Wednesday, 29 April 2015


I'm not kidding, seriously, so many spoilers! 
Tune out now if you haven't seen the film or don't want to know details! 

This post is basically a rant, and those of my Dear Readers who aren't into superhero films may find some or all of it incomprehensible/boring/pointless. Apologies in advance for that. I just have to get it off my chest before I explode.

So yeah, I wasn't... impressed with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

In fact, from here on out I'll mostly be referring to it with a title that feels more appropriate to me: Age of Ugggh.

OK, some background. I am a huge Marvel fangirl. I am a Marvel GEEK. Pretty much since the first IRON MAN movie came out, I have disappeared deeper and deeper into that rabbit hole. I got addicted to the comics, I educated myself on fifty years of backstory and canon, I got the animated films and the cartoon series and the anime stuff, I collected the Funko POP! figures. I spend half my life reblogging Marvel gifsets on Tumblr. When I am stressed, I read Marvel fanfic. I subscribe to all the comic geeks channels on YouTube. The last film that my dad and I ever went to the cinema to see together, before he got too sick, was AVENGERS: ASSEMBLE (and we loved it and watched to together on DVD, along with the other Phase One films, probably thirty times).

So AGE OF ULTRON - the official end of Phase Two and the follow up to one of my favourite films ever - was such a big deal to me, you can’t even understand. I watched every teaser, trailer and featurette multiple times and squeed over them at length. I booked the cinema tickets the moment they could be had, and literally arranged an entire day around going to see it, including travelling three hours roundtrip on the train. The prospect of being able to immerse myself in this universe again has kept me going through months of rough, cr*ppy, sh*t in my life.

And sure, I saw some commentary about the film that wasn't positive, and it came from sources that I trusted. But even though there was a horrible snafu with the main actors making disgusting sexist remarks about the lone female lead character, and even though I heard whispers of some misogynistic characterisation in the movie itself, I remained determined to keep an open mind.

And now I kind of wish I hadn't seen it at all.

What is the actual point of this film?

No, no - aside from making Disney $2billion and stroking Joss Whedon’s ego by allowing him to utilise the Ultron character that apparently he always wanted to - ASIDE FROM THAT.

Like, the actual purpose of the thing as a narrative within the Marvel Comics Universe? A film supposedly adding to and expanding the universe of the MCU and improving our understanding of the characters within it?

I’m really serious here. What - who - within the MCU was actually meaningfully affected by this film? I feel like the answer is a big fat zero. Because you could literally have gone straight from the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War without any of the events of Age of Ugggh having been screened for us and it would make NO DIFFERENCE whatsoever.

SHIELD was already down at the end of CA:TWS. If it was important for us to know that the Avengers had reunited in the wake of that in order to root out the last remnants of Hydra and raid rogue Hydra/SHIELD facilities (which, actually, I'm not sure it was - BUT IF IT WAS) we could have been shown that with a single establishing scene at the beginning of Civil War. You want to explain Bruce’s absence at the beginning of CW and that his leaving destroyed a burgeoning romance with Natasha? You have someone ask ‘Where’s Banner?’ and have Natasha answer: ‘In the wind. He bailed six months ago after an… incident…’ and have Scarlett Johansson’s face tell the story before she quickly turns away.

Is it important to know that Tony’s ‘quit’ (ha ha ha, yeah, that’ll last) the superhero business? Well, technically he already has - you know, since there was that whole film about it, called IRON MAN 3? But if you want us to know that he’s the one who’s funding the superhero business now? Then after you’ve shown the New Avengers Facility (with the same caption we got in Age of Ugggh) you have Steve say ‘At least Stark didn’t take his funding with him when he tapped out.’

Wanda and the Vision? What about them, you ask - surely Age of Uggh had value because it introduced them? Well, no, actually. Neither of them got any meaningful characterisation in Age of Ugggh anyway. They were effectively minor characters who were shoved forward into the limelight with lots of fanfare without ever being given anything interesting to do or any depth.

This is particularly true of Vision, who apparently had astonishing ultimate powers but demonstrated a) an ability to fly (wow!) and b) an ability to 'burn Ultron off the internet' in a two second sequence (much wow!). I know Vision's backstory, and I was really interested to see how they would make it work here, with Tony as his creator and Jarvis as his 'soul' but he basically floated around being vaguely new age and extremely pink and made practically no contribution to the plot apart from giving Tony and Steve a reason to have a vicious yet ultimately pointless argument which was the most cack-handed foreshadowing for Civil War possible. A complete waste of Paul Bettony's talent AND of the much-beloved character of Jarvis. If Vision had gotten squashed like a bug at any point in this film I would have felt nothing except sadness that Jarvis wouldn't be in Tony's HUD making snarky comments anymore.

So we’re clearly going to have to figure out who these two really are in Civil War (and with the Russo Brothers' able guidance it’ll probably work). But if the point of Age of Ugggh was to create any kind of a bond of sympathy or attachment between the audience and those two, it failed.

Given this, they could easily have been introduced as mysterious and powerful new characters to intrigue us in the opening scenes of Civil War, instead. Two seconds after we’re shown the New Avengers facility and Steve mentions the funding, we meet Wanda and Vision on the training mats along with Falcon, where Natasha’s ‘beating them into shape’. 'This is the new team!?!' someone says, as Wanda accidentally hexes Falcon and Vision disapparates out of the way of Sam's falling body. We’d get to find out about their backstory and abilities in a way that felt meaningful and interesting, as they trained to become a team with the other members of the New Avengers (and fell in love).

Nothing within the existing universe and no one within the existing cast has been left meaningfully altered by the events of Age of Ugggh. The only difference from the end of of A:A is that this time it’s Banner who’s been shown going off on his own instead of Steve. The hostility, distrust, and fundamental difference in world view that divides Steve and Tony? Already established at the end of A:A. SHIELD down? Established at the end of CA:TWS. The world a more dangerous and murky place where the actions of ‘heroes’ might face unfriendly scrutiny? Established at the end of AA and CA:TWS. Tony not actively superheroeing anymore? Established at the end of IM:3. Thor no longer a part of the team/more concerned with living a human life with Jane? Established at the end of Thor:TDW.

There is one thing this film did that wasn’t already done (and better, too) by the other Phase Two films or which couldn't have been done in a single establishing scene at the beginning of CA:CW. And that was to give the earth-based characters - not us! We already knew because of Thor:TDW and Guardians of the Galaxy - knowledge of the Infinity Stones and show Thanos finally getting his big purple *ss off that floating throne and deciding to work for a living.

I wish I was missing something that further rewatches will reveal to me, but I really don’t think I am. The only point of this multi-million dollar, nearly three hour long production was the two minute explanation of the Infinity Stones and the mid-credit scene. Oh, and the destruction and defamation of most of the characters that we liked and empathised with (I have never liked any of them less than I did here, honestly).

We had Tony as a spoiled, petty man child with all the emotional intelligence and perspective of a toddler, who throws apocalyptic tantrums whenever Steve tells him 'no', and constantly deceives and uses his team to get his own way. We had Steve as a one-dimensional block of a man who tells his team off for using bad language (hilarious! Soldiers in the Second World War totally never swore and just said 'Gosh' and 'Gee' while liberating death camps, you know) and who one moment is sacrificing Natasha without a single backward glance, and the next is telling us that he won't sacrifice a single person even if it means the end of the world (that is incredibly bad writing, right there). Bruce was painted as a feeble coward. I barely recognised him, and that was so disappointing because I love Mark Ruffalo and loved his of portrayal of Bruce in A:A. Thor? Well, he had a single personality trait, and it was: loud. Hawkeye was given a massive, awkward wodge of backstory that would actually have been endearing and heartwarming if it hadn't felt so utterly out of place, like it belonged in a different film.

And Natasha? My God, why would you DO this to Natasha Romanov, aka the Black Widow, aka one of the most compelling, complex, fascinating female characters the MCU has? Age of Ugggh basically portrayed her as Fay Wray, a female character whose main worth lies in taming or unleashing the power of the beast - in this case, the Hulk.

I am a shipper, man. I'll ship anyone with anybody, and after the hints in the trailers I was 100% there for some Brutasha. I love both these characters, and I thought it would be nice to see some tenderness between them. But it fell completely flat on screen. Not only was there zero romantic or sexual chemistry between the actors (and that's a feat, since both of them are beautiful and fantastic actors - I'm blaming the direction there) but the romance diminished Natasha. It was her whole arc. That was it. Natasha Pines For Bruce: The Movie.

The smirking, morally conflicted, flawed-yet-fighting Natasha of CA:TWS, who left Steve and went out on her own to figure out who she really was now that all her covers were blown, was utterly subsumed by a woman who, apparently, had figured out that who she was and all she wanted to be was Bruce Banner's girlfriend.

And when Bruce told her she was out of her mind for wanting to be with him (thanks, Bruce, your sensitivity to mental health issues was totally appreciated there) and that he was a monster, who probably couldn't have sex and could never have children (why would you assume that Natasha is too stupid to realise this, or that children are the most important thing to her anyway?), Natasha responded to him with a terrible story about how, as part of the systematic torture and abuse of her childhood in the Red Room, she had been sterilised, and then said 'Still think you're the only monster on the team?'

Yes, that's right. Apparently the filmmakers are totally comfortable with having a female character label herself as monstrous because she can't have biological kids. Natasha Romanov - former child assassin, current superhero, woman on a mission to discover her own true identity and make the world a better place - is a monster BECAUSE SHE CANNOT GIVE BIRTH. Apparently, a baby would be '...the only thing that might be more important than a mission' (???) and not being able to have babies '...makes everything easier. Even killing'. It's official! Being infertile erases a woman's conscience, while while having babies renders them incapable of performing their missions.

I guess all that stuff about red in the ledger was basically a euphemism for menstruation.

This is so blatantly, hatefully misogynistic that I am still in a haze of disbelief that it could possibly have screened in 2015, written and directed by a man WHO CALLS HIMSELF A FEMINIST.

Ultimately, Age of Ugggh was an empty spectacle that only worked to lessen the MCU's established characters, and weaken the quality of their overall work. I'm so glad that Joss Whedon is departing at this point, and I really, really hope that the writers and directors who follow him don't allow themselves to be unduly influenced by his continuing role as an advisor to Marvel. Because this film blew so badly that, thinking about it now, I kind of want to cry.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Hello, oh lovely readers! I'm still locked in battle with the dreaded tonsillitis over here - which has now spread down into a chest infection and upwards as bacterial conjunctivitis, as if I wasn't already having enough fun - but since I'm not getting any useful work done on BaBBook, I thought I might as well try to update the blog instead.

So first of all, a big thank you to writers Tom Huddleston, Sally Green and Josh Winning, cat-herder Rosie Fletcher (otherwise known as the moderator) and writer pals Liz de Jager and C.J. Daugherty for making my London Book Fair experience a really fun one.

Our panel was packed full and apparently people were queuing half-way down the mezzanine level to get in. Wonder Editor and Super Agent, who were already at the fair, hard at work, and came along to offer their support, both had to flex their muscles at the doorman to get in. Which is just what you want, and especially satisfying because I think the panel itself offered some really valuable and thoughtful discussion. If anyone feels like inviting me back next year, I'd definitely be interested!

And now, somewhat belatedly, I'm announcing another book and writing related event which is going to take place on Saturday the 9th of May. I'm going to be taking part in the Lincoln Inspired Festival, doing another panel event on Reading and Writing YA, followed by a book signing, at The Collection (a fascinating art museum) in Lincoln at 1:30pm.

The other panelists will be the lovely Kerry Drewery whom I'm very much looking forward to meeting again, and two other local writers, Georgia Twynham and and Cassandra Parkin. Tickets for this and many other events over the course of the weekend are on sale now - you can get details and find the numbers to call to get tickets in this leaflet. Lincoln is an absolutely beautiful town, filled with fascinating shops, historical buildings, and my favourite tea shop in the world, so if you live nearby do hop on the train or bus or organise a car-ride and come down to take part in the Festival. Remember that if you're a Dear Reader, there is always an extremely loving welcome waiting for you from me (provided you tell me who you are, which, as we have discussed in the past, is A Rule).

And now for my promised list of my top six songs by male artists or male led bands!


And here, the Spotify playlist with male/female songs together, plus a few songs that almost nearly not quite made the cut:


Friday, 17 April 2015


Sorry, my lovelies! I know I've promised various things for this week - a list of my top six songs by male artists or male led bands, an account of my panel on YA Literature at the London Book Fair, and also details of *another* book event that I'm doing soon at the Lincoln Inspired Festival. I haven't forgotten!

But on Friday/Saturday last week, only a couple of days after I finished my copyedit of Frail Human Heart, fate decided to sandbag me (yet again!), this time with a dose of tonsillitis, a vicious bug that I thought I had left behind in adolescence. I managed to keep it together enough to still get myself to London and participate in LBF on Tuesday, and then get myself home again afterwards, but not only has the infection proved extremely resistant to antibiotics, I've also turned out to be one of those people who gets fairly awful nausea while on penicillin, and have now, oh joy,  developed a horrible, wracking cough, which is aggravating my asthma no end and doesn't help even a little bit. I've lost my voice completely and have reached the point where I no longer wish to get better, but only for the sweet embrace of death.

TMI? Probably TMI. Well, don't worry, I won't detail my sufferings any further because a) they're not interesting to anyone, even me and b) if you're following me on Twitter you've already seen me miserably moaning about them over the last several days. But basically, I've tried my best to muscle through it, and although I'm so proud and happy to have been part of the London Book Fair and had a fantastic time there meeting up with some of my favourite people, I'm fairly sure that attempting to carry on as usual has made it all far worse than it needed to be. So now I'm going to give in, heed official advice, and just rest as much as I can until I start to feel human again. This means the Zolah-Machine is out of order for a little bit. Hopefully posting will resume some time next week, but I can't make any promises.

If you're waiting for a prize in the post from me, I'm afraid there will probably be a few more day's delay, and I apologise wholeheartedly. You will get your books soon, promise. 

And yes, before anyone kindly emails me or sends me comments - I do take an excellent multivitamin and mineral supplement, eat an extremely healthy balanced diet which is high in leafy greens and other vegetables, and exercise on a daily basis. I also use a SAD light to stimulate the production of healthy chemicals in my body when the weather is dull. If you can think of a way to avoid getting ill, it's pretty certain I've already tried it. Sadly, I just have a rubbish immune system for various reasons, and have to accept that and try and work around it as best I can.

Take care of yourselves, and I'll read you later, muffins!

Thursday, 9 April 2015


Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! Happy Thursday to all - just think, only one day until the weekend!

Today's post divides up neatly into three parts, and they are thus:

1) The winners of last week's giveaway of two signed copies of the Things I'll Never Say anthology containing the Shadows on the Moon prequel story 'Stormclouds Fleeing from the Wind' are Barker and Jones Staff and Rachel Balcombe! Well done, you two. Get in touch with me at z d marriott (at) g mail dot com and let me know the postal addresses where you'd like these sent and if you'd like me to dedicate your books, and if so, to whom.

2) It is now less than one week until I shall be participating in this panel at London Book Fair! The Dark Arts panel event will include author and journalist Josh Winning, bestselling author Sally Green and (most exciting of all!) my two friends (also bestselling, award-nominated writers) C.J. Daugherty and Liz de Jager, whom I cannot wait to see. It's my very first appearance at the LBF and I'm slightly terrified, so if any of you Dear Readers are going to be there at the fair, please do come along and give me a wave or a shout.

3) My promised music post! I came up with the idea for this when I was trying to work out, as a sort of mental exercise, my top five songs ever. I couldn't actually do it. I got it down to six, but then realised that they were all bands fronted by guys or guy artists, and that I'd completely forgotten about all the female artists and female led bands I love, which led to me making another list of them. So eventually it was my top twelve songs of all time. Not exactly evidence of a neatly organised brain, but definitely a sign of excellent musical taste, in my opinion. This doesn't include classical or soundtrack/instrumental pieces, by the way - I recommend those all the time in my playlists.

So here (in no particular order) are the top six songs by female singers, artists or female-led bands:

This was a close call. For instance, Midnight on the Water was almost You are my Sunshine by Civil Wars, Sleep Alone was almost Speeding Cars by Imogen Heap, With Every Heartbeat was almost Angels Would Fall by Melissa Etheridge, Blooming Heather was nearly The Only Exception by Paramore, and All I Need was almost Memories (also by Within Temptation).

When I've done the top six male singers, artists and male led bands next week, I'll probably put together a Spotify playlist to make it easier to listen to everything at once and add a few of those alternates in as a bonus. Enjoy, my lovelies!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Hello, hello, hello, oh lovely readers! Yes, that's right - my blog title does not deceive you - the first draft of the Beauty and the Beast retelling and companion novel to Shadows on the Moon is DONE.

That's all of it, right there, in it's original longhand form on top and typed up and printed out in the folder on the bottom (which is already collecting Post-It notes as ideas for revisions occur to me). It'll stay there for my usual two week maturation period before I re-read it, mark the manuscript up, and then edit the whole thing. Once that's done it'll go off to Wonder Editor and Super Agent and we'll see what they have to say.

Normally at this point I'd be indulging in an orgy of reading, DVD and TV watching, and fun train journeys to various nearby metropolises - but on the very same day that I finished this first draft of BaBBook my copyedits for Frail Human Heart popped into my inbox, so I'm working on those instead. It's not exactly a hardship: I have very, very fond feelings towards Frail Human Heart and am not at all sick of it (which I usually am of every book, by copyedit stage!) but I definitely want to be finished before my birthday next week, so that I can enjoy a day out without feeling guilty.

Some facts about BaBBook in its first draft - all of which are subject to change between now and publication:
  • It is just over 83k words long. This is longer than Frail Human Heart (81k) but shorter than Shadows on the Moon (103k)
  • The first word in the book is Once (that's in the preface) but the first word of the first chapter is There (you can read the first page and see the book's writing playlist here, if you haven't already)
  • The heroine's name is Hana. It means 'flower' 
  • I wrote the last 50k of this book in four weeks
  • I had a mega-huge dramatic emotional scene planned for the end of the book, but I got five lines into it, stopped, looked at what I'd written, and decided THAT was the perfect place to end instead. The same thing happened when writing Shadows on the Moon, oddly enough!
  • The last word of the book is You
  • BaBBook contains not only talking trees, monsters, and shapeshifters, but also the undead (they weren't in the outline, I don't even know what happened)
  • There are twenty three chapters
  • Just like Shadows on the Moon, the book starts with a haiku
  • Now that I'm finished I can finally take this pile of books off the arm of my chair! They've been there for over a year.

In other news, the copies of Things I'll Never Say (which has the Shadows on the Moon prequel story about Akira) have arrived from Amazon, and I'm ready to do the giveaway!

Let's make this one low key - just comment on this post and tell me a secret (big or small) and then tweet a link to this post with the hashtag #thingsillneversay and in a week's time I'll put all the names into a random number generator and pick out two winners. You must use the hashtag, folks, or I won't be able to find and count your tweet. Each winner will get a signed copy of the book and assorted swag. This is UK only.

Next week I'm planning to do another music post - I was thinking I'd do my top six all-time favourite songs by female artists or female led bands, and then the following week the top six by male artists or male led bands. This isn't including classical or soundtrack stuff, because I recommend that all the time, so you've already seen all my favourites there.

If anyone has any questions about writing or reading, or suggestions for post topics, let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can make of them. Read you later, muffins!

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