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Spy Hard

The Mister8 May Madness has reached its final round, and against all odds – and due in no small part to all of you folks who’ve been reading the blog and following the tweets (@ruckawriter, if you’re interested) – our girl Tara Chace has made it to the last stand, against the Men from U.N.C.L.E..

My dear friend Evan, who’s been posting comments here and at Mister8, wrote up a nice stump speech for Chace. He wrote it as an in-character piece, first-person, her POV; who she is, why she is, what she does, and I thought he did a damn fine job of it. Fun to see her through another’s eyes – it’s a rare treat for a writer, frankly, to create something that another can take hold of so thoroughly as to represent it in their own words. It is, perhaps, a whiff of authorial immortality.

So there’s Tara’s “campaign speech.” And then there’s the one in support of the Boys from U.N.C.L.E., and you can see that it is a very different stripe of cat. Not an in-character piece at all, but rather, an appreciation for what the show was, what it meant to those who followed it, and who still follow it today. No mention of characters, or stories, but rather of style – the word “dash” is used. An appreciation of the show as a product of its ear. It is, frankly, an appeal based on nostalgia and sentiment more than anything else, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

I remember watching U.N.C.L.E., remember the first time I caught an episode. I was fresh from my Bond initiation (which went like this: saw my first Bond film – eyes got wide; saw more films and many more Bond Girls, eyes got MUCH WIDER; saw many more films as quickly as possible; wise uncle (heh, irony) bought me my first handful of the novels; read them and wondered how the movies could have gotten things so wrong) and the show fit right into the mold. But it had so much more that was just…awesome. And it had Illya Kuryakin. ILLYA KURYAKIN!!!

Global amounts of cool.

But, y’know…they also fought THRUSH. And even when I was 12, that wasn’t cool to me; that was silly. And it was confusing, because I’d watched Get Smart, and there was KAOS. And that was comedy, and I got that. Hell, I went to see – God forgive me – the Nude Bomb when it first came out in theaters. So THRUSH…KAOS…confusing.

Like most genres, espionage breaks down into sub-genre. The broad focuses to the narrow. My “espionage education” went from Bond to Le Carré in short order, and in doing so it went from broad entertainment to something that – for me, personally – was a much richer, far more compelling world. And, as I’ve said before, Le Carré lead me to The Sandbaggers, and that’s where I found my home, so to speak.

Bond takes his vodka martini shaken, not stirred. The Men from U.N.C.L.E. always seemed to me to be a mixed drink. And Tara…well, she’s whiskey straight from the bottle, when she can’t find a dirty glass.

So, yes, the final round of voting, and while there seems to have been some *cough* minor acrimony over Chace having made it even this far, to me there’s one wonderful, brilliant fact that is not to be overlooked. No matter how you may vote on this, no matter what you may think. Which is this:

When Mister8 decided hey, May Madness, we’ll have a Spydown, he picked sixteen spies/spy teams for the battle. And of those 16, two were women, and neither – NEITHER – had existed in “mainstream” medium (if we are willing to argue – and in this instance I am, as the Q&C novels haven’t kissed the NYT Bestseller lists even in passing, unlike, say, Deighton or Le Carré). One of them was Chace.

That’s awesome.

To me, that’s fucking brilliant.

We’ll see what y’all think of Elizabeth R. when she shows up….

11 Responses to Spy Hard

  1. Evan

    And once again with the TEASE! Elizabeth R? Indeed!

    Can’t wait to learn more.

    And vote now (or as they say in Chicago, early and often!)!

    Thanks for the kind words Greg.


  2. C.W. Walker

    Let me try this again and I’d appreciate it if you just posted this combined reply:

    Not an in-character piece at all, but rather, an appreciation for what the show was, what it meant to those who followed it, and who still follow it today

    That’s because no one asked anyone from U.N.C.L.E. fandom to write it. We could certainly have written an in-character piece and in fact, do it all the time. After 40+ years, U.N.C.L.E. fandom is alive and well and even growing.

    It is interesting though, that of all the candidates, Tara and U.N.C.L.E. are the finalists.

    [also a fan of The Sandbaggers]

  3. Shay

    Hey, Greg, thanks for your interesting comments on Man From UNCLE, a show that obsessed an entire generation of people and which still engages us today. Sure, parts of it were silly (the third season, to be sure) but I’ll stand Season 1 against any spy – or television – program on its merits, its charismatic characters and, yes, on its tremendous COOL.

    I’d love to comment on Tara Chase (who I keep confusing with Kara Thrace of the extremely cool Battlestar Galactica remake) but, alas, I’ve never seen her, nor, until this battle, heard of her.

    Good luck!

  4. Victor Kurasov

    No offense…but a highly significant mid-century television show with millions of loyal fans vs a comic book I’ve never heard of?

    Seems a bit of an odd contest to me. *shrug*

  5. toomuchfandom

    Hey Greg,

    I’m sorry but I’ve never heard of Tara Chase. The name reminds me of the awesome!kickass!Tara MacLay from Buffy and Dr. Robert Chase from House.

    Even though Man from UNCLE is way older than I am (I’m late 20ies), the series has made an impression on me and in my opinion Napoleon and Illya are so much more cooler than James Bond!

    Yes, I didn’t have a point there. But I second every word C.W. Walker has said.

  6. rucka

    Ah, well, Victor, that’s the irony of the situation, isn’t it? Just because you haven’t heard of Q&C, either the novels or the comics, doesn’t mean it’s not relevant or worthy. It just means you haven’t heard of it. Clearly others have.

    And C.W. – not sure what happened with the response that required a combination; I see only the one. I would have LOVED to have read an IC piece! Would still love to read one, to be perfectly frank. Part of the glee I’m getting from the whole thing is the mash-up of genre styles and nuance.

    Carry on!

  7. chrismyself

    Elizabeth R.?

    Oh dear. You’re cooking up a scheme to take more of my money, aren’t you Mr. Rucka?

    Can’t wait!

  8. admin

    (FYI — I, webmaster Eric, combined C.W.’s comments, per his or her wishes.)

  9. mark coale

    Now, where is the private eye website that needs to do a tournament featuring Greg’s latest kickass lady?

  10. Ken Liner

    While it may be tough for little-known Tara to overcome a well known and loved show, hopefully some of the fans of the other characters (from all the other matches) will be intrigued enough to check her out.

    As to the write-up, my favorite line was the last: “And to respond to a persistent question, I can neither confirm nor deny that I have ever been to Antarctica.”

  11. Peter

    Elizabeth R.? Definitely not England’s legendary Virgin Queen, I take it.

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