great Way (asking a favor)

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Sales of The Great Way trilogy have lagged pretty significantly, and while I’m working on my new project, I thought it would make sense to do some advertising.

Buying book ads isn’t the usual thing, but I keep hearing that it does well for other self-publishers, and I’m not averse to spend a little money as long as I make back more than I spent. However, before I put anything online, I thought I’d ask for feedback on the ads themselves as well as the landing page.

My son made these ads as part of a homeschool project. He’s fourteen. Please be gentle.

"leaderboard" layout

Ad number one

"banner" layout

Ad number two

"Skyscraper" layout

Ad number three

I know there’s not a lot of data there, just images and a little text, but it’s supposed to be intriguing enough to entice a click. Readers who go for the ad will arrive at this landing page. Input on that page would also be most welcome.

I’m planning to run them through Project Wonderful, probably at the forums for OOTS. I’m not sure where else. It depends on how things go. I’m told Facebook is a useful ad space, but I’m not in a hurry to go there.

Comments on this blog are usually turned off, but I’ve tried to turn them on for this post. WordPress can be cranky about this stuff, though, so if you find you can’t (or don’t want to) offer your comments below, you can tweet them at me @byharryconnolly or post them to my LiveJournal, Facebook, or Google plus pages. If you’re old school (or prefer privacy) you can email me at harryconnolly at sff dot net.

Thanks for your help.

B&N Buy links broken

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Barnes & Noble used to run their affiliate sales program through a third-party website, but they’ve now cancelled that agreement. As a result, all of the B&N “buy” links on this website go nowhere.

Sorry. Today’s non-writing writing work is replacing all of those links with direct non-affiliate links. I’ll also be stripping out the affiliate links to Kobo, even though those are still live. I don’t want to have to do this again if that affiliate loses their contract.

It’s not like I was actually making money from those affiliate links.

Mysteries with Honest Detectives and Sad Endings: Netflix Codifies Art

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This article pushes all my buttons.

The more I learn about the way Netflix determines their categories, but more convinced I am that they’re doing something really useful that will soon apply to all entertainment media. To summarize the article briefly: not only have they created over 75,000 separate “genres” (called “altgenres” at the company) but they rate and categorize films according to a very complex system of metrics. How gory are they? How romantic? Where are they set? What job does the protagonist hold? How happy is the ending?

Hiding behind those 75+K genres are all sorts of ratings that Netflix pays careful attention to. If you watch a lot of movies in the Action categories but consistently turn off the gory ones before the end, Netflix will stop suggesting action movies with a high gore rating to you. Other kinds, sure, but not that one.

I’d hoped books could get a system like this with Game of Books, but they didn’t deliver. The project was sold or abandoned, and backers’ pledges were returned.

I still interested in a system that could do something similar with books. Bleak mysteries with an honest detective and a sad/tragic ending ought to be easier to find than they are, but the personal recommendations I get through social media haven’t scratched that itch. Those books were one disappointment after another. Would the Game of Books have managed it? Would “Netpages”?

Obviously, a system like this would never be perfect; Netflix’s certainly isn’t. That’s why I miss Netflix’s “Random” category, since my recommendations are now swamped with kung fu movies and British crime shows. (And why not? Love ’em!) Random allowed me to see recs beyond what the algorithm thought I wanted.

For Netflix to survive, it has to connect subscribers with shows they love over the long term, but sometimes its recs are so narrow that we only get to see a thin slice of what they offer. Basically, they hide most of their library. Before she moved in with us, my niece thought she’d seen everything of interest the streaming service offered. Now she’s binging on all sorts of shows. That suggests that Netflix’s algorithms are too restrictive right now. More variety is needed.

As for books, well, variety is not the problem. Covering them all would be the problem. Still, I think it’s inevitable.

I know there are people who will recoil instinctively from the idea of breaking down books into component parts in order to categorize them, but I can’t help but think that, if readers were able to look for “Contemporary Fantasy Crime Fiction with a Sad Ending”, I might still be writing Ray Lilly novels.

Genres are just descriptions for the marketing department, after all. I suspect we’re coming to a time when book classification is going to have to get much more granular.

Death… I mean, Obscurity stands at your left shoulder and whispers “Soon.”

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I should have put this here instead of on Twitter, but I got into a roll and what the hell.

Here it is, my short essay on obscurity:

I wish I could edit tweets.

Anyway, re: #18, here’s Jaime Lee Moyer talking about her series being cancelled after Tor pulled her first two books just as book 3 was coming out and here’s Patrick Swenson talking about Tor dropping him after one book. Those forgotten bestsellers I mention in tweets #6 & 7? At least they made a little money first. For too many of us, even that’s beyond our grasp.

I have also been thinking about George RR Martin, who recently announced that his next Westeros novel will be delayed. It reminded me of an article I read about JK Rowling, and the pressure she felt while trying to finish the last few Harry Potter books. Those authors have had amazing success, obviously, but they still feel Imposter Syndrome. They still worry that readers will be turned off and turned away. That readers will move on.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about lately, as I watch the Bookbub sales bump fade, and wonder if those readers will move past the 99 cent promo novel to my other work.

Hey new readers, if you want to keep up with my future work, why not sign up for my newsletter? I only send it when I have something new out.

Also, it helps keep the specter of Obscurity a few paces behind.

Randomness for 12/24

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1) Why you don’t want to wear metal inside an MRI. Video.

2) 15 things I learnt about Islam and British values being a gay boy living opposite a mosque. h/t James Nicoll

3) MRA Dilbert. Combining Scott Adam’s own words with Scott Adam’s art.

4) Poll results: The best video essays of 2015

5) Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame.

6) DIY Netflix socks will automatically pause your show when you fall asleep.

7) The Ten Best Articles Wikipedia Deleted This Week.