Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy Holidays. I'll see you the first week of 2015.

May you have a great Thanksgiving, a fantastic Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Like I did last year, I'm signing off until January 2015. If you need to get a hold of me, you can contact me through twitter or email. Stay warm and drink lots of hot chocolate, and may you finish all of your books. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is J.J. Abrams killing off Han Solo in The Force Awakens?

The new rumors surrounding the much anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens makes me wish that happy endings would stay "happy." But I guess if there's money in it, happy endings be damned because there's a story to tell and money to be made!

Rumors abound with regard to the plot of the new story. I've been following some over at Episode 7 News and basically, they all involve Luke having gone insane with some of them speculating that it's Han's son that ends up going bad and Luke tries to kill him. Of course Han Solo doesn't want his son to die so he puts himself between Luke and his son and ends up getting killed. So of the best characters of the original trilogy ends up dead and of course this emotion sets Han's son on a path to the dark side just like Luke saw in the future. Strange how that works out, isn't it?

In Tina Fey's words, "BLURG!"

More rumors say that Luke (after Jedi) went back to Tattoine and the Force got so powerful within him that it devastated the planet, causing a cataclysm in the place he once called home. So basically everyone on Tattoine is dead. This forces him to go into exile on a planet called Mon Cal in the fortress of some old Sith Lord because the dark side is the only thing that can kind of keep his powers in check as he's essentially a god now.

If any of these things are true, I'm probably going to be pissed. It just sounds like they are setting up a storyline that is really dark. I understand that there's a need for a villain, but to go and just kill off beloved characters when they deserve a happily ever after seems unnecessary and even mean. I think the world of J.J. Abrams but these rumors legitimately have me worried because he's destroying all the things that the rebel alliance gained by the end of Jedi. Grrrr.

Monday, November 17, 2014

If you had to choose which society to belong to in the Walking Dead in order to survive which one would you choose?

The Walking Dead is really about the survivors, and ultimately how they cope with the apocalypse. It makes me wonder which society you would choose from were you to find yourself suddenly in this world (no, you do not get to be part of Rick's group). At this point in season five, we've seen societies formed by survivors that have embraced principles of:
1) Delusional ignorance, a.k.a., Hershel's Farm. This group of survivors thought that the undead were just really sick people. So even though there were no "moral" boundaries broken with this group, if you ended up with them, your chances of survival were low because a herd of walkers was being kept secret in a barn. At any time, they could have gotten out and overran the farm and then you'd be dead because of someone else's stupidity.
2) Psychopathic leader, a.k.a., the Governor and "Woodbury." This group was led by a charismatic "Jim Jones" leader-type that willfully murdered outsiders for their weapons and resources and just lied about everything. He also tried to rape Maggie, but if you found yourself in Woodbury, and you "towed the line" there's a good chance you'd be better off at the end of the day. But keep in mind that the Governor is completely insane and can commit mass-murder at any sign of displeasure.
3) Institutionalized cannibalism, a.k.a. Terminus. The "Termites" were a functioning society that had only one small quirk: they slaughtered people like pigs so that they could feed themselves delicious BBQ. They had accepted their institutionalized evil to such an extent that it was just part of the day, like taking a bathroom break. If you landed here, you'd obviously have to be part of those that do the killing and eating, and not the ones that get slaughtered.
4) Institutionalized rape, a.k.a. the Hospital Crew. This is where Beth ended up. They have food, clean clothing, even electricity. They have safety, a doctor, and the ability to mend you when you get wounded or sick. But at the same time, they (much like Terminus) look the other way for the "rapes" designed to keep the men happy. I call it "institutionalized" because that's they way they viewed it, basically keeping a schedule kind of like breakfast, paperwork, lunch, a rape, checking in with the doctor, dinner, etc. So if you choose this particular society, I guess you'd have to be okay with the occasional rape. And you're also basically a slave. You work every day that you are able, and you can't just up and leave.

If you had to choose which one of these societies to land in, which one would you choose and why? I look forward to reading your comments. And again, you don't get to choose Rick's group because everyone would choose Rick's group.

Or would you try to go it alone? 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Internet is abuzz that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is setting up the Inhumans movie in 2018.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten really interesting in the second season. But probably the most interesting revelations have been coming with light speed on the internet. If you are a watcher of the show, then you know that Coulson has been drawing a strange alien language on the wall, and it would seem that all those given a drug sample from the mysterious blue guy (so that they could have second lives) have been stricken with a similar compulsion.

Well the community over at io9 has been working together in comments and in articles to figure it all out, and's really got me excited. So let me be clear, this is all theory stuff so it may or may not be true, but I love theory crafting because the payoff (if I end up being proved right) is kind of awesome (yes, I'm one of those irritating people that actually loves spoilers).

Okay, so what is the writing on the wall? Well, if you watched Tuesday's episode you know it's actually supposed to be seen in three dimensions and Coulson gave us the reveal when he said, "It's a city." Interesting, right? Well what city exactly?

See, I like reading comics but again, I was as lost as you until I started data-mining nuggets from comments left by nerds with more Marvel cred than myself. Apparently, this is all a "lead up" to the 2018 Inhumans movie (which seems a long time off but hey, I've now lived in Salt Lake City for almost seven years, and that went by in the blink of an eye).
So who are the Inhumans? Descended from our prehistoric ancestors, the Inhumans were experimented on by the alien Kree (picture the blue guy in the glass tube). An important thing to note is that the Kree would fit the description of the thing in the tube being "Older than the pyramids." Now according to io9, "The Inhumans built a city called Attilan before the rest of humanity even started farming, and they go through a rite of passage known as Terrigenesis that grants them amazing powers." Most people that watch the show think that Skye and Raina are both Inhumans. If that's the case, we'll probably be getting our first "super-powered" regulars on the show.

Attilan in the comic books is now located on the moon, but at one point it was in the Himalayan mountains and before that, in the ocean. I kind of like the concept of a city whose inhabitants are so powerful they can just move it around. And we're about to get our first Inhumans in the form of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the second Avengers movie (so the timing seems about right).

What do you think? Is Marvel starting the Inhuman thread so early for a huge payoff in four years? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Star Wars Rebels seems to be hitting its stride at last

Star Wars Rebels is about seven episodes in now, and I have to say it's growing on me. At first, the series seemed like all it wanted to be was a family-friendly show. For example, the first couple of episodes didn't have the feel of any kind of "dark" villainy which is an essential component to Star Wars. After all, things are either black or white in the Star Wars universe; there is no gray. Oh and the second rule of Star Wars is that things are big as in VERY big. But I digress.

So yeah, it's growing up a bit as we're getting plot lines where characters are actively pursuing undercover roles in an Imperial academy to get good intel that the alliance can use to fight the Empire. That and Star Wars Rebels is investigating the Force more (and I like that too). Finally, it's also tying itself to The Clone Wars, which as far as cartoons goes, rates as one of the finest ever made. For example, we got a plot line that led to a prison world to free captured Jedi Master Luminara Undulee only to find out that she'd been killed, and that the Imperials under the Inquisitor were just using her bones to lure Force users out of hiding.

Now as for the Inquisitor himself, I love his appearance and voice, but his lightsaber is kind of ridiculous. You see, it has the ability to spin like a fan, and this seems kind of pointless if not an all out desperate to appeal to the "under thirteen" crowd who will no doubt think "it's cool" without considering if the weapon is even practical (which it isn't). However, if one thing is cool about this series, it's the artistic license that they're taking with respect to Ralph McQuarrie's old illustrations. The lightsabers are thinner and more pointy and the animated hair even moves in the wind.

I am wondering if (at some point) Ahsoka Tano might put in an appearance. By the end of The Clone Wars season five, she decided to leave the Jedi order but she was incredibly powerful. I think it would be interesting if she decided to help the galaxy that is now under the foot of her former master, i.e. Darth Vader, who I'm sure "Rebels" is waiting to introduce in a season finale or something similar just to drive up ratings.

If you've been watching Star Wars Rebels, what do you think? Yay? Nay? It's definitely got my appetite primed for the movies that start arriving as early as next year.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Don your armor boys and girls because there's elf and dwarf blood to be spilt in the aftermath of Smaug's death!

From what I understand, at the time that the Hobbit was written, J.R.R. Tolkien didn't really have an idea that it would be more of a story than it was. He'd only started to expand on possibilities racing through his head, i.e., the war of the ring, and so on and so forth. So is it really all that bad that Peter Jackson (in adapting the Hobbit) has made so many changes for the sake of continuity in what may be the finest example of a six volume film edition of the best that fantasy has to offer?

I know many people who are fans of the books, and some of them insist that the Hobbit is supposed to be a personal story about Bilbo. I say boo hoo. So Peter Jackson pretty much shoved that concept off the planning table and decided to approach it on a grand scale; I think if you're one of his critics that you should be thanking him for it.

He's given increased speaking parts to the dragon (who here would not leap at the chance at having Benjamin Cumberbatch do your voice mail?), explained the story much better by borrowing from the Silmarillion, and inserted female characters (and Legolas) where there was none before. And there are the complaints that center around the question: where are all the songs? Honestly, when I read the Hobbit I skipped the songs and continued with the text underneath them. In my defense, I read the book when I was a kid and I really had no mind for poetry at the time (although now I quite enjoy it).

In short, I like the drama, the seriousness of it, and how (tonally) the movie is a far cry from being a children's story. Anyway, this is the end of my "mini-rant." I'm very excited for the Battle of the Five Armies, and the first trailer hit the interwebs this week. If you haven't seen it, click on the trailer below.

Don your armor boys and girls because there's elf and dwarf blood to be spilt in the aftermath of Smaug's death! And the huge rock trolls with trebuchets on their backs is really f'ing cool, if I say so myself.

What say you? Are ye a fan of the Hobbit films or do you think Peter Jackson has done a terrible job at adapting Tolkien's books?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Give yourself time because sooner or later everything will happen as it's supposed to and you'll write again

When I was growing up, the song that I liked the most was probably "Time in a Bottle." Sure, X-Men: Days of Future Past brought the song a whole new level of cool for me, but the reasons that I like "Time in a Bottle" still haven't changed. With November, and the start of Nanowrimo, I've decided to participate to basically combat my own "writer's block." And thus far, it's worked.

I suppose that this is always going to be an insecurity for me...the fear that I won't have anything to say or that my ideas will dry up, and I'll be caught with nowhere for my characters to go. Maybe that's why I stayed away from my stories for a few months, putting off the dreaded task of facing a blinking cursor. But the return to writing wasn't so bad. Once I started on November 1st, the words began to flow. First a thousand, then another and another. I can feel the end of my book approaching whereas before, it seemed so far away.

And admittedly endings are the hardest things for me to write. For me, starting a new project and being full of new possibilities is always far more tempting than revisiting the idea I've been spending time with for years. But always starting and never finishing is the hallmark of failure. The first cardinal rule of writing is to always finish. And that, my friends, is what I'm trying to do.

So here's some advice from me to you if you happen to share my insecurity toward writer's block...
Just give yourself time. Soon or later, everything will happen as it's supposed to.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Today Brandon Engel remembers legendary writer Ray Bradbury for the magician he was

Today Brandon Engel is remembering Ray Bradbury. If you're a fan of the late science-fiction great, please tell us your favorite Ray Bradbury story in the comments below. And also, please follow @BrandonEngel2 on twitter so you can network with him.
Wicked Reading: Remembering Ray Bradbury
When Blackstone the Magician visited Waukegan, Illinois in 1927, before it multiplied into a metropolis of 90,000, he met there a seven-year-old black-haired boy named Ray Douglas Bradbury. Seventy-five years later, a gray-haired Bradbury would write, “I decided at that time also that I wanted to grow up to become a magician.” And he did, in a way. He became an accomplished horror and mystery fiction writer of the 1950's, his work an unrelenting commentary on Cold War paranoia, and he remains one of the most celebrated American authors of his century.
The Halloween Tree
Pipkin is kidnapped. His eight friends must follow Mr. Moundshroud around the world, to the mummy tombs of Egypt and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, to learn the history of Halloween and, in doing so, save Pipkin. Begun as a screenplay for a movie that was never made (although a televised animated special was made decades later) and published as a refinished young adult book, The Halloween Tree won an Emmy Award for its gothic spunk. Like James Michener, Bradbury educated as he wrote, blending challenges of friendship with dark druids and gaping jack-o-lanterns.
Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 was written on a rented UCLA typewriter for $9.80. It was composed in two drafts across two 9-day periods. Set in a dystopian future, the story centers around Guy Montag, a fireman whose primary job is burning books. His wife, addicted to opioid pills, intoxicated by state-sanctioned entertainment, betrays Guy when he illegally peers into the book, Dover Beach, igniting a vicious manhunt. Bradbury’s award-winning, savage prophecy was written in the era of rabid McCarthyism. “I wrote this book at a time when I was worried about the way things were going in this country,” said Bradbury, who lived to see his book both censored and expunged by fearful parents and teachers.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show visit Green Town, and two 13-year-old friends, William Halloway and Jim Nightshade, soon grow to fear the sinister carousel and supernatural Mirror Maze. Ray Bradbury’s seminal work puts a new spin on the sage advice, “Be careful what you wish for.” Unlike hollow gore, his hypnotic tale tackles themes of transition to adulthood and good versus evil.
The Martian Chronicles
Bradbury called it a “half-cousin to a novel.” Published in 1950, the book contains 28 stories with interstitial vignettes about the apocalypse of Earth and the ensuing colonization of Mars. Many science-fiction authors projected their imaginations onto Mars in the 1950s, but Bradbury was one of the few who followed people, not machines, and who tackled themes of imperialism and Manifest Destiny. “There Will Come Soft Rains” is the penultimate story in The Martian Chronicles. A secret homage to Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same name, Bradbury tells the biography of an automated house made empty by global nuclear fallout. Bradbury’s horror is in his prose, the tragedy set offstage. And it’s all the more eerie that home automation is now authentically part of the fiber of modern life (more details here). The short story is a master compilation of symbolism, allegory and personification, and is notable for its silent warning to 1950’s warhawks about the hazards of nuclear warfare.  Ray Bradbury considered himself more than a science fiction and mystery writer. He was a magician, too. “People call me a science fiction writer, but I don't think that's quite true. I think that I'm a magician who is capable of making things appear and disappear right in front of you and you don't know how it happened.”


So I think I'll kick start the comments with this: My favorite Ray Bradbury story is "All Summer in a Day." It takes place on Venus, not Mars and it's quite good. If you're looking for a short story that will whisk you away for an hour, I recommend it highly.

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