The Shotgun Arcana


I have some mixed feelings about The Shotgun Arcana. On the one hand, it gives us still more weird wild west with pirate queens, gunslingers, mad scientists, fallen angels, a gay Mormon superhero, and kung fu gangsters. On the other hand, I think it suffers a bit from middle book syndrome, and is inconsistent in its relativism. Mild plot spoilers follow.

While Six-Gun Tarot was almost purely Lovecraftian, Shotgun Arcana brings us back down to Earth by making big bad the Skull of Cain. The Skull inspires a diverse cult of murderers and cannibals loosely cribbed from pulp and penny dreadfuls. At first this is an interesting choice, with the argument that the genocidal horrors of the 19th century provided cover for serial killers. However it quickly gets eclipsed by a comic book plot.

Arcana nearly doubles the cast of characters in the cursed town of Golgotha. While Tarot devoted multiple chapters to character development, Tarot feels a bit thinner. Conflicts and conversations are telegraphed but never fully completed. Relationships lurch forward a few steps, and are put on hold pending the next novel. It’s a style of series writing that I find frustrating, as opposed to Bujold or Pratchett who rarely dependent on subplot cliffhangers.

Almost spoiling this for me is minor inconsistency in the series’s religious or magical relativism. As we’re told by multiple characters, Mormon relics, Confucian magic, Native American religion, and biblical angels all have their place in Golgotha. They’re all true, if differing in perspective. But then, we’re introduced to Thugee Batra the Kali worshiper. Later in the novel, we hear about Kali again, described as one of those horrors that go bump in the night. I’m going to punt to Leah Schnelbach’s essay on why Temple of Doom is bad theology (or history or social studies). It’s a rather egregious exception to the explicit universalism of the novel, especially if Lilith is introduced as a feminist religious figure.

Cartoon image of Kali.
Kali by Pixar artist Sanjay Patel

But if that’s not a dealbreaker for you, Shotgun Arcana offers a lot of weird wild west fun, with the promise of more to come.

Broadchurch: Eps. 1 – 4

The cast of broadchurch standing on a beach.Bumped this to the top of our list after hearing the Dr Who news, and ended up binge watching the first four episodes on a weeknight. The first thing that stands out for this series is that it’s beautifully filmed. Someone working with the camera is paying attention to volume, color, and light. Shots are carefully framed.

As with many contemporary English mystery shows, the Inspector/Sergeant dynamic is the core of many scenes. In this case, hometown detective Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) returns from vacation to find that her promised promotion was given to veteran investigator Alec Hardy (David Tennant). Hardy is hardened, bitter, and unsympathetic after a botched prosecution. Miller struggles to balance empathy for her friends, the need to pursue justice, and horror at her first murder investigation.

DS Miller serves to explain the community to both Hardy and the audience, while DI Hardy gives voice to the investigative problems the police face. The relationship is otherwise adversarial. “Back off or I’ll piss in a cup and throw it at you,” Miller exclaims during one argument.

The writers put opposite the police a rich cast of villagers who superficially read as stereotypes but reveal depth through performance: the grieving parents, the wayward daughter, the trio of reporters, the husband’s best friend, the awkward clergyman, the shopkeeper, and the mysterious cleaning lady. Diving into these characters help pull out the mystery to miniseries length without feeling too much of a drag.

Things I Call Biphobia

Published in Annie’s Mailbox:

DEAR ANNIE: I met my husband in college. He was outgoing, handsome and a star athlete. We now have two beautiful babies and, I thought, a perfect marriage.

A month ago, we had dinner with a couple we’ve known for years. One of them said something about “bisexuals,” to which I replied, “There is no such thing. You are either gay or straight.” Everyone looked uncomfortable.

The next day, my husband told me that he is bisexual. He said he’d had a relationship with another man in college before he met me. But he reassured me that I had nothing to worry about because he loves me and has no desire to be with anyone else of either sex.

Annie, I wish he’d never told me. I’ve been upset ever since. I believe my husband when he says he is not interested in anyone else, but I have to ask, is there really such a thing as “bisexual?” My sister says that is just what people claim before they come out as gay. And second, how can I trust my husband when he kept this secret from me for so long?

Please don’t suggest counseling. My husband says there is nothing to “change” about him, although he says he will go if I insist. I just want to turn back the clock so I can think of my husband the way I did before. — Confused Wife

Ideally, I think people should come out to partners early in the relationship in order to figure this out well in advance. But, prejudice against bisexual people exists. And that means some people are going to be reluctant to come out, and some people might not figure it out until well into the relationship.

On the plus side, Oriasha Edwards finally won UK asylum after a ridiculous legal struggle. However Aderonke Apata still faces deportation because lesbians never have children according to the court.