Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2011

Try not to barf…

In keeping with our sci-fi bonanza (can we call it a “bonanza” without alcohol and dancing ladies?), I’m going to share something deeply disturbing:

The first piece of fiction I had published.

Well, I was going to share the whole thing, but I don’t think anyone deserves to be subjected to it. I’ll just post the first section and even that borders on “cruel & unusual.” Hell, if you can’t laugh at yourself (or Matt), who can you laugh at?

I don’t even know when this was printed (maybe 1988?), as the school publication lacks a date. I did notice something funny about this little blast from the past: I’m not the only writer on this blog with credits in the table of contents… just sayin’. Oh hell, I’ll just post it:

So, beyond a few minor punctuation tweaks so you can read it, I’m not going to clean this up (or comment, despite my twitching  fuck that… I will comment. This is too rich) . You get almost virgin data from 1988 and my Apple IIe word processor. Oh, I was playing a ton of Wing Commander back then. Yeah… I won’t mind if you change the channel – nobody blames you. You probably have better things to do, like pick at your toe fungus.

Still around? Enjoy!

* * *

Sky Hawk… a novel in progress.

“You’ll never make it, Sky.”

“Nonsense!”

“Eject! You have no other choice!”

“I have many other alternatives, Pete.”

“Three of them just launched heat seekers! You’re dead!”

Sky laughed. “Those fools!” Sky cut his engines and rolled his starfighter sharply to the right. The heat seeking missiles idled for a moment and then searched for new targets. They quickly locked on the ships they were fired from and within seconds there were no more enemies to be found. Sky looked around with a smile of satisfaction.

“Mother of all creatures, big and small! You beat the game and vaporized your old score!”

Sky stood up from the seat of the arcade flight simulator and smiled at his friend. “There’s always more than one option,” beamed Sky. “That’s why I’m the best Chicago High ever had.”

“And you’re so modest about it too,” added Pete.

With a laugh, Sky led his friend out of the arcade and into the chill evening air. The two were about to cross the road and a wave of hovercars rushed by. This was Chicago, the largest spaceport in the Earth System, and also in the other seven star systems colonized by Earth.

“Let’s go,” yelled Pete as Sky followed him quickly across the busy street and to the front doors of the “Modern Ration Restaurant and Bar.” The Chicago High School football team loved to hang out there.

“Where’s Max and the guys?” asked Pete.

“I don’t know. They were supposed to meet us here by eight,” responded Sky as he buried his hands deep in his jacket pockets. For some reason that night was unseasonably cold. “Let them find us inside,” stated Sky as he opened the door and warm air rushed out to greet him. “I don’t feel like freezing before tomorrow’s game.”

“Sounds good to me,” remarked Pete through clenched teeth.

The two friends entered the usually quiet restaurant. The whole football team was there and they yelled out Sky’s name as he entered. Sky knew what was expected of him tomorrow. Chicago High was hosting New York for the planetary finals. If Chicago wins, they would be represented for the first time, at the Universal High-school Play-offs.

All of a sudden, everyone’s attention quickly turned to the television unit over the bar. The football game on the TV was interrupted by a special news report from deep space. The announcer’s voice rang clear throughout the entire establishment.

The announcer reported, “A civilian starship, headed towards the newly built starbase colony near the Arcturus star system has been destroyed by an unknown force. Search and Rescue crews have found only debris of what once was a 12-47 Medium Class civilian transport, which was carrying twelve-hundred people. No survivors are expected. We will have updates on the ten-thirty news. We now rejoin the game.”

Slowly the restaurant returned to life. Pete sat down slowly on the nearest stool. His hands were trembling noticeably.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Sky.

“All those people,” Pete mumbled. “They’re all dead.”

“Don’t give it another thought, Pete. You were not on it.”

Pete jumped up. “What’s wrong with you, man?” he yelled. “Twelve hundred people have died, and this isn’t the first time this has happened. Don’t you care just a little?”

Sky shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wasn’t on the thing when it blew, so who cares? And they didn’t have to interrupt the game.”

“Do you have no emotions?”

“Of course I…”

“Sky!” yelled a voice from across the room.

“Max!” returned Sky, “glad you could make it. Where’s the guys?”

“They couldn’t make it,” answered Max.

Max was the typical football linebacker: quite hefty and very energetic. Unlike Pete and Sky, Max was only a junior. He still had another year of high-school football and probably a solid career as a professional player ahead of him.

Max sat down next to Pete. “How are ya doin’ Pete?”

“Alright, I guess.” Pete glanced sharply at Sky. Unlike Max and Sky, Pete does not plan to play professional football. His heart is in spacecraft design and engineering, the profession of his father. Pete has already been offered a partial scholarship to a renowned university on a planet in the Procyon star system, eleven light years from earth. Space travel was becoming extremely common and Pete was anxiously looking forward to his future.

“Ya ready to crunch some bodies tomorrow, Max?” inquired Sky.

“I’m charged and ready to kill!!”

“That’s nice,” commented Sky. “I’m going over to talk to some people. Try to stay out of trouble, you two, while I’m gone.”

“What was that supposed to mean?” pleased Max to Pete.

Shaking his head, Pete stated coldly, “I don’t know, but sometimes Sky really gets on my nerves.” Max simply nodded his head, not wishing to openly badmouth his friend.

After another couple hours of socializing and talking to everyone in the restaurant, Pete and Sky headed home. Sky drove his father’s old, four-door hovercar through the wide and busy streets of Chicago.

“Where are you planning to go to college?” inquired Pete. “You must have been offered numerous scholarships by now.”

Sky shrugged his shoulders. “I try hard to avoid the college recruiters. Most of them are representing Earth universities. If a recruiter won’t come from the other side of the galaxy for me, then I don’t want to play for his university. I was meant to play football all my life, and nothing else. Securing my future is foremost in my mind.”

Sky dropped off Pete at his apartment module near the center of the city, and then hovered home. Sky and his family lived on the very outskirts of Chicago in a private living residence. Very few families are privileged enough to own their own homes. Being a commander on a space station, Sky’s father, Mark, makes enough money to give his family a home of their own.

“Hey, mom!!”

Sky’s mother, Gail, was sitting in her favorite chair as always, reading. She smiled and said softly, “Your father called today. In one month, Cathy and I are planning to move up to the station. We already have a potential buyer on our residence.”

“You sold the house!!”

“Quiet! Your sister’s sleeping. It took me an hour to get Cathy asleep.”

“I’m sorry, mom. I think I’ll be heading to bed now too. Tonight was very hectic.” Sky kissed his mother on the cheek. “See you in the morning.”

“Cathy wants to go to your game tomorrow. Will you take her?”

“Of course I’ll take my little sister. The guys love her. Having a seven-year old around the team is convenient. She lifts everyone’s spirits. You should see her, giving water to the guys as they come in off the field. Why don’t you come by?”

“I might just do that.”

Good night, mom.”

“Good night.”

* * *

And there you have it! Wow… that’s really something. You’re still here? Well, here’s your reward: my commentary (I cannot contain it any longer):

“Chicago High” – hahahha… there’s probably over 20 high schools in Chicago. Can you tell I was a dumbass kid who hadn’t travelled beyond New England?  (now I’m just a dumbass)

Why do all the characters sound the same and speak in the same way?

Too many adverbs… rage taking over…

Geesh – did I like hovercars? I know what I want on my next birthday cake… ahem, not that I still get themed birthday cakes with robots and shit on them anymore. Damn, how do I unsubscribe my mom from this blog? She could “out” me…

Tense!!

This was written before Matt realized that “he said / she said” is the most divine way to expose dialog. Sigh… if one more of these crappy characters “states”, “responds” or “remarks”, I might just travel back in time and strangle myself. Ah, but that would be impossible, because this post would never exist in the first place. God, I still hate time travel!

I know so much more about football now…

Apparently, if I call it a “television unit”, that means it’s futuristic.

What high school student ever said: “Securing my future is foremost in my mind.”??

—> I guarantee, with all my heart and the blood of my children (stop squirming!), that the Antaran Legacy is monumentally better than this!  🙂

Read Full Post »

In a tribute to The Nostalgia Critic, I am going to compare an old work of fiction (TV in this case) with a new(er) one. Unlike the NC, I won’t be comparing two iterations in the same franchise. Instead, I will review two similar items in a genre and then foam at the mouth like a madman for ~2,000 words.

Can the old material hold together? Does the new material just have too much going for it? Can the classic defeat the nouveau?

All these questions, and more, shall be answered! Without further ado, here’s the first installment of “old vs new!”

Further ado: I will evaluate Battlestar first, then Buck Rogers… that way, you cannot guess at my secret, genius-level formula employed to determine the winner! Bwahahhaah!

Story

Both shows boast fantastic premises.

Battlestar Galactica (BSG) begins with the Cylons overthrowing their human masters. Though not original in the slightest, BSG carves a new spin on the premise and the first few episodes are in my “hall of fame.” Overall, the episodes were usually gritty and dark and the show took itself quite seriously. Current events / social concerns were even woven into the drama, making the entire affair relevant and fresh, if a tad tiring for those of us who enjoy more of a Firefly fare.

The struggle in BSG revolves around the last survivors of humanity searching for a new home – Earth. As an overall premise, this is pretty awesome shit. Treachery and a bag full of other ugly human emotions play out on the screen for us to digest. Though I haven’t watched the whole series (that’s quite a bit of TV to stomach), I got the impression that the show focused upon human frailty and weakness, with a few moments here and there of human triumph. In the end (for me), the show wore me down. I’m a huge fan of tragedy in fiction, but not at such a large, unrelenting volume.

Unlike BSG, Buck Rogers can claim originality for their premise. The stories were first published in 1928. However, I’m not going to go that far back. Like my previous post, I will focus on the 1979 movie and season 1 of the TV series. Buck was frozen in space when his shuttle veered off course. Then, 500 years later, he is dethawed and ready for action.  Premise aside, the story is quite engaging. In addition to acclimatizing to his new environment, Buck assists Earth against her many enemies as a fighter pilot and spy. You get a little James Bond mixed with space battles. Nice!

TV shows from 30 years ago typically didn’t have an overarching story. I actually prefer that approach in my shows, as I tire of one main plotline stretched out for months. Get to the end already! The story in the first Buck Rogers is quite solid, and it stands tall to the test of time. Popsicle Buck is discovered by the evil Draconians who are on a diplomatic mission to Earth (whom the Draconians plan to betray). Both sides think Buck is a spy as he tries to make sense of everything. In the end, he proves to be a hero and saves Earth.

Point: Tie! Both present their stories in memorable and effective ways. I like the serialized adventures of Buck Rogers and the epic drama of BSG. I think it’s more a matter of your personal taste than anything else.

Hero / Main Character

BSG really doesn’t have a “hero.” Instead, you have a buffet of characters in the ensemble cast. Sigh, I actually loathe the whole “ensemble cast of characters” mechanic used by many modern TV shows. Not only do you get less time with each character, but oftentimes the action will shift from place to place at dramatic intervals. By the time the director gets me back to Character A, I’ve forgotten what they were doing and why I cared (maybe I just haven’t masters that “TV trick” yet).

If I was forced to pick out my “heroes” from BSG, I’d want them to be Starbuck and Apollo. After all, they were the focus of the earlier TV show and the camaraderie between fighter pilots is actually something I enjoy to read/watch. Are the leaders of the humans a better choice? Damn, see? Ensemble casts are truly like a buffet, as I mentioned. You get to see a little bit of everybody, and you maybe settle on a few favorites. While some may argue that’s a good thing, I disagree. I prefer to sink my teeth into characters I care about, so why make me watch 15 minutes of some crap character I loathe? Boo to ensemble casts…

Here’s where Buck Rogers is entirely different from BSG. Three characters/actors are named in the opening credits – THREE! Of course, Buck is our main character here and he is from “our time.” Sigh. Yeah, I think the whole “I’m a 20th century man/woman in the future/past and most of my jokes stem from the fact that these other characters aren’t familiar with my popular culture” thing gets a tad lame. This mechanic is used in reverse quite often in cartoons & kids films. I think, when overused, this type of humor is groan-inducing at best.

These premise problems aside, I really thought I’d hate Buck during my recent rewatch. I assumed he’d be a clichéd mess with awful 70s hair. Well, I was pleasantly surprised at how likeable his character is! Yeah, he’s a badass in the cockpit as well as on the ground (he loves to kick shit with his boot), but he’s just so damn charming – and not in an annoying suave 60’s “Bond” way. I felt like he was just a dude, frustrated at all the stupidity in the world around him. At times, Buck reveals his sadness over losing everything in his world. As a kid, I never noticed it. As an adult, I appreciate the time they took to show the audience this side of Buck. He’s a more complete character than I thought he’d be.

Point: Buck Rogers. Yeah, some parts of you may be a cliché, but you defined that cliché. So, you go with your bad self!

Villain(s)

I’m not a fan of the whole “evil aliens looking just like humans” trick, and a good deal of BSG’s drama revolved around that. However, I can forgive something that I know only irks me if everything else is in order. Luckily for BSG, most everything else was in order.

I do get hung up on the Cylons motivations. It was clear that the Cylons wanted to destroy humanity, otherwise why bother to nuke them? However, as the series went on, I got the feeling like the Cylons were more interested in watching the humans and executing some grand plan (“God’s Plan”).

Um… okay… then, why did you nuke them? Why did you bring them to the brink of destruction? Were you is such a degree of control that you could have predicted a few would survive and search for Earth? Wow, that’s quite a plan! Borders on the unbelievable. Sorry, but I’m just not swallowing it.

The BSG villains stretched across Cylons and Humans, which provided for some great showdowns and complications. You were given almost equal access to both “sides” and the audience really got to know their villains. Like many excellent works of fiction, we are invested in the villains as much (or more) as our heroes. Major marks all around for fleshing out your villains, BSG!

Though the Draconians were presented as the villains in the beginning of Buck Rogers, each episode usually presented a new villain for Buck to defeat. Again, Buck was more serialized, and this was a common approach. Though we were given some time with our villains, we never really got into their back story and reasons behind their evilness. Well, aside from the Draconian princess that is (“Beede, Beede – what a bod!”).

While BSG’s ensemble cast hurts it on the “hero” side, I think it helps it present well-rounded and sometimes sympathetic villains.

Point to BSG for truly awesome villains.

Supporting Cast

Can BSG’s ensemble cast provide enough oomph to score another win? Let’s take a look.

The ensemble cast for BSG is quite mammoth. You have bridge crew, pilots, spouses, mechanics, press, government officials, criminals and a host of other characters to support each other, rather than a hero or villain. And we sometimes get to spend a whole bunch of time with these orbital personalities. Some of the characters are quite excellent and some are merely okay (and some suck). Do any of them stand out? Well, I suppose those guys/gals (who stuck out) would be my “favs” and I’d classify them differently (as my personal “main character”). To be honest, I think the cast as a whole supports the story of humanity struggling for survival, but I rarely cared if they lived or died. It became apparent early into the series that they were all lambs for the slaughter, so I tried not to get attached.

The supporting cast for Buck Rogers acts in a more traditional role – supporting the main character.

I’ve already covered Wilma Deering earlier, so no need to rehash her (as much as I’d love to). As a supporting character, I was always interested in watching her exploits. 

As my #1.5 said, Dr. Theopolis is the brains of the operation and Twikie is the playa. With his soothing voice and calm demeanor, the talking lightbox provides wisdom and insight into every situation. I like this juxtaposition of technology and man (with the technology providing the guidance to us monkeys). Dr. Theopolis even grows through his adventures with Buck.

Then there’s Twikie. I was dreading watching Buck Rogers again mainly because of Twikie. However, I found he made me chuckle more than he made me groan. He’s actually more stomachable than C-3PO, Jar Jar, or that talking dolphin from Seaquest. I’d even go as far as saying he’s good comic relief. Plus, he’s voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc… so, show some respect.

Another thing Buck Rogers did that I appreciate is the use of episode characters. Though these people came and went, they always seemed so “real” to me. I was watching the 2nd episode and a random pilot laments the loss of his ship: “She was a good ship.” I just appreciate when a TV show takes the time to give that to us. It’s the little things, people…

Point: Buck Rogers, for memorable supporting characters.

Winner: Buck Rogers

I’ve often compared new and old movies/TV shows with each other and wondered if my nostalgic haze propped the older media up too high. In this case, after watching a few episodes of each very recently, I can honestly say I’d rather watch Buck Rogers than BSG.

Of course, I’d rather be watching Firefly over anything else, but I take care to only sip from that perfect glass of wine every few years lest it get too familiar.

No, I’m really not bullshitting you. While BSG is excellent, there’s an investment. You cannot pick that show up in season 3 and expect to enjoy yourself. It takes time to build that ensemble cast to a point where you are caring for them (well, some of them). And though I love epics, I just can’t put my finger on exactly why I stopped watching/caring. Maybe it was as simple as getting worn down.

But, Matt, come-on! Buck Rogers sucked…

Well, I won’t argue with you that season 2 of the 1979/80 series blew moose balls. However, there was a brief “golden era” where Buck Rogers continued the Space Opera popularization push of Star Trek / Star Wars, all with a unique flair and memorable characters. And though I can respect a work for its influence on a genre I love, I’ll not go back and watch/read it unless it stands the test of time. Buck Rodgers certainly surprised me here.

Read Full Post »

In an effort to keep with the theme of my upcoming book launch, I think we’ll talk a bit about the women of sci-fi! Well, to be honest, my #2 suggested I “blog with a theme” until The Antaran Legacy launches (well, he’s more like #1.5 now, as he doesn’t fall into the “#2 or lower” category any more). So, this idea is his, and God bless him for it!

I was originally thinking of posting a top-5 list (good and bad) or something like that, but it’s been done many times before. Instead, I’m going to post my thoughts on “the good and the not-so-good” of Sci-Fi women. I’ll call-out somebody and discuss why I placed them in their bucket and I will also discuss the ‘archetype’ and why I like/dislike it. Hopefully, this provides a unique read to you as you shirk your responsibilities… you slacker.

Keep in mind, I haven’t watched every sci-fi movie or read every sci-fi book. If I leave some hottie off this list that you feel should be recognized, please don’t hunt me down at the airport and knife me. Instead, post a comment! That’s much better for my New Year’s resolution to not get knifed in an airport.

Anyway, here we go!

The GOOD

Colonel Wilma Deering, Buck Rodgers

Maybe I’m looking through rose-colored glasses because I watched her at a time in my life when my boy parts were starting to turn into man parts. (here’s a barf bag for you)

I dunno. Colonel Wilma Deering was the classic triple-threat: she was hot, she carried a gun and she was uber-intelligent. What more could we ask for?

I’m going to look at her character from the 1979 movie and 1st season of the TV show. I think these two sources best illustrate the character, and Erin Gray was quite amazing in the role. I actually watched the first episode to prep my thoughts here, and I was amazed at how well it holds up. (maybe more on that in another blog post)

 Right out of the gate, we’re introduced to Col. Deering as the commander of Earth’s defenses. This is no wilting flower. Deering is tough and distrusts Buck right out of the gate. After he touches her arm in an attempt to lighten the mood, she arrests him:

“Take this barbarian in for interrogation.”

I’m already ready to leave my wife for you, Wilma! Now, if the character remained an ice queen, that’d be acceptable in the world of sci-fi. The cold female villain is quite common for this genre (Diana/Anna from V) and the calculating female sidekick is also well-used (Scully from X-Files), but Deering has a softer side to her. We see her as both a daughter archetype to Dr. Huer and love interest to Buck. Instead of being trapped by her desire to protect Earth (thus becoming one-dimensional), we see her struggle through the facts and assumptions surrounding Buck as she reluctantly watches him through his trial and incarceration.

Classic sci-fi tends to portray the females as damsels in distress. Well, Deering saves Buck twice in that first movie/episode – once from zombies (hellz yeah!) and then she flies her ship into an exploding carrier to save him. In 1979, this was quite progressive! Hell, today this would qualify as progressive. Adventurous, beautiful, dutiful and intelligent – Deering breaks free from the earlier sci-fi ‘molds’.

The only aspect of Deering that remains in-line with sci-fi women is the need of a man to “complete her.” Unfortunately, the name of the series is Buck Rogers, and we are basically living the tale through his eyes. So, Deering is attached to him from a story perspective.

Certainly, other sci-fi women have even broken this containment of needing a male counterpart. Some would argue that they are more ‘complete’ characters. For me, sometimes they come across as trying to hard (Capt. Janeway) or too one-dimensional (Sarah Connor, consumed with her anger). Ripley from Alien/Aliens certainly stands out as an independent, strong female character, but I find her only ‘ho hum.’ I dunno, maybe that’s blasphemy! The new Battlestar Galactica boasts dynamic and interesting females aboard. I’d say Laura Rosalin was my favorite from the bunch because Mary McDonnell did such a superb job playing the reluctant leader.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Molly Millions from Neuromancer. Here we have the ice queen, but in a bodyguard role to the male protagonist. Neuromancer launched the cyberpunk genre into the spotlight and is worth a read. Though Molly isn’t entirely fleshed-out, we do get a female character ‘doing her own thing.’

But Matt, what about Princess Leia? Yeah, I’m always so on the fence about her but I think I’ll put her here. True, she needs savin’ in all 3 movies and she’s a wisecracker (typical sidekick duty, as defined by the first popular space opera: Triplanetary by EE “Doc” Smith), but she is a strong leader who risks her life to bring the Deathstar plans to someone who can help her. Revolutionary who helps bring down an unstoppable empire? Okay, that’s pretty monumental.

The Not-So-Good

Queen Amidala, Star Wars

Sigh. Let’s start with the horrendously written females of sci-fi.

Queen Amidala from Star Wars is the sharpest thorn in my side.  We know nothing about her. She’s a queen, yay. She masquerades as one of her servants, whoopee. What are her hopes? What does she find important beyond her queenly duties? Does she have a friggin’ family? Nah, she’s what I classify as a cardboard prop… until the epic fail that is Episode 3. Now, I know for a fact George Lucas is a father (and I have some info to suggest he’s a damn good father at that). Why on earth would this character (who’s supposed to be the mother figure), give up on life moments after her children are born?

For you mothers out there, I’ll give that time to sink in. She decides life isn’t worth living right after seeing her children for the first time!

Yeah, good luck reconciling that! Her estranged husband (who murders villages for fun and turned to the dark side) just went dead. Here, you have a chance to start life anew with your children and you decide to call it quits. Self-induced broken-heart attack. Dead cardboard character.

Fail.

I mentioned Captain Janeway from Star Trek, Voyager earlier. While Amidala was written poorly, Janeway has a similar fate of being written with too much “I’m going to change the sci-fi female archetype” mentality. Here’s the crew of that affirmative action starship: Female Captain, Native American 1st Officer, black Vulcan, Asain techy guy, female half-Klingon engineer and a hologram doctor (because holograms deserve a voice too).

Holy fucking shit – are we trying too hard here? I’m all for moving away from the white dude hero (with an awesome chin) and white chick sidekick (with awesome tits), but seriously. Seriously?! Janeway was motherly and strong, but I always felt like the script and actress were just trying too hard to get some sort of point across, rather than feeding me good stories about the characters.

Star Trek didn’t even try to break any sci-fi molds until Voyager. Sure, they had a black woman on TV in the 50’s and 60’s, but she was little more than a secretary answering the phones. The Next Generation’s women were all faithfully serving the men of the crew: counselor, doctor and bartender. Actually, to be fair, Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar was badass until they killed her.

This post is already long enough, so I won’t bore you with countless records of females serving the role of love interest or sidekick. Trinity from The Matrix personifies that love interest/sidekick role perfectly. We know next to nothing about her, she is the obligatory love interest for our hero and she follows him along as he changes the world/universe. Don’t be fooled, even though she can kick ass she’s not very different from female sci-fi sidekicks from the past. Of course, I stopped watching  the Matrix movies halfway through the second one, and I haven’t seen any of the other material out there. I’ve heard she’s well-rounded elsewhere.

Damn, that was long

Yeah, I know. In popular science fiction, (besides a few notable exceptions) women still fall into familiar archetypes while the men are off saving the world. Though this has been changing and the lines are blurred as we move away from the story patterns of the past, I think it’s certainly worth watching. Battlestar Galactica brought us meaty sci-fi back into primetime and also destroyed some of those gender roles. We just need more stuff like it! Sci-fi isn’t dead, and it doesn’t need to be as unapproachable as it was in the past. 

(no cylons were boxed during the making of this post)

Read Full Post »

The Value of Time Travel

(A note from Matt: Mike finished this nanoseconds before my latest post. I’m publishing it now because the first paragraph was relevant for a few minutes there. As usual, Mike is a great Yin to my Yang… or something. GREAT counterpoints, Mike!)

Where the hell is Matt?  Why no blog posts?  There must be something interesting to say about Green Bay, especially this week.  Anyway, in his apparent absence and considering that my job blows and hasn’t “approved” me to work from home, I think I’m gonna make my own snow/homework day, and while I’m up, I might as well play Devil’s Advocate here for time travel.

Now I completely understand what Matt is talking about in regards to Heroes.  I was one of the folks who told Matt it was fantastic but took a very sharp and sudden decline.  You could blame a lot of that on time traveling samurai, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that they were completely directionless and their yearly bad guy plots were about 10 times worse than *my* worst D&D campaign.  I’ll also agree that Star Trek has egregiously abused time travel almost at every corner and that the best thing that could be said about the latest movie was that “the time travel didn’t get in the way.”

Ahh… but what about mankind’s dream of time travel?  The reason that it shows up so much in TV, Movies and Literature is because it is a concept that has fascinated us for a very long time.  Is it fair to call H.G. Wells Time Machine trite?  I don’t think so – Wells warns of the perils of society gone mad as well as abuse of technology – both arguments that were ahead of his time and influenced literature and society for the future.  In a way, Wells influence on the future DID allow him to time travel – I can’t discount that.

Even going back to Star Trek, what about the original series Episode, City on The Edge of Forever, written by award winning Sci-Fi author Harlan Ellison?  It’s argued to be the best Star Trek episode ever written and even won a Hugo award.  Sure, this is what started Star Trek down the slippery slope of time travel, but the original is a piece of art.

What about humor and nostalgia?  Time travel certainly was responsible for some of my favorite shows and movies growing up.  Back to The Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Quantum Leap, Voyagers! For someone who waxes nostalgic about watching Voltron, Matt sure easily forget about some of these.  As kids, we loved these shows and movies.

It’s hard to narrow it down to what it is that makes you like Time Travel and makes you understand why authors keep going to that well.  Maybe it’s a love of history?  Maybe hope for the future?  The wish to correct mistakes?  Maybe you’re British?

Anyway, I still think Time Travel has merit, certainly and can be very well done.

M1k3

Read Full Post »

Church Shopping

My wife is so freakin’ wise, and she doesn’t even realize it. A few months ago she said she wanted to give our kids what we had growing up: exposure to a belief system. I was raised Catholic (sorta) and she was raised Methodist. Even though neither of us has stayed with our childhood religions, she saw the stark truth of what those religions gave us.

Fast forward a gazillion years and she realized our kids were on the verge of missing-out on part of that human puzzle – spirituality. Sure, we can all find our own spirituality without the help of a church or organization (if we wish to). However, kids have such open, wondrous minds – we decided it made sense for us to give them some early exposure to self-awareness. I believe spirituality is the inner search which eventually leads to a more complete understanding of oneself. How could we not do our best, as parents, to lay the groundwork for our children to be well equipped for that journey? Right, the decision was obvious for us. Your mileage may vary.

Since neither of us is a trained spiritual advisor, we decided to shop around a bit. Now, lemme just stop here to tell you something about myself – I don’t kneel in Catholic churches anymore. I know, I know. When in Rome… BUT, since I’m firmly agnostic, how can I be certain that my act of reverence before some random god won’t anger another random god? I mean, it’s great that everyone else in the church has faith in their deity, but I don’t.

Nope, not gonna risk it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Catholics (or anyone else, from any religion for that matter). Catholicism just isn’t for me. Neither are most of the other religions of the world. However, I do believe a spiritual environment can be potent in one’s self-searching journey. Necessary? No. Helpful? I believe so.

I think we found our church today. Unlike other church’s “kid’s story” time, where the huddled kids are lorded-over by someone reading from the Bible, this new church’s minister sat on the floor with them and read them a kid’s book about sharing, cooperation and community. Instead of imprinting some set of rules or Hell punishment mentality, this new church talked about allowing our children to explore their own spirituality in a way unique to them. Instead of “ra ra Jesus” (or “blood for Cthulhu”, or whatever else you pour your faith into), this new church is open to many different possibilities and doesn’t brand some as right or wrong. The kids will be free to individually take that inner journey, all with the support of the everyone else there.

Now, don’t get me wrong – structure, defined faith and dogma all work for a majority of faithful people. That’s awesome. As I’ve mentioned several times in this post – the journey is unique to each of us. If a more rigid view of God (or the gods, or Gaia, or the human-god) is what you need, more power to ya! However, that just wasn’t right for our family.

I almost didn’t post this because I know how sensitive some people are to religion and religious discussions. However, I view “religion” quite differently than most. As a human being, I view spirituality as part of the human condition along with physical and mental awareness. As I begin this next chapter of my life, I’ve been focusing upon my own spirit – my own inner journey. Sharing is just part of the trip for me…

Read Full Post »

Story-wise, I’ve always had a hard time when a writer wields the time travel toy.

Sigh.

My advice?

Just… don’t.

I will attempt to keep things slightly below rant level and I’m sure you’re wondering what brought this on… or, you’re wondering why you’re sitting there reading this blog instead of playing a game, hangin’ with your friends/family or learning another language (or whatever the fuck you do with your spare time).

You see, I’ve never watched much TV. I’m a huge comic fan, and all my like-minded friends once scolded me for not watching Heroes when it was on the tele. They also lamented at the show’s death in the wake of the Hollywood writers’ strike of 2007/8. Now that I have a nice TV (and streaming Netflix), I have been watching Heroes and damned if I’m not shaking my head as I’m jarred from the story every damn episode! Each time Hiro doesn’t shift time as easily as he does in other parts of the show, I just cringe. Here you have a character who can stop time, teleport and travel backwards/forwards through time. He seems to use his ability when it advances the plot, yet he ‘forgets’ to use his ability at other obvious times when a simple slide thru time would fix major problems (usually caused by his blundering).

This ‘convenient power use’ is not so much a ‘plot hole’ as it is sloppy writing. (more on ‘plot’ next week, maybe… plot is a dirty, 4-letter word in my house).

Here’s my problem with time travel presented in this way:

Some characters wield such massive power (like, say Superman) that they cannot be killed and they can drastically alter any situation to their advantage. I classify ‘at-will time travel’ into that bucket. Superman is a crap character. Sorry, he is. He is unkillable (without a shitty, green plot device), he can fly, he can spin the earth backwards to travel in time, he’s superstrong and he’s morally the stiffest pair of tighty-whities. Hiro in Heroes has the powers I listed two paragraphs up. These types of characters remove any element of drama from a story. Do we, as the audience, fear for them? Nope – they are unstoppable. At some point, the writer realizes it’s too late, so they become lazy in some way. Superman has kryptonite. Hiro is written as a dumbass (which is incongruent with his highly analytical character). Once you start artificially supporting your story to maintain suspense, you’ve already lost me as a listener. Game over. Take yer ball and go home.

The other trap I’ve seen with time travel is when the ability gets trivialized, like with one of those Star Trek (Next Generation) movies. At the end, they literally punch a few buttons to travel back to their own time. Um, if time travel was so easy, why am I invested in the stories you are feeding me? Why must I fear from the fate of the noble Federation if any of your ships can travel through time as easily as the drive-up window of the nearest fast food joint? (well, I guess it would take a little maneuvering to get a massive starship through there…)

Can time travel work? Sure it can.

If you really really must open this Pandora’s Box for your story, I suggest you get you shit together. And I mean absolutely fucking together. You owe your readers cohesion and believability. Don’t make uber-characters who can wish their way out of any situation and don’t invent crap to support the other crap you’ve heaped onto your story.

If I were to write a story that involved time travel, I’m not sure I’d have the characters moving through the space-time continuum. Instead, I’d perhaps focus of a different shifting of time mechanism, where the characters have no control over their new circumstances. Perhaps the world around them was the source of the shift? I dunno, be creative. There are plenty of interesting ways to introduce time travel and survive the common pitfalls.

Nice rant, Matt…

Yeah, sorry about that. I just wonder sometimes why we, as a collective audience, still ‘buy’ lazily written time travel stories.

Do yourself a favor: avoid time travel and all of its associated baggage unless you are prepared/equipped to write an amazing piece of airtight fiction.

Read Full Post »

…and just like that.  Ka-Pow.

The HD link, ’cause I know you want to see it all pretty.

The Antaran Legacy – Book 1:  For Duty

I’m really happy with the product this time, and I’m pretty damn proud of how quickly I was able to do it.  I once again used music from Mr. Kevin MacLeod, who does such great stuff and offers it all up for free.  I even played around with it in Garageband a little and mixed two different pieces together.  I’m very pleased with what happened when I did that.  Anyway, enough talk – go watch the trailer – enjoy!

February 13th is still the launch day target, so start saving your pennies!

M1k3

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »