Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Papouli's Greek Grill 5th Annual Partner Party

The guys at Paps pulled off another invigorating respite from the usual demands of our daily lives (like giving people extra Tzatziki or salad dressing or making sure the fries are crispy). Yesterday at Olmos Basin Park in desperately hot San Antonio, Nick Anthony, owner and CEO of Papouli's Greek Grill hosted the fifth in what we hope to be a long line of employee parties involving all three San Antonio stores, and soon to be sure, store number four.

Left: Anthony Fafutakis. Middle: Alex Mosely doing all the hard work. Right: Angels Salas

In the shade of large oak and mesquite trees, the management and regular employee partners gathered around a barbecue pit watching Operating Leader Alex Mosely make burgers and hot-dogs. We fell to the food, and the party hadn't even officially started yet. As is the case with most employee parties I've been to, the stores split up into their usual cliques. This was not nearly as much of a show stopper this year, as many of the team members from other stores have been filling in positions all over the company. Lines were not so evenly drawn this year, and as usual, the party was richer for it.

Jaime Pulido usually
looks confused when I do things
like take his picture.

Liam and his Mamma Katy
tossing the ball around.
All the usual all-stars where present: Jessica Cannon of City View and Mike Cleveland (also of City View, though briefly of The Forum location), Zain Bukhari of the Alamo Quarry location, Jaime Pulido, Zack "Moose" Heinz, Lindsey "Inappropriate" Wampler, and of course, The Irish Pirate, the Balentine nobody knows about, The Salad Maker formerly known as McGee, me. There was one star that everyone couldn't get enough of, and that was City View cashier Katy Ezzell's little boy Liam. He stole the show, then he stole the ball they were using to play kick-ball. He was the life of the party, always smiling and laughing.

Left: Kim Ingram. Middle: Jessica Cannon. Right: Mike Clevland

It was indeed hot. With the weather pushing 103 degrees, the Paps crew chilled out in the shade with plenty of water, soda, and unsanctioned beer. Kick-ball had to wait until the sun was dipping well bellow the tree line. With an hour of sun left, the crew set off to the kick-ball field, where the individual stores made up two teams, and we learned that Tony's belly is good for more than hiding towels, it takes more than one good shove to throw Jaime down, and no one likes egg on their face, especially when its lobbed at you by your managers. Even though we were lacking a fairly decent number of people from each store, we had fun anyway (except for me. I don't play team sports. I'm so ridiculously competitive that team sports make me very angry). Too bad it wasn't paintball though...I have a knack for head-shots at paint ball. I think they call it blood lust, but it might just be that unhealthy competitive edge I think I have.

As my time at Papouli's slowly comes down to the wire with each passing day, I think I enjoyed the party more than it might be expected. After five years, I don't think my leaving will be easy or dry-eyed. I enjoy spending time with my teammates, even if we will probably go to work tomorrow or the next day and try to strangle each other with our apron strings. I like to think of many of my teammates as good friends, especially Jaime and Lindsey, who seem to always be willing to listen to me and have the courage of a long friendship to tell me to shut up. Thanks Papouli's for another great employee function.

Not quite all of us. I'm the one in the purple tank top next to the guy in the
blue jersey. In my ten years of restaurant experience, Papouli's is, in my opinion
the best of places to work.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The End of an Era: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

"So, yall seen the new Harry Potter yet?" asked an older gentleman at the table next to us as we sat in our comfortable dining area, eating our breakfast and reading our books.

He looks like his brother
in this picture
"Nope, not yet," I said for the fourth time since Friday morning. Fortunately the gentleman didn't elaborate on any particular details, and since I'd read the book, it was nothing new to me anyway. However, I was no less peeved. Here I was, sitting in the last possible nerdy place (a bed and breakfast in Rockport, Texas) enjoying breakfast before hitting the beach, reading a novel I hadn't had time for in two weeks and not seeing Harry Potter. Despite all of the un-nerdiness going on around me--the sun, the serf, the gorgeous wedding we attended on the biggest opening day in cinema history--I was in fact keenly aware that I had missed my first Harry Potter opening day for the first time since Prisoner of Azkaban, where we all dressed up in our house colors and paraded down to the end of the line at the movie theater in true nerdy fashion. Also, I am no less forgiving of myself for missing the first night of the beginning of the end of an era: not just a Harry Potter, the last Harry Potter. 

My Harry Potter history is somewhat piece-meal. I did not at first latch onto the bespectacled boy wonder. I was not a child when the first novel appeared in 2001. I was sixteen, and to my reckoning, already well-read enough to know an over-hyped mainstream feeding frenzy when I saw it. I was reading Salvatore, Peake, Atwater-Rhodes, Austen and Saberhagen at a time when people started leaping for joy at the name J.K. Rowling. "What other fantasy novels had she written?" I asked, "Oh so this is her first one? Well then it can't be that good."

How wrong I turned out to be. My ex-boyfriend decided that we should sit down and watch The Sorcerer's Stone. I was hooked from the first moment my outraged eyes fell on poor little Harry, locked in a stair case, treated in ways that should have gotten his aunt and uncle arrested and poor Harry placed in foster care had anyone dared to do anything about it. I was so pleased to see Hagrid and Dumbledore prepare Harry for the wonderful school he was about to attend. For days afterward I made up little stories in  my head about my first trip to Hogwarts. I was a fanatic from then on, but still refused to read the books. Then a little diddy called The Order of the Phoenix hit theaters, and its ending so riled my sense of self-righteous (some might even say spoiled rotten) need for fulfillment, that I grandiosely declared an end to my Harry Potter boycott after my boyfriend, now husband, said, "Why don't you just read the books?"

Well, all of this fell in the category of What Not To Do When You Should Be Reading Shakespeare. Thanks to Harry's adventures, I made a C in my Shakespeare class...or maybe that was my own fault...oh well. The Half-Blood Prince, despite being number six, was my first foray into Rowling's written words. The point is that by the time The Deathly Hollows came out I was in full Potter swing, if a little belatedly. As I said, we went to every single opening night for the movies since Prisoner of Azkaban. News about The Half Blood Prince was like a song to my ears. I don't think a movie franchise has ever drawn as many tears out of me as Harry Potter. I am proud to say that I am a Potter fan.

And now, my real treatise begins...

The End of The World...of Harry Potter 

The Deathly Hallows part 2 is the end of an era. For the people of my generation, and several after it, and a bunch before it, Harry Potter isn't a character, even a legend, but a household name. I'm not sure there isn't anyone alive who has not at least heard of Harry Potter and his friends, perhaps sampled some of his adventures on cable television. My Young Adult Fiction class was proof of this world-wide fanaticism, especially when my professor had to remind us to stick to the story we were working on for the benefit of the few people in the class who were not familiar enough with it to keep up with our deep speculation. I have discussed Harry Potter in more than one college survey course and at the age of 26 feel as though my college education would have been grossly lacking if we had not had a few Harry Potter popular culture projects in my professor/boss's American Literature class.

Will There Ever Be Another Harry Potter?

Though I am hardly one of them, I feel certain that the close of the Potter franchise is like closing the final page in the book of childhood, especially for those who picked up the books as kids. Looking back on the rest of the movies would only remind me of what it is we're going to lack in the coming summer movie blow-outs. For seven years, we've had a Harry Potter to look forward to every summer (sometimes winter depending on the mood of the industry). What do we have now? Spiderman? Okay, my bad. Spiderman rocks. What else then? Who else will take the lead as the first name in blockbuster franchises? After The Dark Knight Rises, even Christopher Nolan will be backing out. I speculated last week that my generation may never know a franchise as earth-shaking as the Potter films. The generation before ours had Star Wars, something no one thought they would ever see again (the first three "prequel" films we don't speak of here). Even Lord of the Rings, fabulous though that franchise was, still has The Hobbit to look forward to, even if it still is only in the casting stages. In light of what we have lost in Harry Potter, I feel like this is a great time to start looking at other amazing novel series in the world. If I had to have my top picks for Hollywood to choose from, I'd probably start with The Chronicles of Prydain, Disney's old territory that could be reclaimed for the future. I also think the Hyperion series from Dan Simmons would liven things up. Raymond E. Feist is another great fantasy author. If anything, people would turn out in the masses for an Elric  movie. My only worry is finding someone who could do it right. Mmmmm, Elric movie...

The Best of Deathly Hallows part 2

Everyone has seen the film and read the reviews. Another stuffy movie review does no one any good, so we'll just take The Deathly Hallows parte segundo apart in order of things that I found incredibly cool.

Gary, if you're reading this, I'm your biggest fan!
Okay, done being a fangirl.
1) I loved seeing Gary Oldman again. Oldman is one of my favorite actors of all time. He is versatile and talented. I think that the Fantasy and Horror genre films suit him very well. I've seen Oldman's characters in the forms of unthanked kindness and unabashed cruelty. Serius Black was fabulously wrought. I always imagined that's what Francis Ford Coppola really had in mind for the appearance of his Dracula, or at least for Saberhagen's Dracula. We probably owe Rowling a bit of credit for writing him in the first place, but Oldman brought him to life, and I think my favorite part of the movie was seeing all of Harry's loved ones united, even in death. Gary Oldman had two whole lines (which is more than Harry's father got, really), but he made those two lines mean so very much. Props to Gary Oldman again! Can't wait to see you in The Dark Knight Rises!

2) Voldemort's make-up went under a serious transformation, or at least I thought it did. Remember when we saw Goblet of Fire, and we all saw Ralph Feines for the first time as Voldemort? It was not pretty, but he was recognizable.
Pretty snakey, but recognizable. And you could hear him pretty well too.

As the movies progressed, I felt as though Voldemort's make-up went the way of Batman's suit, more of a hindrance to the actor than any kind of help. In the scene in Deathly Hallows where he begins his attack, auspiciousness with the word, "Begin" (doing some kind of cool thing with his tongue), that one word giving the order for the real fight to begin is almost lost in the nasily way he sounded, as if he were pinching his nose. Of course, he had no nose to speak of. Hard to be understandable, but I don't think it should have been that bad. How could the man breath?
Not pretty.

Several people I worked with had no idea until they looked it up that Voldemort was Ralph Feines. Poor Ralph. Still, he was bad-ass in that hideous make-up, and I had no idea Voldemort had such a sense of humor...at least a little.
For good measure. Back when the make-up was good. Voldemort was seriously gross and seriously bad.
3) Its amazing how quickly the second movie seemed to progress compared to the first. Of course the book was like that as well. The search for the first Horcrux took two months, while the rest of the story took place over the course of a few days. The second movie was, therefore, slightly less irritating than the first, though I think seeing that pudge on Ron at the end of the film was hilarious. He looked just like his father...

Snape in Deathly Hallows. Youth is fleeting
when you're a double agent.
Allan, if you're reading this, I'm one
of your biggest fans! Okay,
done now.
4) I think Allan Rickman is not that pasty and pudgy. To be sure he has become fat on his own power by the second Deathly Hallows, but you can also see, by the end of the film, how his youth has been robbed from him, no less than Harry's. If what we see in his memories are true, then I have reason to believe that not only did Rickman put on weight for his current Snape but also lost it in order to give the impression that he was younger in some of the scenes. Age seems irrelevant to the character of Snape. I was unhappy, once again, at the fate he recieved. Had he betrayed the Dark Lord, had he been a less faithful servant, at the cost of his own soul and the blood on his hands, I think Voldemort might have had more reason to kill him. As it was, the  Elder wand never belonged to Snape, and his death, like so many others laid at the Dark Lord's door, was undeserved. No one will dispute that.

I believe, also, that despite all that Harry suffered at Snape's hand, he was there with him in the end, the way Snape could not have been for his mother. Despite all that Harry knew about him, what he learned about him prompted Harry to see Snape in a different light, as the father he always might have wanted--though Snape seemed always to be in favor of Draco (and Harry's relationship to Serius was so short lived)--and even give his youngest son the middle name of Severus. Conversley, I believe that though Snape always seemed to be Draco Malfoy's protector, his mentor, Draco never needed another father figure. Harry, however it might have left a bad taste in Severus's mouth, was the son he never had. The line he uttered at his death, "You have your mother's eyes," sums it up pretty well. Though he was always connected to the Malfoy family, his real love was always Harry's mother. His hatred for Harry stemmed from the love and friendship he shared with Lilly Evans (later Lilly Potter). His hatred for James Potter was passed onto the son, but no matter what Harry did, Snape could never hate him enough to kill him, nor blame him for what happened to his mother. Always was the Dark Lord to blame. Deep down, I believe Severus knew that, and at his death, he and Harry were both able to accept that they were connected on a deeper level than Harry suspected.

Severus Snape has been one of my favorite characters for a long time. He was always a villain, even if it could never be proven, and he was always a hero, even if it never showed. Every day of his life, Severus Snape walked that gray line between good and evil, and I think we owe J.K. Rowling a big huge "thank you" for writing one of the most loved and hated characters of popular fiction.

The End is the End

Thus ends my treatise on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2. I'm going to miss seeing a Potter film every year. I'm going to miss watching those guys growing up (though I think they've been rather grown up for some time now). As we move on through life searching for the next thing to look forward to, what were your favorite memories of Harry Potter days gone by and which characters are you going to miss?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

500 Page Views and Counting

Hmm, this is an old picture.
You know, I originally started this blog so that my co-workers would know a little bit more about all the stuff I was talking about. Now I've come to think of this blog as sort of an institution, like afternoon tea (well not really) or whatever else you might do or check every day. Thanks to all of my wonderful readers, The Squealing Nerd hit 500 page views yesterday. Oddly enough, that 500th page view was added as I was sitting in the lobby of the company I want to work for. I was there for a job interview when I checked my stats one more time--followed by Facebooking how excited I was to be at an on-site interview. Low and behold some anxious viewer, or wayward Internet traveler lost at sea, or image thief--whatever the case may be--clicked on my little page to see what there was to see, read what there was to read, or steal what there was to steal (welcome to the Internet). Whatever the reason anyone has for stopping by (a happenstance that is occurring more and more frequently) I am still grateful, and I thank everyone, especially my Facebook viewers and Von, who has graciously accepted my invitation to pick my World of Warcraft fan-fic apart. I'd also like to give a special shout out to our international readers, who have made a global demographic something that I've come to expect and rejoice in.

Up and Coming at The Squealing Nerd

Summer of Khan
Gratuitous chest shot.

Summer of Khan continues with To Reign in Hell and The Wrath of Khan itself. A full analysis is in the works, including how I felt about the book, its close connection to the movie and the acting style of Ricardo Montalban. Spoiler alert, there will be gratuitous chest shots of Montalban. The Summer of Khan was inspired by my long-time love affair with Star Trek. Though I often prefer The Next Generation over the original series, I have been swept back in time and have been enjoying Kirk and Spock, even though I find Kirk a little twitchy and Spock a little quirky. I am a child of TNG and often find the original series boring and full of politically incorrect faux pass. We'll just chock that up to my raising, and enjoy the original series' best and brightest star, Ricardo Montalban.

The X:Files Re-Watch

I have not given up! However, Netflix is trying my patience, bumping up their subscription rates to a grand total of $26 a month for streaming and DVD by mail. Since we will only be in our current residence for a month, my husband and I have decided to cut the DVD by mail part, leaving us with only a $10 a month subscription charge. This puts a damper on The X:Files re-watch as I can only get up to season four streaming to my Playstation 3. I don't think we'll go through the first three seasons of The X:Files that quickly, at the rate of one episode a week, but who knows when they will change their minds. As it is, we only get season one of Fantasy Island even by mail. To anyone reading this because they Google searched "Netflix subscription", I say to you that we are going to stage a coup, a coup so great and powerful (and hopefully bloody) that it will force corporate owners not to screw with their constituency, who out-numbers Netflix managers by a significant margin. Thanks, Netflix, for giving me a reason to go back to cable television, as if I didn't already have quite a few. The X:Files re-watch will officially begin next week with Season 1, the pilot episode.

Jane Austen Summer Reading List

Another summer is rapidly winding its way through the sunny, steamy town of San Antonio, and you know what that means: its time to pick up my yearly Jane Austen novel. This year on my list is Emma, having already read Northanger Abby, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. Of the seven Austen novels left to my adult life, Emma, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, and that other one I can't remember the name of. We may peruse the others in a re-read series, but for the moment, Emma is our summer block-buster. Men of a certain prejudice and social disposition toward convoluted sentence structure, feminine viewpoints and opinions, country dancing, wit and words no longer employed in contemporary English need not apply.

Dungeons and Dragons

I took exhaustive notes on my friend Ricky's re-run of his old Astellia campaign while we sat around his living room floor making sure his kids didn't steal our chips on the 4th of July. This latest group, who has officially been dubbed Team Sodomy, consists of new friends, old acquaintances and an entire cast of fourth edition characters. As usual, Mr. Richard Perez, beta tester for Paizo (Pathfinder) and Wizards of the Coast (Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition), has pulled out all the stops in this slave-stealing, dog-punting, pope-killing, low-rolling, super-fun campaign. The Fourth of July DnD-athon will be featured as soon as I can bring myself back under control long enough to write the article. Some of my fondest memories of college were sitting around a table at a buffet while running the Astellia campaign from second edition, where we still rolled for  luck checks and a natural 0 still resulted in essentially eating yourself, the only way to preserve your honor.

Speaking of Luck Checks...

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed at what could possibly be the Big Girl Job my family and myself have always been hoping for. As we await the results of  my face-to-face interview, I will be taking the time to look back on my nearly five years worth of a career in the Greek food industry. Some of my best friends have worked alongside me at Papouli's Greek Grill, and it would be a profound disservice to them if I did not address the many years of shared pain, laughter, grease burns, pita checks and impromptu line karaoke. I will also, for the viewing pleasure of interested parties, be covering the sixth annual Papouli's employee party, should I be invited if I no longer work there by July 25th. Here's hoping, anyway.

Subspecies the Reboot

The eighties called. They want their
hair back
*Sharp intake of breath* Not going as well as I'd like. Unfortunately, there is no way to get in touch with Charles Band directly. I will have to use several channels of rejection before being able to ask permission to write the novelizations of the movies, with way more detail to boot. Convincing Band that this is a good idea will not be easy, especially because I have reason to believe that this is a risky venture, and that Charles Band is willing to take risks, but not where his money is concerned. The hunt is on, and already I am hearing nasty rumors that Band is having legal disputes with some of his directors. Until I can get more solid details, this is merely hearsay, and if Mr. Band--via this blog, since you can't contact him on his blog--is willing to dispute that, he is more than welcome. I, personally, would like to think that we could work out an agreement that would benefit us both, one where I could exercise my creative genius (reasonably speaking) on a character set and setting worthy of a lot more attention and Band could make something of a profit and perhaps see a renewed interest in his, and Ted Nicolaou's, films. I'm not just in it for the money, though if someone wanted to give it to me, that would be friendly of them. I have a dream, so to speak, that I would like to see come true. Funding ideas are still up in the air, by the way...

"A Warlock's Work" Continues

Mozenrath wants you!
Its never done, so they say, but we're speeding right along through this World of Warcraft fanfiction. This week we will feature Chapter 5. No spoilers whatsoever. I want it to be a surprise. Suffice it to say that Zennith never truly leaves a place until its consumed itself and that Mace was right: there are always women were quests are concerned. Look for the next chapter of "A Warlock's Work" either tomorrow or Thursday, and for new viewers, be sure to check out the archived chapters of "A Warlock's Work" found in the June section of the Nerd.

There's a lot more nerdy stuff where all of that came from. Here at The Squealing Nerd, we--and by that I mean me--can't wait to keep sharing our nerdiness. New artwork and graphics are also in the line-up as I explore the wonderful world of HTML and CSS. Lets keep rocking out with our socks out! I've enjoyed posting for the viewing pleasure of all and I'm looking forward to the next 500 page views.


--Ashley, The Squealing Nerd

Monday, July 11, 2011

"The Ninth Day of the Month..." Albeit Belated...

Unfortunately, I was rendered insensible by debilitating exhaustion and could not finish my blog post from yesterday. In light of the difficulty of recent weeks, I hope my readers will understand and forgive my tardiness. It is, as always, inexcusable, though in this case unavoidable. Here is the post as it was originally intended, as well as additions made today. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I decided, in the spirit of being alive, that I would live this Ninth Day of the Month--as auspicious as it is--before blogging about it. So many awesome things happened today, least of all the event which shaped the course of fiction as we know it: the birth of Mervyn Peake in 1911 (www.mervynpeake.org).

Today on the ninth day of the month, Papouli's Greek Grill of San Antonio, Texas kicked off another fabulous month with the introduction of returning manager and new Operating Leader, Anthony Fafutakis. At a mandatory all-partner meeting (which I did not attend for reasons we shall soon explore) Anthony took the time to introduce himself to his new staff as well as old veterans of the line. Among the many things discussed at the meeting, Anthony mainly wanted to emphasis his goals for the coming months and demonstrate his standards for the restaurant. As my time at Papouli's slowly draws to a close, I hope that the coming months are profitable and exciting.

Also today the Blair side of my family (being my twin's) hosted a three-family garage sale, featuring the fashionable stylings of the McGees and the Balentines. In addition to furniture and video games, which sold early, baby clothes and novels seemed to be the pick of the day. Our combined earnings were somewhere over three hundred dollars, with my meager sixty-five dollars coming in at third place. Of course I had very little to actually sell. However, where I failed is also where I succeeded. I had very little to sell, but I sold most of my stock, meaning there was very little I packed up to give away to Good Will, which is where all of our stuff was going that did not sell at the garage sale. 

I would also like to wish a profound Happy Birthday to my long-time friend and concert buddy Robert McDowell. We were recently reunited as friends on Facebook. Though we don't often get to see each other and our concert outings have been a little sparse since the onerous days of Souper Salad, Robert remains one of my best and closest friends. So Happy Birthday, Bobby, and many happy returns.

There is one birthday today that was marked by more than simply leaving messages on a Facebook wall. The centenary of Mervyn Peake's birth is today in 2011. Born in Kuling China, Mervyn Peake went on to become a world-renouned artist and writer. Several of Peake's major accomplishments include his fellowship in the Royal Society of Literature, his numerous publications, including Gormenghast, his poetry, his artwork, and a short stint as a war artist, when in June of 1945 Peake entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where he sketched images of the dying prisoners. Peake was the father of three children: Sebastian, Fabian and Clare. Unfortunately, Peake began showing signs of what we now know was Parkinson's Disease in the sixties, eventually succumbing to the disease in 1968 at a hospice run by  his brother-in-law. Peake's works, especially the Gormenghast novels became more widely known and respected after his death (www.mervynpeake.org/biography.html).

Today Mervyn Peake is still celebrated as one of the greatest practitioners of the grotesque and the macabre. Though he rarely invoked the presence of the supernatural, Peake's works have an air of other-worldliness. Their settings, despite their mundane sources, seemed to inspire--at least in me--the illusion of magic. Peake's influences numbered Dickens and Stephenson, according to novelist and--lately--biographer Michael Moorcock, so it not surprising that many of the traits associated with Peake might be termed "legendary" instead of "fantastic". And speaking of legendary, the anthologized version of The Sunday Books has finally reached my possession. It took an entire week to get this cloth-bound once-in-a-lifetime book, and despite my plans of having the book read and ready to review by Peake's birthday, buying the book on the day of said author's birth--and the centenary at that--came in as a close and not unpleasant second. At last, the heretofore unpublished stories of adventure and swashbuckling can be had, as written by Michael Moorcock, alongside the gorgeous and exuberant illustrations by Mervyn Peake. I can't wait to sample some of the stories and artwork.

Don't worry, you won't have to wait until the next "Ninth Day of the Month" for a review. I will have the book read and reviewed and ready for perusal by the end of the week.

Happy Birthday Mervyn Peake, and as always, Happy Ninth Day of the Month!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

To All the Women that Went Before Part 2: Marla McGivers

I can't stop looking at his chest...
In light of the stronger than average "inferior" women in Khan's own time, it's startling to imagine jumping back in time to the 1960s (which is actually the future?) with "Space Seed" and seeing, what I consider, and probably Roberta and Sarina Kaur too, a truly inferior woman, the only "superior woman" of Khan's acquaintance simply because she's shining example of what Starfleet is not doing for the female character.

Unlike communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, Lieutenant Marla McGivers is everything the ideal woman should be: young, resplendant in her skimpy Starfleet uniform, a specialist in one of Starfleet's most "essential" subjects (Ancient Terran History) completely unreliable in a high-stress situation, smitten with the enemy, and white. It is easily noticed, from McGiver's first scene, that she is somewhat obsessed with the ancient warriors of Earth. If you ask me, there's nothing wrong with that. I have a thing for strikingly handsome, powerful warriors as well, but lets just face it, her entire character was set up for this. McGivers didn't even have a chance to prove that a Starfleet officer can be stronger than the machinations of a superman, nor did she get the second chance offered to so many characters on Star Trek to prove herself worthy of working aboard the Enterprise again. I'm still a little confused as to why she was forced to choose between exile with Khan or martial punishment. Had she been male, or under some kind of psychological influence (which I think was the case at least to an extent) her betrayal might have been written off and she could have spent some time under investigation, or she might have been killed outright. I think that Marla's feminine character--and a weak feminine character at that--gets treated very badly.

Oh, this can't be good.
The original Star Trek series was indeed quite sexist. Of course, we're also talking about the sixties, at a time when women, and women of color, were objectified on and off the screen. However, Star Trek as a whole has often been lauded as "progressive". Lt. Uhura was a female of color on national television. Later, Star Trek would dabble in mixed-race female characters with half-Betazed and half human Deeana Troi, then mixed race women of color with half-Klingon-half-Hispanic Belana Torez. However, Lt. McGivers seems to take one step forward and two steps back. Khan easily overpowers her, a Starfleet officer (do you think Tasha Yar or Beverly Crusher would have been so easily subjugated?), and even goes so far as to subjugate her sexually, forming a bond with her that appeals to her greatest weakness--her obsession with Terran warriors. Did Khan truly feel attracted to her? I think so, but he was also aware of her character flaws, and he exploits them. He refers to her as a "superior woman". He has to know she is anything but, which is what leads me to believe he is truly attracted to her (as we see in Wrath of Khan) or he had some very low standards. 

Khan, of course, never admits that he might have made a mistake pitting Marla against Kirk and the rest of the crew, and Kirk casually omits the fact that Marla betrayed Khan and the rest of his company in order to save Kirk from certain death in the decompression chamber. What we focus on is Kirk beating the crap out of Khan in Engineering while the star ship goes into self-destruct sequence. Never mind that Kirk never would have gotten that chance if Marla had not set him free. Then, when it came down to the hearing to decide the fate of Khan and the rest of his kind, Marla was lumped in with him despite her previous actions and her attempt to correct her error. Khan had, by now, been given several chances to turn his life around. Marla received not one ounce of that sympathy. However, in the end McGivers does not seem perturbed by this turn of events. She willingly goes with Khan (it was either that or take court marshall), but she is obviously enamored of him. She admits her mistake, and takes the consequences, which are mitigated through her "marriage" to Khan and his followers. What follows appears to be a sort of exchange of vows. Khan says, "I will take her." In a way, this sort of foreshadows the coming events of Wrath of Khan (in which Khan admits to having a wife) and, alternatively, To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh. 

Flash forward to 1995. The science fiction scene has changed.
The cast of Star Trek: Voyager, 1995
Characters like Belana Torez, Seven-of-Nine and Katheryn Janeway have come to represent the women of Star Trek. Strength become the new sexy. These women balance vulnerability (Seven-of-Nine, Belana Torez), power (Captain Janeway) and sex appeal. This does not mean the double-standard has been abolished, but it means author Greg Cox can give Marla McGivers a second chance. 

Ten years later: 2005

The Marla McGiver's of To Reign in Hell, Greg Cox's final novel in Khan Noonien Singh's alternate story, is a more dynamic character than TOS Star Trek. Marla is a cross between the powerful women closely associated with Cox's novels and the new trend in Star Trek and the admittedly deficient Starfleet officer. She realizes she is flawed. There are scenes where she tries, really tries, to defend herself, but she knows she lacks to the training, the power. However, despite her obvious character flaws, Marla considers herself, still, a woman of merit, and she decides to make whatever she can out of the life she has chosen. What she must contend with now is the fact that she is outcast among her own people and Khan's. She betrayed both parties aboard the Enterprise. After an encounter with superwoman Zuleika Walker--ex-assassin (real world supermodel and star of the X: Files spin-off series The Lone Gunmen)--Khan has to place Marla under his protection, which still cannot forestall several more attempts on her life. The greatest test of Marla's resolve is in Zuleika Walker's trial, in which she is accused of trying to burn Marla alive in a storage shed. Marla, no where  near convinced that Zuleika was at fault, joins her fellow Ceti Alpha V colonist in exile from Khan's new capitol. Khan's desire to rule absolutely is not tempered by his lover's exile. His decision is final, though he will regret it later, as Marla's true assassin is revealed and he must then go in search of his colonists. Their union during the mass-wedding in the following chapters seals Khan's bond to Marla and he vows to protect her.

After the cataclysm of Ceti Alpha VI and the destruction of Ceti Alpha V's ecosystem, Khan faces more and more resistance as his survival tactics take a more Draconian turn. In the end, it is Marla McGivers who must protect Khan from the machinations of his superhuman foes. The introduction of a Ceti eel seals her fate, as a rival faction attempts to use Marla as the weapon against her husband and leader of the Ceti Alpha V colony. Whatever Marla might have been capable of at Starfleet, whatever she might have lacked as a female character all came to naught as she made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death, only alluded to in Wrath of Khan (which may have only involved her succumbing to Ceti eel--just another casualty) came to light as one of the most noble of human acts. Instead of killing Khan, Marla--infected with an eel and marked for madness and death--plunges a knife into her own heart. Khan would spend the rest of his time on Ceti Alpha V commemorating her actions and immortalizing her in a catafalque, with a  lot of blaming Kirk thrown in for good measure. We'll discuss more of Khan's hatred for Kirk in the next installment.

Despite the cruel punishment and shoddy characterization (not to mention the sheer neglect in Wrath of Khan), Marla McGiver's ended up being the hero she never thought she was, and that no one really took her for. In the end, I really have to thank Greg Cox for taking Marla's much-abused character and giving her the second chance Kirk was never going to give her. Cox's novel is told in the limited perspective of Khan and Marla, and we witness Marla's death firsthand, followed by Khan's grief. The tragedy of Marla's character does not lie in her death, but in the cruelty of the time in which she was written, when Star Trek was dominated by men. I believe that both Marla and Khan were written well before their time. Khan's return in WoK does much to strengthen his character and cement him in the lore, but Marla's character  fell by the wayside, until Cox came along and gave her a character even Kirk would commend, and the voice that all of us wanted to hear.