Friday, July 24, 2020


Last week I promised a review of THE OLD GUARD starring Charlize Theron, a new take on the old superhero trope on Netflix, and I do plan to give you at least a mini-review of the film here. But some other news has bumped that item from the starting line-up.

Speculative Romance Replaces Paranormal. First of all, as I reported in an earlier post, the Romance Writers of America® has replaced its outmoded RITA® contest for published works with a new VIVIAN contest. The VIVIAN boasts a list of objective criteria for judging, mandatory judge training and a new category to replace (at least in part) the dear departed Golden Heart® contest for unpublished works. The committee working on the contest revamp has asked for, and taken to heart, feedback from members on the draft made public several weeks ago. One change we Skiffy Rommers can all applaud is a revision of the category name under which our works would compete.

Previously, any science fiction romance entry would be submitted under “paranormal romance,” along with all the supernatural, magical, fantasy and “other” sorts of titles out there. We will still have to compete with those stories, but at least the name of the category will give some hint that spaceships and distant planets are welcome among the shapeshifters and vamps. Instead of “paranormal romance,” we will now compete under “speculative romance.” It’s a small change, yes, but still a significant improvement, and shows the “new RWA®” is making a good faith effort to open the door to a wider base of authors.

Remember that for this first year of the contest (2020), titles published in both 2019 and 2020 will be eligible. I think we should flood RWA® with excellent SFR entries and make our case for our own category in the future.

Website Upgrade and A Blog of My Own. You may not have visited my website for a while, but I had been working with an outdated version of the host software for some time, giving me less security and functionality. I finally broke down and upgraded to a new site with the same server so I could add a dedicated blog and up to 50 pages of stuff to show off my books. Go on over and take a look! The site gives me a personal blog separate from Spacefreighters Lounge that I can feed to Goodreads or to my Facebook page. That means more posts and, well, less liability for my blog partners if I happen to go on a rant. The blog is called Across the Multiverse. Check out this week’s post about a Constitutional challenge in Portland here.

Charlize Theron as Andy in Netflix's THE OLD GUARD

And, finally, your mini-review. Now, I lo-o-o-ve me some Charlize Theron in an action film. I thought she was straight up brilliant as the Imperator Furiosa in 2015’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. So, the idea of Theron in the role of Andy, or Andromache of Scythia, a centuries-old leader of a band of near-immortal mercenaries-for-good in Netflix’s THE OLD GUARD, was one I couldn’t pass up. Add the fact that this film, based on the graphic novel series by Greg Rucka, was directed by Black American filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood of LOVE AND BASKETBALL and SECRET LIFE OF BEES and you could be sure I’d be watching.

The film seems to start in the middle, with a close-knit group of fighters before they take on a new mission in Africa. Not to give away any spoilers here, but the mission turns out to be a trap, which is how we learn our heroes are, um, not exactly vulnerable to death on the battlefield.

In the meantime, a separate storyline introduces Nile (played by Kiki Layne of IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK), a young Black American woman serving as a soldier in the Middle East. Nile also discovers the hard way that she doesn't die easy, making her ripe for recruitment into the Old Guard. 

Theron and her team retrieve Nile from the desert before her fellow soldiers can start asking awkward questions. The problem is the newbie isn’t too keen on joining this league of immortal superheroes. She doesn’t want to take on their missions, whatever they are. And she really doesn’t want any part of this weird not-dying stuff. 
Nile’s “education” is a rote part of this kind of comic book plot. Predictably, not only Andy, but each of the other members of the crew pull Nile aside for a talk (telling their own stories in the process) to get her on board.

The team’s motivation—destroying the evil scientist/megalomaniac who wants the secret of their power—is nothing particularly new, either. Here the villain is a billionaire tech nerd determined to discover and monetize the secret of the Old Guard’s immortality. The concept might work better if the actor playing him (Harry Melling of HARRY POTTER fame) was able to scare up a little menace. Not a chance there, I’m afraid. So you have all that superpower pitted against a comparative pipsqueak.

The twist to THE OLD GUARD, though, lies in Theron’s character, Andy. As the oldest of the crew (and their leader), she has seen the most, done the most, lost the most. She is tired, weary to the bone. Theron is well able to communicate this, though certainly nothing about her lithe, muscular figure or her lightning quick reflexes in a fight betrays this, at least at the beginning of the film. 

But Andy is hiding something, a secret the others only suspect may be true about their kind. Death comes for every living thing, and, after all these centuries, time is finally running out for Andy. Her vulnerability adds depth to the proceedings, much like Superman’s susceptibility to kryptonite makes him more “human.”

Like all good superhero movies, THE OLD GUARD leaves plenty of room for sequels. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying it ends on a high note, with the group fired up with a new sense of purpose and ready for new adventures. It also hints at dark unresolved issues from the past that can come back to haunt Andy and her crew—those are always good for creating new villains and conflict. 

I’d love to see more OLD GUARD movies on Netflix. (There are four graphic novels in the original Rucka series to serve as plot fodder.) With the success the film has been having on the streaming service, chances are good we’ll get the sequels we’ve been clamoring for. Netflix projects some 70 million households will view the film in four weeks, placing it at Number Six in the all-time viewership list. The best part is that all this mainstream acclamation is rising for director Gina Prince-Blythewood, who brings her unique perspective to her work. Just goes to show that graphic novels, superheroes, action/adventure and kickass females are not the purview of white fanboys alone. (Check out the expanded review on my podcast at My Moviehouse My Rules.)

Cheers, Donna


  1. I'm thrilled RWA changed from Paranormal Romance to Speculative Romance!

  2. I’m sure your feedback, and that of others, had something to do with that decision! Good work!


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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.