The first book of James Islington’s epic fantasy trilogy is a true feat of storytelling.

I’ve been meaning to read James Islington’s The Shadow of What was Lost for quite a while now, ever since I saw it sitting on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. Somehow, though, life kept getting in the way, until I finally requested it from the library and sat down to read it.

From the moment that I read the first page, I was hooked. Islington has accomplished that feat that all of us working in epic fantasy yearn to achieve: somehow taking the traditional elements of fantasy and changing them into something exiting yet comfortable.

The story revolves around…


How a recent talk with my parents reminded me of the importance of sincere interpersonal engagement.

If you’re raised White and middle-class (or lower-class with aspirations of being middle-class), there’s one thing you learn very quickly: don’t talk about politics in mixed company. Along with never telling another White person that something they’ve said or done is racist, it’s one of the cardinal rules governing our social behavior. According to the White code of conversation, it’s more important to maintain the patina of equilibrium, of no one being upset, than it is to engage in any sort of substantive disagreement. …


Two years ago, the two of us — Kellen Darcy and KC Winters — decided that we were going to embark on a little experiment. We’d self-publish a series of erotic epic novellas on Amazon. They’d be a little like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series and a little like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with the world-building complexity of a Tad Williams or a George RR Martin and the breathless narrative pace of Terry Brooks. …


The Mike Nichols film continues to make us laugh, even 25 years after its initial release.

This week on the pod, we’re talking about one of my all-time favorite gay films, The Birdcage. Since I adore it so much, I figured I’d devote some space over here on the publication to talking in more detail about what makes it such a fabulous film, and why it still manages to be so funny 25 years after it’s initial release.

For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is based on the French farce La Cage aux Folles. This film version focuses on a middle-aged gay couple, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), who desperately try to…


At this point, the senator from West Virginia should either put up or shut up.

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this publication with regularity that I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Senator Joe Manchin. I didn’t like him when I actually lived in the state, and I don’t like him now. I like him even less after his recent op-ed for The Washington Post, in which he announces (for the umpteenth time) his unequivocal opposition to abolishing the filibuster or even doing anything to weaken its power. …


The most forthrightly sexual of the four lead characters of “The Golden Girls” exhibits a surprisingly complicated morality.

It’s probably safe to say that there’s never been a television character quite like Blanche Devereaux, the slutty Southern belle of the classic sitcom The Golden Girls. Played with inimitable panache by the late, great Rue McClanahan, Blanche strutted and sashayed her way into the hearts of millions of viewers, where she’s stayed ever since.

However, beneath her confident and liberated exterior, Blanche is actually quite complicated, and often contradictory, when it comes to issues of gender, sexuality, and maternity. In some ways, she’s the most complex of the four main characters of The Golden Girls, and she’s often the…


Somehow, the death of a public figure always seems to bring out the worst of people on social media.

As soon as I saw the news that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, had died at age 99, I knew that it would be a mistake to log on to Twitter. However, since I’m something of a glutton for punishment — one might even say a masochist — I decided to do so, anyway. And, sure enough, it was full of the sort of toxic, disingenuous remarks about how glad people were that he had died, the expected trotting out of all of his infamous gaffes and racist remarks, and woke posturing that I’d expected. …


Kate Quinn’s new historical novel is a brilliant story about female codebreakers in World War II Britain.

Warning: Some spoilers for the book ensue.

I distinctly remember when I first read Kate Quinn. I was still a master’s student at Syracuse University, and I happened to see a copy of her first book, Mistress of Rome, for sale at my local Wegman’s. Seeing that it was a book about ancient Rome, I scooped it up and, shortly thereafter, eagerly devoured it from cover to cover. Since then, I’ve read every book she’s written, whether they were set in ancient Rome, Renaissance Italy under the Borgias, or the 20th Century. I’ve never been disappointed in a Kate Quinn…


Hey, readers and followers! As many of you know, some time ago I started a new newsletter over at Substack called Omnivorous. Since I last posted an update here way back in February, I thought I’d give y’all another, so you can see what you’ve been missing out on over there.

In “Can the Classics Be Saved?” I talk about the crisis currently confronting the field of classical studies as it wrestles with issues of race and its own colonialist past, while in “How Watching Old Movies with my Grandma Turned Me Gay,” I talk about how, you guessed it…


The newest entry in the MonsterVerse succeeds by delivering on its promise.

Though I’ve been a fan of the MonsterVerse since I saw the rebooted Godzilla in 2014, I sort of fell off the wagon for a few years, only recently deciding to watch Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Unlike a lot of other people, who didn’t appreciate that these films only cursorily examined their human characters, I actually found it rather refreshing (and, as I’ve noted elsewhere, a key part of the franchise’s engagement with the ethos of the anthropocene). …

Dr. Thomas J. West III

Ph.D. in English | Film and TV geek | Lover of fantasy and history | Full-time writer | Feminist and queer | Liberal scold and gadfly

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