The Intersection: The Shape of Water

14 Dec

I am a Guillermo del Toro fan. Mind you, I didn’t discover him until Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, but I made up for it. (And if you haven’t seen The Devil’s Backbone and The Orphanage, you absolutely should.) So, when I heard he was doing a Creature From the Black Lagoon kind of film with extra-added romance, I was all in. The preview can be found here.


My expectations, based upon the trailer, were something between Creature From the Black Lagoon and Edward Scissorhands. I thought it would be creepy and sad because that’s Guillermo del Toro’s work, and he does it very, very well. However, this time I was surprised. The film is gorgeous. All his films tend to be, and it’s obvious that every visual aspect is carefully chosen. The creature makeup and design was exactly right. The costumes are impeccable. I think the film is set in 1961 or possibly 1962.[1] The cast is amazing, and I was very happy to see Octavia Spencer. She’s wonderful as Zelda Fuller, Elisa Esposito’s coworker. Interestingly enough, this film is a Feminist one—unlike the original Creature From the Black Lagoon which features a monster kidnapping a white woman so he can have his way with her and a hero who must save her from being plundered. In this case, the two roles are switched. The villain in The Shape of Water is played by Michael Shannon and is a walking, talking sack of toxic masculinity which particularly fits the era—a time when square-jawed heroes featured heavily in film and literature. It was nice to see that role as the antagonist. Even the Russians (the standard Big Bad of the ’50s and ’60s) weren’t as awful. I appreciated that. 

Things to remember: del Toro is great at keeping his stories firmly set in a specific time period. McCarthyism would have been less than a decade away. The Cuban Missile Crisiswhich began on October 16, 1962is either a year and a handful of days away (my theory) or a handful of days away.

I expected a film that focused on the men and the monster because that’s typical of Hollywood and this was a reimagined SF B-movie, after all.[2] What surprised me was that it didn’t and wasn’t. The Shape of Water is a (mostly) quiet, sensual film centered on Elisa who is, herself, quiet and sensual. It’s a gentle, lonely film about two gentle, lonely peopleone of which happens to be a monster. It is very much from the perspective of a woman who has agency. She’s never whisked away against her will. She chooses every step of the way. This isn’t the stereotypical, problematic Beauty and the Beast story designed to train young women to accept the unacceptable in romantic partners. It’s a story about a woman who lives in a world in which she doesn’t belong, and how she finds herself and her one true love. I won’t tell you whether or not she rescues him. I’ll leave that for you to discover.


[1] The villain buys a new Cadillac Coup de Ville sometime in the story. It’s a 1962 model. I don’t know about then, but now days car companies debut the next year’s models late in the year. At one point, Elisa writes on a calendar that says it’s October. So, my theory is it’s October 1961.

[2] As much as I loved Edward Scissorhands, it treated its heroine like a prize.


Paul Weimer’s Best of 2017 and Award Eligibility Post

13 Dec

The year 2017. What a year, huh?

Your humble correspondent was named the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund recipient. This means that I got to go on a subsidized trip to Lexicon, the 2017 New Zealand National SF convention, and Continuum, the 2017 Australia National SF convention. I’ve talked about it here, and on the podcast, and you can always still for a $7 donation get yourself a copy of the DUFF report. All donations go to the Fund so that in 2018, a NZ/AUS fan will come to the United States in a reciprocal trip to the one I took this year. Continue reading

Signal Boost #29: A Conversation about Exciting News!

12 Dec

On today’s Signal Boosts, Shaun and Jen share some exciting news about the Skiffy and Fanty website, our RSS feeds, the future of our funding sources, and our 2017 Reader/Listener Survey! Even though we’re pissed about what Patreon just did, our patron support has allowed us to do some really big things that will help us grow and provide you more control over what you listen to. It’s pretty gosh darn amazing. And please make sure you go take the survey so we can get even more awesome than we are now!

And then we get to our VERY IMPORTANT mini-boosts!

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Note:  If you have iTunes and like this show, please give us a review on our iTunes page, or feel free to email us with your thoughts about the show!

Here’s the episode (show notes are below): Continue reading

343. Jeannette Ng (a.k.a. Lady of the Moths) — Under the Pendulum Sun (An Interview)

11 Dec Under the Pendulum Sun Cover

Shelley, trifles, and rap, oh my! Shaun and Jen have a talk with Jeannette Ng about her debut novel, Under the Pendulum Sun! Jeannette shares what inspired her to write a Gothic romance fantasy novel about Missionaries — specifically one that tackles such heavy theological subjects such as the soul and sin — why she constructed Arcadia as a purposeful, artificial thing, and how the narrative structure hints at the biblical story it contains.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Note:  If you have iTunes and like this show, please give us a review on our iTunes page, or feel free to email us with your thoughts about the show!

Here’s the episode (show notes are below):

Continue reading

Horror review: Penny Reeve on A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

10 Dec

Although she’s been a name within the young adult horror/fantasy scene for a while now, Frances Hardinge was recently projected into the mainstream public gaze when her novel The Lie Tree won the 2016 Costa Book of the Year Prize. After such a bar was set with her last novel, Hardinge’s fans waited with bated breath for her newest, A Skinful of Shadows. Luckily it is an intricate and masterfully told coming-of-age tale, full of intrigue and more than a little creepy, which lives up to expectations. Plus, it was nominated for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award 2017. Take that, Costa.

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