Why a Fanfiction Archive Winning a Hugo Award Is Important

The Archive of Our Own won a Hugo Award. Why should you care?

Last night in Dublin, at the 77th annual Worldcon, the fanfiction hosting site Archive of Our Own (AO3) won the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work. The news have spread throughout the internet and many fans have already congratulated AO3’s parent organization OTW on social media. So have I. But this is not only great news for us fanfiction readers and writers. This is an notable act of recognition towards one of the most (fan)culturally important websites of the century.

Quick history lesson. OTW was founded in May 2007 as “a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms” (quote from official website). They launched the AO3 in open beta in November 2009. That’s almost 10 years ago. During those years, as far as I know, no actual transformative fanworks have been taken down from the site for copyright reasons or deleted due to adult content.

Fanfiction and other fanworks have been in a legal gray area their entire existence. OTW offering a completely safe harbor for all kinds of fanworks and their willingness to stand up for them in case they get targeted has been a big factor in fanfiction’s rise in popularity. That, however, is not their greatest accomplishment.

AO3 is a site that shouldn’t be able to exist in the time of the commercialization of internet. 100% nonprofit, developed by a community of coders publicly on GitHub, financed entirely by donations. No ads, no information selling, entire site usable for no cost whatsoever. How many sites can claim to be that nowadays? No wonder it has become a place where people from minorities and majorities alike, from all over the world, share and enjoy fanworks every day. Over 2 million people have an AO3 account. As the site states in its Diversity Statement, “no matter your appearance, circumstances, configuration or take on the world: if you enjoy consuming, creating or commenting on fanworks, the Archive is for you”.

A website where you can consume and publish fanworks for free, with no fear of legal action, whoever and wherever you are. Despite all its flaws, AO3 manages to be just that.

And that is why the Hugo nomination is important. It promotes not only fanculture but also the exact kind of diverse, noncommercial website that the world needs more of.

On this day, I could not be prouder that I am a fan.

Review: Spider-Man: Far from Home

Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has returned to revive the summer blockbuster field with a fun adventure flick.

A few months have passed after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are in Mexico to investigate a mysterious disaster. There they are joined by Quentin “Mysterio” Beck, who aids them in a battle against a sand creature. In NYC, Peter Parker’s class (most of whom were snapped in Infinity War) are leaving to go on a summer field trip to Europe. However, Fury has other plans for Spider-Man as he’s recruited to help fight the Elementals, monsters from an another world. But all is not as it seems…

Avengers: Endgame was big. Like, seriously. Dozens of characters, large-scale battles, freakin’ time travel. So, many have been hoping Spider-Man: Far from Home to be a breather epilogue to the Infinity Saga before Marvel returns to kick names and take ass next year. That, it mostly is. It’s relaxed, fun, and shows us the street-level consequences of the Sna- I mean, the Blip. But is it a movie that will stand out among other Phase 3 movies? Like Captain Marvel, it really doesn’t, but unlike with CM, I don’t really care.

One of FFH’s biggest strengths is its cast. Tom Holland is the perfect Peter Parker, and the chemistry between him and Zendaya’s MJ is strong. Jake Gyllenhaal is not just Mysterio, he’s the Mysterio just like Robert Downey Jr. was the Iron Man. His performance is so strong that it turns an narmy scene of unnecessary exposition into a truly charismatic character moment. Samuel L. Jackson adds another outstanding entry to his impressive filmography as well.

The visual effects, however, are where the real money has gone. Each of the Elemental fights is well choreographed and photo-realistically made, but there are two scenes that truly stand out. It’s hard to describe them without spoiling, but let’s just say that the first is some epic mindf*ck and the second (while only a few seconds long) might be one of the best fight scenes in the entirety of MCU. I watched the movie in 2D so I can only imagine what they might’ve looked like in 3D.

But the movie is not perfect. Far from perfect. Starting with the fact that everyone who has any goddamn idea about Marvel comics knows that Mysterio’s a bad guy. I won’t even consider that a spoiler. So, the movie taking its time with the reveal is a bit jarring. There are other flawed scenes as well: sometimes the humour doesn’t quite land, sometimes there are plot holes and inconsistencies and so on. Some might also be disappointed by the post-credits scenes – understandable, considering how they were hyped up a bit too much, but they’re still game-changers for both Spidey and the MCU. Don’t leave during the credits.

Overall, Far From Home is a fun popcorn blockbuster that might seem passable for general MCU fans, but trust my word: don’t miss this epilogue to the Infinity Saga. You’ll regret it when Phase 4 arrives.

“Night Monkey”, ha ha ha.

Pros: Strong cast, impressive visual effects
Cons: Slightly flawed plot, post-credits scenes were overhyped
Highlight: The final fight at the Tower Bridge
I rate it: 9/10 (excellent)

“Spider-Man: Far from Home”. Scifi/Adventure/Comedy, USA 2019. Sony / Marvel Studios. Directed by Jon Watts. Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya and Jake Gyllenhaal. 129min. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.

Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion

This spoiler-free review also covers Evangelion: Death(true)² and the End of Evangelion. Kinda.

It’s year 2015 of an alternative timeline where Earth was devastated by the so-called “Second Impact” in 2000, causing widespread destruction and misery. The society has barely recovered when a new threat, the Angels, appear. As the shady paramilitary organization NERV, led by commander Gendo Ikari, prepares its “Evangelion” cyborg-robot-mecha-things to fight the Angels, Ikari’s son Shinji is drawn into the center of events as he pilots the EVA-01 unit in battle. This starts a chain of events that deeply affects the minds of Shinji and the other pilots and leads into shocking revelations about the true nature of the world…

Saying that Neon Genesis Evangelion has greatly influenced modern anime industry is an understatement. If you’re an anime fan, chances are most of your favourite works have been inspired by Evangelion on some level or another – be it characters, lore, themes or other elements. That’s understandable, considering it is a brilliant deconstruction of the mecha genre and features some of the most iconic characters of the medium. But is it a good show?

It starts as any mecha story – the aliens attack and a young guy is drafted to pilot a big robot to fight ’em. But even in its first two episodes, it starts to show signs of being different, as the boy in question is a half-orphan who gets no empathy from his dad, is reluctant to get in the robot in the first place, and fails his mission miserably, getting slightly traumatized in the progress. He wants to run. Fighting aliens is not cool for him, it’s terrifying. Yet still he returns and gets in the damn robot (so fans telling Shinji to “Get in the Robot” can shut the F up). Then the series settles for a “monster of the week” kind of formula that continues until halfway through the series. Those episodes don’t have much plot significance and aren’t particularly interesting, but there’s still a lot of cool mecha action and character development (not to mention some actually fun moments).

Then arrives episode 16 and the story starts getting deeper, with first symptoms of series creator Hideaki Anno’s growing interest in psychology appearing. In the following episodes stuff gets darker, until ep 19 where shit hits the fan. Angels get worse, shocking revelations follow one another, we soon get the near-iconic Mind Rape scene, and it all culminates in the infamous episodes 25 and 26 which have varying artistic quality and are mostly exploration of the series’ themes taking place inside the characters’ minds. Not a particularly satisfying way to end the story, right? Fans, production crew and even Anno himself agreed, and thus the two follow-up movies were created. More on those later.

The initial anime series is a classic for sure, but it hasn’t aged particularly well. The limited animation, with low-quality 4:3 aspect ratio, does look a bit funky to a person used to newer animation. Netflix has digitally remastered the series in HD but with streaming bitrates it doesn’t really help. That said, the backgrounds are beautiful and the mecha fights have sometimes rather impressive animation.

Deep in its core, this series is about depression, anxiety and fear, but most importantly, the emotional barriers between humans, our incapability to connect with others on a deep level. The so-called “hedgehog’s dilemma” is discussed early on in the series, and it as a theme is revisited much later in a way you don’t see coming. Most of the main cast display these themes in a variety of ways. They’re all troubled individuals, deeply flawed, and that’s what makes them human. People who think Shinji should stop whining don’t understand that his behavior is completely normal for a person of his backstory who has to go through traumatizing experiences. Before this series, something like that was unheard-of in mecha anime, and that’s what makes Neon Genesis Evangelion so compelling: the way it deconstructs the tropes of its genre for a more realistic and engrossing experience.

A quick word on watching order: I highly recommend watching the initial anime series first (episodes 25-26 are optional but they do offer an interesting point of view to the events of EoE) and then the End of Evangelion. The other movie that’s also on Netflix, Evangelion: Death(true)², is basically a recap of the series and thus optional. Watching only the movies (first D(t)² and then EoE) is not recommended either because D(t)² doesn’t really work as a replacement for NGE – it’s more of a character-based recap and thus not in chronological order. But the End of Evangelion is a must-watch. It’s not comfortable to watch (then again, neither is most of NGE), with its brutal violence in the first half, surreal horror imagery in the second half and graphic nudity throughout, but it’s an experience like no other. Does it answer your questions about the TV ending? Some of them, but it also creates more.

Overall, if you don’t mind the flaws I mentioned, and want to experience a glorious part of anime history, just hop on Netflix, switch from dub to subs and enter the weird, complex, fanservice-y and wonderful world of Evangelion. It won’t be a comfortable watch but it’ll be an eye-opening one.

Don’t you f*cking dare to skip the intro.

Pros: Engrossingly realistic character study that touches complex themes
Cons: Animation hasn’t aged well, both endings are confusing and hard to understand
Highlight: A penguin in my post-apocalyptic mecha series? Hell yes!
I rate it: 9/10 (excellent)

All 26 episodes of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, alongside “Evangelion: Death(true)²” and “The End of Evangelion”, are available to stream on Netflix worldwide.

“Neon Genesis Evangelion”. Scifi/Action/Drama, Japan 1995-96. Studio Gainax. Created by Hideaki Anno. Starring Megumi Ogata, Yuko Miyamura, Megumi Hashibayara and Kotono Mitsuishi. 26 episodes, avg. 23min. Netflix rating: 13+.

Review: Rim of the World

Take The Goonies and every alien invasion movie ever made, put them in a blender and spice it up with some product placement, and boom – you’ve got the movie that Rim of the World was meant to be.

Three kids from very different backgrounds (a shy nerd, a rich black boy and a Chinese girl who’s in the country by legally questionable means) attend the “Rim of the World” activity camp in southern California and dislike each other immediately. But when they, and a strange boy they had met mere minutes before, realize the world is under a big damn alien invasion, and an astronaut who fell from the sky gives them a key that they must get to Pasadena in order to stop the aliens, the only hope the world has lies in those four misfits. Whose survival skills in this suddenly-so-dangerous world are basically nonexistent. No pressure guys.

I think it was clear from the moment Netflix released the first trailer that this movie would be either gold or trash. Non-surprisingly, it ended up being more trash than gold. And don’t get me wrong, it is an entertaining movie with quite a few good moments. But something in it just bugged me from the beginning.

That opening shot in outer space would’ve been in any sci-fi movie and no-one would’ve complained, but the problems begun when the main characters were introduced and arrived at the camp. Every second of it was like an awkward parody of a mediocre comedy film. When the aliens showed up and things got messy, the movie started going in an interesting direction. There was feel of good ol’ sci-fi horror movies, then back into awkward slapstick, then some Independence Day -style end of the world imagery, back into slapstick, and so on.

At that point, I started wondering one thing: who the hell are the target audience? The film has too much bloody violence and swearing for little kids, but the characters and dialogue are too childish for teens and adults. It’s like dropping an atomic bomb into the world of a goddamn Disney cartoon. It just doesn’t work.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s all shit. The visual effects are great, the actors are doing their jobs (re: being dumb kids) just fine, and the pop culture references are fun until a certain point. It’s kinda entertaining. So entertaining that I upped my rating from 6 to 7 just because of those rare fun moments. But there are problems, and most of them come from the bad script. Petition for a remake with a different screenwriter, anyone?

Oh, and the ending. Refer to my earlier comment about Disney cartoons.

Pros: Visually okay, and kinda entertaining up to a certain point
Cons: Horribly written, unbalanced plot, and awkward dialogue and characters
Highlight: Those alien beasts are some damn good CGI
I rate it: 7/10 (good)

“Rim of the World”. Scifi/Adventure/Comedy, USA 2019. Netflix / Wonderland Sound and Vision. Directed by McG. Written by Zack Stentz. Produced by McG. Starring Jack Gore, Miya Cech, Benjamin Flores Jr. and Alessio Scalzotto. 98min. Netflix rating: 13+.

Everything Known About Minecraft’s Spin-off Games at the Moment

Let’s take a look at all information that has been released to public about Minecraft: Dungeons and Minecraft Earth.

On Friday, May 17, Minecraft was celebrating its 10th anniversary and dropped an announcement trailer for a new AR spin-off game, Minecraft Earth. Naturally the fandom went nuts, some lovin’ it and some hatin’ it. It also reminded us about an announcement they made at last year’s MineCon Ea- I mean MineCon Live. Minecraft: Dungeons. What is currently known in the public about the two games? Let’s find out.

First, Minecraft: Dungeons. The game was first announced back in September 2018 as a dungeoncrawler-style action-adventure game with single- and multiplayer modes. Not much has been told since that, until executive producer David Nisshagen shared some details to GameInformer this May. According to Nisshagen, players are not restricted to one combat role and can change it by changing the weapons and armor they’re using. While building and minng are absent, some other elements from the main game will be present. The world generation will be procedural, and shareable seeds are under consideration. Up to four players can join in the same game, and difficulty will be “adjusted accordingly” for them.

Then onto Minecraft Earth. Announced on Minecraft’s 10th anniversary, this augmented reality (AR) mobile game will be available for beta testing this summer on devices with Android version 7 or more and iOS version 10 or more. People at Microsoft and Mojang have shared some more information with The Verge and Windows Central. According to game director Torfi Olafsson, the game is based on the Bedrock engine and the key elements of the main game, like health, hunger and exp points, will be present (you can also use any skin you have on Bedrock). The player will be able to explore a Minecraft version of the entire globe, rendered using OpenStreetMap data and Microsoft Azure services, and the player’s location on map is calculated accurately, “beyond regular GPS coordinates”. The player can build structures on “Build Plates” that can then be placed into the world and shared with friends. And only friends – the Build Plates “function similarly to Minecraft Realms”, meaning that only people whom you invite can affect your build. Xbox Live’s child safety features will also be integrated into the game.

There is currently no set release date for either game, but they’ll likely announce them on minecraft.net when they’re ready. Minecraft Earth also has a Twitter.

Review: Avengers: Endgame

Part of the journey is the end. And many journeys reach their end here. This review is completely spoiler-free.

Three weeks after Thanos snapped away half of the universe, Tony Stark and Nebula are rescued from the deep space by Captain Marvel, who brings them back to Earth and the rest of the Avengers. Gearing up for one last effort, the remaining heroes attack Thanos, only to find the Infinity Stones gone. Knowing they have lost their last chance, they go on their separate ways for five years, before a new hope arises in the form of Scott Lang…

That’s how far I can tell the plot without starting to spoil stuff. And I’m really resisting the urge to start spoiling stuff: there’s so much awesome moments in the film that I’d like to share with everyone. But, because the purpose of reviews is to tell the audience whether or not the movie in question is worth their time, I’m gonna stick to that.

First of all: it’s totally worth your time.

Do you have a favourite MCU character, line or scene, fan? The chances of it being featured, referenced or parodied in Avengers: Endgame are pretty high. The movie is full of some wonderful continuity porn, easter eggs, cameos and references, you name it. It’s a time travel story after all. The most amazing thing about it? It works. In the middle of all the good fanservice, the film doesn’t forget its purpose: to bring an emotionally satisfying closure to the Infinity Saga.

Many characters reach the pinnacles of their arcs, joking around and kicking ass like they have never before. My favourite performances were probably Mark Ruffalo’s “Professor Hulk”, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang and Karen Gillan’s Nebula. All those three have at least equally important part in the story as the likes of Stark and Rogers, maybe even more.

The biggest highlight of the movie may be the final battle scene. It could really be the best battle scene in cinematic history. The visuals are absolutely fabulous, and Alan Silvestri’s music fits the scene perfectly. The score in general is fantastic: Silvestri has outdone himself.

Unfortunately it’s not all great and good. The movie does suffer a bit from plot holes, and the ending won’t please everyone. (Not to mention the way it changes the MCU timeline!) However, those are just minor flaws in the movie which just about any Marvel fan is likely to enjoy from the bottom of their heart. So, for those who haven’t seen it already: go see it ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.

Jeremy Renner needs to work on his Japanese.

Pros: Strong acting, great visuals and music, and a heckin’ lot of call-backs and easter eggs
Cons: Plot holes and controversial ending
Highlight: Korg and Miek playing Fortnite. I’m serious
I rate it: 10/10 (masterpiece)

“Avengers: Endgame”. Scifi/Action/Adventure, USA 2019. Disney / Marvel Studios. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Written by Cristopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Produced by Kevin Feige. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo. 181min. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.

Minecraft’s Village & Pillage Update Out Now

The much-anticipated update is finally here, and it arrives with a crash: dozens of new features and simultaneous release on thirteen platforms.

On Tuesday, Minecraft fans around the world celebrated as the long-awaited Village and Pillage update arrived to their app stores and launchers. Released simultaneously on 12 devices (Java Edition for Windows, macOS and Linux, Bedrock Edition for Android, iOS, Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Fire OS, Fire TV, Gear VR, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch), with PS4 Edition update partially released on Monday but some features coming in a later update, this massive release has something for everyone.

Let’s start with blocks. Alongside 14 new slabs and stairs and 12 new walls, we can now light up our nights with campfires and lanterns, safely climb up to high altitudes with scaffolding, smelt stuff with blast furnaces, cook stuff with smokers, store stuff in barrels, remove enchantments with grindstones, read books with lecterns and much more. What about mobs? If you think Minecraft needs to get cuter, there are now cats (not ocelots) and pandas. Not to mention foxes, which unfortunately are only on Java at the moment. But it’s not all sunshine either: if you happen to trigger a raid, a new mob called pillager will show up and beat the crap out of your village. And no better way to defend it that with the crossbow, which is like the regular bow but stronger yet slower to reload. But what is this new food called “suspicious stew”? Sounds suspicious. Hmm… Oh, and there are also new accessibility settings, as well a ton of bug fixes.

Anyways, this and much more is now in the game as of the Village and Pillage update, which is available right now in the Minecraft launcher and your device’s app store. If you want a more in-depth look at the new features, the official changelog is here for Java and here for Bedrock.

P.S.: Off-topic, but I intend to go see Avengers: Endgame on Friday or Saturday, and I’ll try to post a review over the weekend. If I’m emotionally able to, that is.