Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The problem with dream sequences in books you like is that they are all metaphor and you never get a choice on whether or not you want to go along for the ride.

"Dream of Solomon" by Luca Giordano
I'm a hypocritical writer. I tend to not like dream sequences in books, but I've used them before. I think that I did it in the past because so many other writers of speculative fiction employ dream sequences (or they historically did so) that it seemed like a necessary component of any narrative. You know? Kind of like following a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookbook. Step one: add characters, sprinkle them liberally, make sure that there are female and male characters in equal helpings. Step two: check for diversity. Step three: Add dream sequence, because it's the best way to indulge author narcissism and come across as clever... Sigh. And sometimes they are unavoidable if there's a certain kind of story that you want to tell.

As to the question: why do dream sequences bug me? I haven't been able to answer that until now. And the answer is complex because I have to channel my love/hate relationship with David Lynch movies. See...I love to watch David Lynch, but only when I know my brain is well-rested, and I feel like I can handle an entire show of nothing but metaphor. And with regard to metaphor, I'm talking the kind that made a Star Trek: Next Generation episode famous with lines like "Darmok at Tanagra" and "When the walls fell." These lines made absolutely no sense because they were metaphors that you could only understand if you were part of the same alien race that was speaking them.

This is why I can't just binge-watch Legion or Twin Peaks. I have to work myself up to these kinds of shows and limit how much they toy with my brain. Figuring out what's going on can be exhausting, but in a fun way. Well when books do these dream sequences (and yes I'm speaking with a wide sweeping generalization) they are usually all metaphors. Very rarely does a dream sequence ever end up being a literal scene as in A leads to B leads to C. If that were the case, then why not just write the scene and not even have it be a dream? The very idea of writing a dream triggers something in us all that wants to explore it via metaphor and get all clever with the images.

Anyway, with a book, my problem with a dream sequence is that you don't get a choice. In the real world...I know that Legion or Twin Peaks is going to be a headache. A book can lure you into the story with snappy dialogue and action and then you are suddenly committed to following along on a journey with a character. Then bam! Out of nowhere comes the dreaded "dream sequence" and it's pages long, and it's all metaphor that I'm going to have to try and figure out and then my brain starts to hurt.

I've been reading Tad Williams' classic The Dragonbone Chair, and this thing is full of dream sequences. But you don't get to them right away. But when they come, boy oh boy are you seeing all kinds of cloaked figures, faces that glow but make no sense, mountains of ice and birds that could be stand-ins for people, or they could very well just be birds. There's marks that could be swords or maybe not be swords, etc., and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong, I love the book. It's quite riveting, but those dream sequences are like a frickin' wall when they pop up, and I think I visibly groan and say something like, "Not another one...." and then find myself paging through it to see just how long the damn thing is before we get back to the main character.

So the dreaded dream sequence; I'm not sure what I plan on doing with it once I return to writing (I'm on an extended hiatus). I think that I'm going to strive to never ever write another one. I don't care if they made me seem clever. They're ridiculous and I don't think another reader out there ever deserves to suffer through another one. And yes, I realize that I've just burned down James Joyce because that man writes ALL in metaphor. But unlike a dream sequence, at least you know that about James Joyce and can choose to pick up Ulysses if you're craving punishment.

That's just my opinion though :).

Monday, June 25, 2018

There are a lot of similarities between the Jurassic Park franchise and the Alien franchise.

There are spoilers in this post for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Regarding the title, it certainly wasn't intended that way, or at least that's what it seems like to me. Alien was this movie put together by a director (Ridley Scott) that wanted to tell a story of people coming across an alien ship marooned on a desolate planet, only to become pawns in a greater plot from a company that wanted to harvest the xenomorph in order to weaponize it. As far as science-fiction goes, this stuff is "bread and butter" for the genre and Alien really did do a great job of giving us some on screen running and screaming that has been duplicated over and over by copycats.

Later on, when Ridley Scott decided that he was going to add to the mythology with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, he gave us the doomed story of an advanced pre-human civilization dubbed "The Engineers" whose whole shtick was to mess with the genetic code in order to create weaponized life that they could do with as they choose. Of course we know that even advanced peoples apparently are not ready for this particular "Pandora's box" and what the movies show us to an exhausting degree is that no one is ready to deal with the monsters of genetically-engineered life.

Well the Jurassic Park franchise does exactly that too, and I want to point out that it also is based on the whole "people are running around and screaming." I would even go so far as to say that running from monsters and screaming the entire time is the backbone of the franchise. And back to my point...with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I saw this weekend, the story of genetic engineering taken too far is unavoidable. It practically smacks you in the face. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the same story line as Prometheus, only instead of Alien xenomorphs we have dinosaurs that eat your face. But the same result is that humanity has to deal with a kind of animal that was engineered to wholly wreck an ecosystem that is incapable of dealing with its power.

For what it's worth, I like both franchises, i.e., Jurassic Park and Aliens. But I felt it was worth pointing out that I see a lot of similarities in these movies. Only the setting and the kind of monster are different, but I think the moral is still the same. Having settled this in my head now, I want to ask true die-hard fans of the Alien movies (I know a couple) if they are also die-hard fans of The Jurassic Park movies. I'm wondering if they even on a subconscious level understand that the movies and the stories are the same thing. I'll have to get back to you on that.

Oh and question for those who wish to leave a comment: did you like the movie? It made a whopping $700 million this weekend, so you know it's going to have another sequel. As far as I can tell, the cash machine that is Jurassic Park is the goose that laid the golden egg.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ron Howard wasn't the right director for a Star Wars movie but that really isn't his fault.

It's official. So if you haven't heard in the news yet, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is the first "flop" in the Star Wars franchise. It will still earn money, but compared to all the other Star Wars properties, it falls far short for expectations from a golden egg-producing goose. Personally, I saw the film, and I liked it. And I have my own theory as to why it flopped, but I'm going to air those after I tell you what other people are saying:


1) It was released at the wrong time.
2) People didn't like The Last Jedi as much as the critics, and hence, they were apathetic.
3) There's viewer fatigue.
4) People didn't want to see another actor take on the iconic role of Han Solo.

And now here's my reason: Ron Howard isn't good at making epic movies that are light on character and big on hair-raising, mouth-dropping moments. Star Wars is supposed to be epic in scope. It's supposed to dazzle and give moments of awe. In Rogue One, there was a moment of awe when the Death Star fired its weapon on a city and the land wave that followed had me awe-struck. Plus it was filmed in such a way as to eclipse a sun.

Ron Howard doesn't do "awe." He does character films, which admittedly Solo is one of these. His strengths are cerebral...getting into the head of characters like in A Beautiful Mind or in Cocoon, which is a slow-burning film that shows old people becoming young again. But Star Wars isn't about character...people don't go to these movies to get into the head of Han Solo. They don't go to the movie to obtain all the feels from Princess Leia's suffering over two hours. People go to a Star Wars movie to experience awe, and Ron Howard was the wrong person to realize this for the franchise.

The moment in the film that had the most "awe" packed into it was probably when the train exploded. And it took out the top of a mountain and was mostly in an uninhabited place so nobody cared. The second moment was when a space monster got sucked into a black hole. But nobody cared at that point either because you know Han Solo survives because he's in later movies. It was just a throwaway monster to use to make the escape from the Kessel Mines kind of interesting.

However, when I think about how Ron Howard put together Solo, I also don't think it's his fault either. It's clear that Disney doesn't understand what makes Star Wars, and that they've gotten lucky thus far by hiring directors who obviously do. With Solo, Ron Howard was probably someone who was enthusiastic to do it even after production hell erupted over directors that were supposed to come in and make the film. Add to this the fact that he had a limited timeline, the budget blew out of control, and there were all kinds of problems that he needed to deal with to get it to the cinema on time. So's Ron's fault while simultaneously NOT being his fault.

Unfortunately, because SOLO did poorly, all the other Star Wars stories in the works have now been put on hold. That kinda sucks. At least we have an endless future of Jurassic Park stories to whet our appetites, even if the backbone of that franchise is just humans running and screaming. However, (and just to be fair) Jurassic World did give us running in high heels, so that was new.


Helena Soister alerted me via personal email that none of her comments were being published, and I didn't know this (thank you Helena). I apologize if any of you have been thinking that I ghosted you or something like that. This isn't the case, and you should be able to comment on the blog now going back five days before the "held for moderation" thing happens on older blog posts.

I'm not sure what has changed with Blogger, but I no longer get email notifications that someone has left a comment on my blog. That was a nice feature that Google is either working on or is currently broken until it gets fixed for Blogger. I imagine it's a rather low priority for them.

Helena: I did respond to your email :)

Kevin Long: I sent you an email yesterday (I've actually sent a couple). If you read this, could you check your spam and see if you've received any and get back to me.

Patrick: What ARC of Alan Dean Foster's do you have? You mentioned it the other day.

Other than that, have a nice weekend. I'm reading my first Tad Williams books, and they are pretty good so far. I guess you'll hear more about them in the future. Right now, I'm seeing a strong influence on George R.R. Martin that I never knew about. Go figure, and more on this later.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Surprising Works of Alan Dean Foster are remarkably relevant today

I recently read the following three books: Spellsinger, The Hour at the Gate, and The Day of the Dissonance. I'd never read anything from Alan Dean Foster except for a single Star Wars tale called Splinter of the Mind's Eye. So when I picked up this omnibus called Season of the Spellsong (which contained the above three novels), I had no idea what to expect. Furthermore, I think I did it because the cover art on the omnibus is rather ridiculous. I'll include it below and to the right for reference.

The characters you see here are Jonathan Thomas Merriweather, playing his duar (instrument) that gives him his magic, Clothahump the turtle (who is the most powerful sorcerer in the land), Mudge the Otter (who speaks with a thick English accent), and Flo Quintana, who's a cheerleader at UCLA. It actually sounds ridiculous to just be typing all that, but yeah...those are the main characters. Ones that you don't see (but I'd love to see them realized in art form) are Pog the bat, who serves as an assistant to the turtle sorcerer, and a frog that's a boat captain, and a tiger named Roseroar (that I imagine speaks in the same voice as Captain Phasma from The Last Jedi). Oh and how could I forget the gay unicorn. Yup, in these novels from the 1980's there was a gay unicorn folks. We learned he was gay because some brigands used a virgin lass to lure him out of hiding, but it had no effect on him because he liked boys and not girls. Wrong sex, ya know?

Despite the size of this omnibus, which clocked in at 730 pages, I breezed through it like it was nothing. Alan Dean Foster's writing style and mastery of dialects is hilarity in action. Additionally, the whole thing was chock full of things I'd never seen in books before. There was a double river, one on top of another, that you could sail on. You just had to sink your boat to the lower river (where there was air) and you could pass right along with a river right on top of you. And there was a desert that acted like a huge hourglass that someone turned over twice a year. The only safe place was a city named Redrock at the very center of the desert, surrounded by a huge moat that was so deep you couldn't see the bottom. Twice a year, all the sand in the desert rose as a wave and headed toward that city, only to fall into the moat and reemerge from a crystal tower with a huge hole in it spewing into the sky like a whale's blowhole. Magic kept it from falling back into the city. Instead the sand just kind of reset itself over the desert. It was kind of fascinating stuff.

But the reason why I think these books are more relevant than ever is because of how much foresight Mr. Foster had in acceptance. There are dozens of talking races in this book all sharing one planet from a turtle, to an otter, and yes...even a river dragon that has memorized all the writings of Karl Marx and wants to lead the revolution of the downtrodden masses (in this case mice and rats) to overthrow the oligarchs. It's strange "portal fiction" pulling characters from 1980's America into this kind of crazy setting, echoing Disney's Zootopia moreso than just about anything else. In fact, I'm convinced that Alan Dean Foster could have easily written Zootopia if he'd wanted to.

And the other weird thing about these books is that they aren't written for children. These are adult characters doing adult things. The otter, Mudge, is a lech who'd get slapped for harassment were he employed in an actual workplace. Clothahump is a grumpy old fart who wields serious and dangerous magic. There's blood and war and some terrible things that happen to these characters, only they're rabbits instead of humans. Weird third-person omniscient head-hopping aside (hey it was a thing in these 80's books), this is a world that says, "Diversity is a magical thing if you just start treating people humanely and can ignore the way they look on the outside." But then it backtracks on that message too.

It addresses the desire to be someone else in a remarkable way by giving us a character who is a bat that's in love with a beautiful falcon. But the falcon won't give him the time of day because he's an ugly bat. So he gets transformed by magic into a phoenix and flies off with the falcon, and he's happy. There's no, "be happy with who you are." The message here is, "Who you are may not be sufficient so if you can, get plastic surgery to change it and who knows...maybe your dreams will come true." I've never read a message like that from a book. It totally throws out the mantra of "you are enough" and embraces "change if you can because what you are is ugly." There's a brutal honesty to it that, I gotta say, I kind of liked. It may not be a popular message, but I think it would ring true with a lot of people's personal experience.

And of course, the gay unicorn just had me laughing out loud. I'm going to read more Alan Dean Foster. He's got a weird and creative mind. I just kinda have to wonder though if he's a "furry." I've heard of "furry conventions." It strikes me as something I should look up at some point. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

All of the things you should know before you go and see Incredibles 2.

If you like Easter Eggs in movies, and you intend on watching Incredibles 2, you really should read this post :).

I saw Incredibles 2 this weekend, and I'm listing some things that you should pay attention to from the past so that you can get the most from this movie (if you haven't already seen it). Before you read this list though, it is a bit spoiler-y. However, I don't think it's too bad because it doesn't reveal anything about the plot of the film per se. Without further ado, here are the things that I noted:

1) In the 2005 short, Jack-Jack Attack, the babysitter has many activities that she tries with the baby that are supposed to be healthy and neurologically stimulating. One of these things is having the baby listen to Mozart. As a result, the child makes the babysitter earn her pay by destroying his own house. There's an event that pays homage to this short in Incredibles 2. Hint: "It's Mozart, Dahling."

2) A113. This innocuous seeming letter "A" grouped with the numbers "113" is a reference to the almamater of a bunch of Pixar artists who all went to class together in room A113. I believe it was at the California Institute of the Arts. I know Brad Bird is one of these alumni. Hint for spotting this one is the title of a movie made by Francis Ford Coppola.

3) John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Clavin in Cheers, voices another character in this Pixar outing. He has voiced one character in every single Pixar film to date, so it's kind of fun to look for him. Hint: It's rather early in the film. Another one to watch out for is Bob Odenkirk who played Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad (if you're a fan). He plays a similar type character in this show, which seems like a stereotype unless you admit to yourself that he actually is really good at this kind of character. If the actor doesn't seem to care about being stereotyped, I see no reason to care either.

4) T.V. shows. At several moments in the movie, you see Johnny Quest and then The Outer Limits. These are two shows that I loved, and I looked it up to see if they were ever on the television at the same time. They were, and it happened in 1965. So that's when The Incredibles takes place: the year 1965. Just an F.Y.I. in case you were wondering at what point the movie is supposed to take place in American history.

5) Craig T. Nelson. He's the voice of Mr. Incredible, but his other role of note is playing the dad in Poltergeist (from the 80's). In that old movie, the family's youngest child is lured into another dimension and they can hear her pleading for help. Well, guess what one of Jack-Jack's powers is? Yup, it's a nod to Poltergeist.

6) Remember the Incredibile (Mr. Incredible's car from the opening action sequence of The Incredibles?) I will only say that James Bond would be proud.

7) There's a character named Evelyn Deavor. If you say it out loud really fast and pronounce the (EVE)"Ehv" part as "Eve" and still pronounce the "l" and the "yn" normally, it takes on a whole new meaning. That's all I'm going to say about that. Hint: It's a name like "Stuart Padasso." Shorten the "Stuart" to "Stew" and you're suddenly saying "Stupid asshole" if you say it really fast.

8) You'll want to stay through the credits because you get three songs (with vocals!) for characters featured in The Incredibles. They're done in the vein of the Spiderman song. You know the one: "Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can/ Spins a web any size, catches thieves just like flies/ Look out, here come the Spiderman!"

Friday, June 15, 2018

The universe of the Unbreakable movies is far more compelling and better than the Sixth Sense.

This post assumes that you've all seen the movie, Split, by now and realize it is the second installment (sequel) in the same movie series that contains the movie, Unbreakable.

M. Night Shymalan's greatest film is Unbreakable and not The Sixth Sense. As more and more of the ongoing story (which M. Night did not just "luck out on" but planned via the long game over many years) has its day in the light, I am convinced that Mr. Shyamalan is a genius that just had a bunch of bad beats.

Take for example these points:

1) The Horde character from Split fits perfectly within the Unbreakable universe, not only because (like Mr. Glass) he's the ultimate progression of what happens when you take something to the extreme, but because Elijah's mother in Unbreakable said, "There are two villains typically; one that fights the hero physically (the Horde), and the archenemy who fights the hero with his mind (Mr. Glass).

2) Kevin (the Horde) is actually in the movie Split as a brief cameo/Easter Egg when Bruce Willis goes to the stadium. He brushes up against a mom leading her child away, and he realizes that the kid is being beaten by his mom and that his dad was killed in the same train wreck that he survived due to his super powers. So Kevin was created by Mr. Glass in the same way that Bruce Willis's character was created. Furthermore, in that scene, Bruce Willis stares at the boy so (in fact) they've met before and I bet this will be shown in Mr. Glass when it comes out.

I don't know about you, but it actually feels good to be excited about an M. Night Shyamalan movie again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Here's four points I want to make about Jurassic Park that make it lightning in a 25-year-old bottle.

I bought the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park on 4K ultra HD off Amazon a few weeks ago, and I plan on watching it tonight with two teens who have never seen any of the Jurassic Park movies. It should be a lot of fun, as I've been educating them on some of the best offerings from the eighties and the nineties in a weekly "Wednesday" movie format. We eat popcorn, and I provide some insight into the film that we're about to watch to give it a little "educational" edge. The movie itself was a great deal. I got all copies of the Jurassic Park movies in 4K (including Jurassic World), blu-ray copies of the same movies (that I can give out as gifts) and an awesome carrying case that showcases facts about each movie, all for $40.00 (I think this was a super sweet deal).

In thinking about Jurassic Park and what I want to say about it, I've isolated four main points that I want to emphasize when it comes to this movie:

1) Jurassic Park was lightning in a bottle. For shark movies, there is really only one good story and that's Jaws. I think time has pretty much proven this to be correct. Everything else just isn't as good. The same goes for dinosaurs. That one good story was penned by Michael Crichton who was a genius and foresaw how genetic engineering could possibly bring back prehistoric/extinct animals if you could just get the D.N.A. blueprint from something. It's just enough of a stretch to make this tale believable. There's no old world sorcery or time travel element involved. The story just asks you to stretch the science we already know today a little further and are in Wonderland.

2) Michael Crichton obviously had a thing for theme parks run amok. HBO is currently running the critically acclaimed Westworld, based on a story by Crichton. In a similar vein, Jurassic Park is the same kind of show, taking a theme park and making it all break down in the most catastrophic and dramatic fashion possible.

3) Jurassic Park has many themes to it. One is that humans and greed are at the root of failure when it comes to realizing big ideas. A second (and sometimes overlooked) message of the story is parenting and acknowledging that parents oftentimes don't make the best decisions when it comes to children. They can also get completely overwhelmed by natural circumstances causing events to spiral out of control even in a world full of the modern luxuries and conveniences that we all take for granted. In the end, the character of Dr. Grant is every adult out there who finds himself suddenly caring for smaller humans and just winging it to try and keep them safe.

4) John Williams's musical score is perhaps the best one that he's ever done, and it's perfect to the tiniest degree in adding emotional punch to scenes in the movie. If ever there was a musical score that is a true masterpiece, it is Jurassic Park.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Pixar knows how to handle family dynamics and emotions which is why the Incredibles is better than any Fantastic Four movie.

The Incredibles 2 is coming out this week, and I already have my tickets. If you're a fan of the Fantastic Four comic books though, it's hard to see how well Pixar does with essentially the same characters compared to how poorly conceived and managed the Fantastic Four movies have always been.

In the Incredibles you have:

1) Mr. Incredible. He has super strength and above average resilience to the elements.
2) Mrs. Incredible. She's able to stretch her body to unknown lengths.
3) Violet. She's able to go invisible and create force fields.
4) Dash. He's able to run at super sonic speeds.
5) Jak Jak. This baby has the ability to shapeshift, plus a lot of other things thrown into the mix that we haven't even explored yet.

In the Fantastic Four you have:

1) Mr. Fantastic. Like Elastigirl above, he's able to stretch his body to unknown lengths.
2) Invisible Woman. Like Violet, she has invisibility and the power to create force fields. She also has telekinesis.
3) Human Torch. He's able to turn his body into living fire and he can fly and shoot all kinds of projectiles out of his hands.
4) Thing. He has a body made of rock and he has super strength.

So, as you can see, it's a pretty close matchup between the two franchises. Of course, Fantastic Four did come first, but that really isn't any excuse as to why the Incredibles is so much better at its story on the screen than the Fantastic Four has been. If you've even bothered to watch any of the Fantastic Four incarnations, I think you'd agree with me that they are terrible...basically unwatchable...piles of steaming night soil.

Anyway, why do you suppose that is? Rather, what does the Incredibles do that makes it so much better?

Here's my thoughts:

Pixar is brilliant at breathing life into characters. They know how arguments, love, caring, and all the feels can really spin into a strong story. They focus on the characters and try to build layer upon layer of emotional impact so that you end up feeling it in your heart. The Fantastic Four films focused too much on story and powers and not enough on the relationships between the individual characters on the screen. When I watch the Fantastic Four movies, I see that they have no heart to them.

Fantastic Four as an intellectual property is also kind of ridiculous. Stretching (outside of animation) just never looks good (it's cheesy) and Doctor Doom is a strangely wild creation of a villain, being simultaneously a despot, an evil sorcerer, and a genius.

But all these criticisms aside, I think what does it for me with Incredibles vs the Fantastic Four is the family dynamic. If it isn't spot on then it's not going to be entertaining to watch. And in this arena, Pixar wins hands down.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Everything magical has a kryptonite or your story arc just isn't any fun.

Recently, I started to read The Chronicles of the Deryni by Katherine Kurtz. They are quite entertaining, even with some unexpected head hops, but I'm sure she's really grown as a writer since these early novels popped onto the scene some fifty years ago. Her story plot, for what it's worth, reads in a similar vein to the X-Men.

To be clear, Ms. Kurtz didn't copy them by any means, because all of this stuff must have formulated in her head in the fifties and sixties. But she does use a plot device which (when I look back on it) is used in just about everything that has magic or relies upon a kind of superpower that can do incredible things. That being said, most of us know that magic equates to "fun." But sometimes, you just have to put the lid on all that "magic stuff" or your story unravels because your heroes are too powerful. For Katherine Kurts, this "thing" is called "merasha." It's a poison that affects magic-users, a.k.a. deryni, by stripping them temporarily of their powers and rendering them so sick that they can barely function. Does it sound like something else? You betcha.

So here's a list of things I compiled (aside from merasha) that are used to strip various magic-using or super-powered things of their ability to just solve everything with their special talents.

1) Kryptonite. It comes in all colors but it essentially has one function: to strip Superman down to a normal person so that a villain can beat him down.

2) Dampening collars in Deadpool 2. These are like slave collars, and their only purpose is to strip a mutant down by suppressing the X-gene that is the source of powers for these kinds of superheroes. When one is being worn, one has no powers and can be beat down.

3) Wands in Harry Potter. Strip away the wand and you have a wizard that is helpless and can be beat down. I like this particular device a lot because it seems less of a contrived plot thing and is less offensive and cliché. But if you examine it under the same light, it's exactly the same thing as kryptonite.

4) Ysalamiri. These are furry, lizard-like tree-dwellers in the Star Wars universe that produce a Force-neutral bubble. And (you guessed it), there only purpose is to power down Jedi so that they are helpless and can be beat down.

5) The spell "anti-magic shell" in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder role-playing games. This spell renders all magic and magic items inert. It's sole purpose to exist is the same as make characters assailable after they've become so powerful that nothing can touch them.

6) Being "worthy." This trope, used to great affect in Thor, is another way to make a character that is otherwise too powerful a schmuck that the universe can pick on.

7) The Omega Particle in Star Trek. This particle was a whole episode in Voyager and its purpose for even existing was to establish that there was a way to destroy subspace so that faster than light travel couldn't work in a sector. FTL travel is a very powerful thing, so there needs to be something to keep it in check if a story plot demands this.

8) Nosebleed in Firestarter. The dad in Firestarter (Stephen King movie with Drew Barrymore) was limited by his nosebleeds in how often he could call upon his power. Otherwise he'd just steamroll over everyone.

I'm sure there are dozens of other examples, but this is all I could think of at the time. It's just interesting how any story featuring magical/powerful beings needs to have some kind of mechanic to limit said beings or the story arc just isn't any fun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A book title is far more difficult to come up with than a character name.

It is June, and the year is halfway over. To start off the month, it's time to talk about the Insecure Writer's Support Group and to sign-up HERE if you don't know what this is. Once a month, we address a question that is posed on the IWSG website. This month's question is:

What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

By far (at least for me), it's harder to come up with a book title. Usually, I agonize over it. Then I google it to see what other kinds of things might come up in a search. I look to see if there's strange search results, etc. As for character names, these just seem to flow more naturally from my head. But I have no idea if any of the character names I came up with over the years really irritate anyone out there. And it's my opinion that character names rarely have the same kind of impact as a book title does with regard to any bottom line considerations.

Any of you out there in disagreement? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. :)

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Millennium Falcon has three droid brains in its computer and the idea came from Lewis Carroll.

By now, most of you have probably seen Solo: A Star Wars story. If not, you are all at least probably interested in Han Solo and know some background on the Millennium Falcon. So I feel like I can discuss what happened in the movie (spoiler alert) to some degree without leaving a bunch of you behind in all the geekery.

In the movie L3-37, the droid abolutionist and intimate companion of Lando Calrissian (Lando is pan-sexual) had it/her mind uploaded into the Falcon to take advantage of one of the most complete maps of the universe so that they could escape the Kessel Mines (a point that has been bantered in casual conversation in Star Wars canon for decades). So when C-3PO talks about the Falcon's dialect in the original trilogy, it's probably L3-37 that Threepio is talking to (and this has been pretty much confirmed by the internet).

What I didn't know is this next part, which is something I discovered with a little research elbow greese. R2-D2's internal monologue in the Last Jedi novelization says that the Falcon has three droid brains in its main computer, and this "tidbit" was part of the original canon before Disney took over everything. Furthermore, this "three brains" thing in a computer can be traced back to Lewis Carroll, who was a mathematician and logician and who would have probably programmed computers if they had been available in his era.

The idea behind three sentient processors is that if they disagreed upon an answer, two of them could "outvote" a faulty one, whereas dual processors would simply deadlock and a single processor could possibly hand you the incorrect answer.

It makes me wonder if there's going to be a movie where droids rise up against their slave masters, and they are led by a sentient Millennium Falcon. I wonder if Stephen King would sue for stealing his idea?

Friday, June 1, 2018

It's fascinating to think of how writing evolves over time.

I've been reading a lot of books lately, and then thinking about them in my spare time.

Writing evolves over time. It really does, and it's kind of shocking to take note of how it is evolving over the years. For example, I recently read Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, and I was surprised at how much dialogue was in it. In fact, I thought that I was reading a screenplay because there was so much dialogue and so little description. As for the book itself? It was an entertaining read, but mostly I was looking to prep myself to watch the movie (which I have never seen) and to talk about the book with an author friend that likes old movies and mysteries.

During the seventies and into the eighties, the fantasy genre was ripe with people who wrote in third person omniscient. Re-visiting some of the stories I liked as a kid, I'm bugged by how much head hopping there is (without a scene break), but that's just how they wrote back then. Could you get by with that nowadays? Probably not. The bar (and standards) for the most part keep increasing unless you are an outlier like the author of Fifty Shades of Grey. I kind of wonder which author was the one that broke this trend of head hopping. Was it J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin? Or was it someone else? In any event, I'm sure there was a "key person" much like how Nirvana was the key band that destroyed the big hair bands of the eighties. Post Nirvana, there wasn't any room for those kinds of bands anymore on the music scene.

Fantasy these days is also filled with unique magic systems. Back in the eighties, no one really cared about that kind of thing and magic just happened. In a story, you either had magic or you didn't. I kind of wonder who started that trend as well. Maybe it was David Eddings. As simple as his magic system was, it was different than just about anything else at the time. And it had "actual physics" which is something that other kinds of magic in books simply didn't have, which made it really cool.

Anyway, I guess that I'm just marveling at how writing seems to change. Sixty years ago you could have written a starting line that said, "It was a dark and stormy night," and you would have gotten congratulated for it because it was nice and descriptive. Now you get shamed for it because it is a cliche. A hundred years ago, you could write a story like H.P. with no dialogue whatsoever because it's just some dude telling you his account of what happened. Nowadays? Not so much. Just like the price of housing (which keeps climbing), the expectations for what passes as a good sentence and a good story just keep going up and up. 

Ten years ago, I was complimented by someone at a Worker's Compensation Insurance Company for writing the best technical reports and resume's for injured clients that they had seen in the entire State of Idaho. I bet if I were to try my hand at that same writing today, it would be awful and not because my writing is bad. It would be awful because I haven't kept up on what employers are looking for in those kinds of reports and resumes. All of my information is outdated, and because of that, the writing has evolved into something I'm no longer trained to do.

Interesting, right?

No wonder it is so difficult for many to remain at the top of their game when it comes to writing. If a writer doesn't take note of how things are changing and then adjust their style, it's easy to become irrelevant.