Friday, June 28, 2019

I wonder if the Dark Crystal series on Netflix will give us more soul-searching and depth on behalf of its protagonists.

With the Dark Crystal series coming to Netflix in August, I wanted to revisit my feelings regarding this particular film. There's no doubt that nostalgia for a simpler time and for the eighties plays well into my wanting to watch this series. I was barely a teenager when the original movie was released, and the summer of 1982 had a lot of hits with 48 Hours, Blade Runner, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, and Tootsie. The feelings I had as a kid were that life would always be something like parents taking care of all the difficult stuff of life, and me sitting in a chair in a cold movie theater, drinking soda and eating popcorn while watching fantastical movies.

When I recently rewatched it, I felt that the movie still had some of that magic, but it was definitely colored through the lens of having grown up and not seen a thing in many decades. By today's standards, I think it might even be boring, because there are no human characters (just puppets), and there's no CGI. It's pacing is at times slow and unapologetic while it doles out what it needs the audience to know through its imagery.

And that, I think, is where I'm looking forward to seeing the series on Netlix the most...the imagery. There's something about using all of those puppets and creating everything in actual reality that makes the world come fully's a thing I don't take note of (as much) from the modern movies of today. I wonder if they'll be able to capture some of that magic in the Netflix series, which is a prequel from what I understand.

The fact that it's a prequel doesn't bother me at all. For one, the story of the Dark Crystal would be generic by today's standards, and there really wasn't too much depth of character going on in the movie. It never leaves you not know what's going on and why, and each character's personality derives completely from what its doing. There is no exploration of who the person actually soul searching or anything like that. However, I think there's plenty of that to do in a prequel series with all new characters and adventures that take place in a world that has seen the crystal sundered (and been changed significantly because of that fact).

Anyone else looking forward to watching the series?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

People in prison should be allowed to vote because the invisible garbage of our society is voting right now.

In Utah, I've debated with some people who are appalled that Bernie Sanders wants people in prison to be able to vote. I think that Bernie is absolutely correct, but not for the reason that most people think. I have what I call a realistic view of the people I interact with everyday, and it's this: a lot of them should be in jail but they haven't been caught. The only difference between them and people who are in prison is exactly that. The people in prison were unlucky enough to be apprehended and serve as a lesson to the rest of us to try and toe the line.

If you point at a church full of people, a school full of people, or a business full of people, I will assume that there's a big percentage of those in that actual building who are thieves, serial abusers, pedophiles, rapists, grifters, tax-evaders, and drug-dealers. Whatever thought processes that lead them to make the decisions that they do are the same thought processes that led people before them to do those things who are in prison. However, the people in jail--the unfortunate few who got caught and punished--don't get to vote.

All those criminals who haven't been caught who are sitting next to you in church DO get to vote and they are changing society to reflect perfect conditions in which they can thrive and exploit others for their personal gain. For example, take the pedophile. I would not be surprised if the closeted pedo that no one sees goes and votes to make the burden on single moms even more extreme than it is now. Having low wages and no support means an adult guardian is going to be overwhelmed. This means they'll be less vigilant in protecting their children, making the "kids" available for kind entreaties of "I can watch the kids while you do this and that...." It's all so subtle and insidious, but yeah, that's how that works.

To think that people who are somehow "not incarcerated" are ideologically pure and have a strong moral compass and are smart and good is asinine. It's delusional in the same way that believing magnets in your shoes will cure cancer. I know that this viewpoint is going to clash with some out there who want to believe in a narcissistic way that those who do wrong always get punished. I say "narcissistic" because a lot of the time, the people who believe this actual thing are criminals, but they would never label themselves as such. It's the same cognitive dissonance that makes a "job creator" not think of himself as a "wage slave owner," and for them to consequently declare that they are morally good and should be voting.

I'm under no such delusions. I'm not Anne Frank. I don't believe people are good at heart. I believe people get away with murder, kidnapping, rape, and other horrific crimes ALL of the time. I also believe that you don't have to be smart to get away with things. Our society is so bad at ferreting out wrong-doers that you can be stupid as a sack of cement and get away with something. It happens all the time. But in our country, these people get the privilege of voting. It's time to even the odds.

In a perfect world, where only people with strong moral compasses and compassion were somehow selected to vote and all others were denied, then maybe (just maybe) not allowing prisoners to vote would actually make sense to me. But we don't live in this world. We live in a world awash with the invisible garbage of humanity--invisible because we haven't flagged it for law enforcement. It's floating everywhere. So, it makes sense to me that if we let "invisible garbage" vote, we should let the "visible garbage" vote too.

Anyway, it's a good idea. Bernie Sanders has a lot of good ideas. I'm just surprised I never thought of the whole, "Let those in prison vote." It makes so much sense. I hope it comes true someday. We could learn a lot from our brothers and sisters who have had their lives ruined for doing things that people get away with every day. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

I think being a clever writer has been clever-clevered to the point of it being cliche.

I'm not sure why, but I'm getting tired of writers being "clever clever." The condition of "clever clever" is one in which a person has taken an existing story that blazed its own path with its own characters, and they've now taken the challenge to go through and thread this character with new made up ridiculous things...but somehow it all makes sense because you've never thought of it in that way. This trope is a huge deal in practically all urban fantasy that I've ever read or watched. The "clever clever" writer takes characters common in mythologies of the world, and somehow makes these magical creatures seem to fit into the modern world. As if somehow, with all the scientific observations humans are capable of, that somehow we just missed noticing a secret vampire society, werewolves who serve as scout leaders, and magicians attending our P.T.A. meetings.

Right now, I'm reading a religious allegory, because a good friend recommended it. I felt a little obligated to read it, and to be honest, it's a clever book. I'm not going to name it or the writer here in this blog, because I don't want to write a negative review because this is something (as far as I can tell) that is happening to me uniquely. This book, threading characters of Jesus and calling him Joseph and giving him a best friend named Biff is very clever. It's sooo clever. But I know its's annoyingly clever...and yes...the things make sense. I think "how did I never think of that?" "Oh boy is this writer clever..." and things like that. But I'm not enjoying the book. It's annoying me. I'm going to finish it because I feel a sense of obligation about it. However, I'd really like it if I never read another "clever" novel again for a really long time.

Here's the thing. Jesus HAS a story, and it's written about already in the New Testament. That story is done, and it's there for all to read and interpret and think about. Cinderella has one too. So does Snow White, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Lord of the Rings has a story. I don't need to read Bored of the Rings so that someone can show me how clever they are at taking a story and altering it with clever nuances and observations to make it funny. I just don't need that in my life at this time. It serves no purpose. Yes, the writer is clever. So please take the door that exits out onto "Clever Avenue" and stop bothering me. There are throngs of people who want to shower adulation upon you that say, "You are so clever!" Why do you need it from me?

I also want to be clear that I do still appreciate more subtle versions of clever. I appreciate when there are clever characters doing clever things. I appreciate smart stories that aren't so blatantly trying to give new spins to historical characters. You want to reinvent King Arthur? That sounds great. You want to Monty Python King Arthur again? I'll take a hard pass, although I'm sure others will think its great.

I guess what I'm complaining about really is that I'm kind of fed up with writers who quite obviously are wanting you to look up from the page and exclaim, "Boy, isn't this writer smart to have thought of that?" I've been doing it quite a bit lately, and I don't like it. I want a story to take hold of me and carry me away and leave me breathless, saying, "Wow, what a good story!" The story should be what I'm talking about...not how clever the writer is.

I think being a clever writer has been clever-clevered to the point of it being cliche.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Friday, June 21, 2019

I don't understand why a lot of people think that minorities achieving equality is a zero sum game.

My Facebook is probably just like yours, only smaller scale. It fills up with all kinds of posts, and some of them are upsetting, while others miss the mark, and some are actually helpful. Go figure, right? One that I saw recently was of the "upsetting" variety. It had to do with an acquaintance of mine, and his younger brother who lives in Idaho.

My acquaintance put up a feminist post showing a woman being called to by some rednecks in a roofless Jeep. These three men had a unanimous piece of advice for this young woman: "You'd be more attractive if you smiled more." And the woman actually reacted to it in a way that is very antagonistic. Something akin to, "I'm not interested in being attractive to you. How would you like it if strange men whistled at you and made suggestions to help you be more attractive to them?"

Anyway, the point of the thing was this: if you are a man, stop behaving like this toward women. They don't enjoy it, and it makes them feel harassed. Well the younger brother who lives in Idaho (I want to add that he is a U.S. Army veteran, so he may have some issues regarding toxic masculinity and PTSD) had strong things to say about "snowflakes" and "pc culture." The brothers got into a full-blown argument, neither one meeting on any common ground. In the end, they just stopped talking and moved onto "Agree to disagree," and that kind of thing.

I actually hate "agree to disagree." It isn't helpful, and it means that both parties dismiss the other in favor of keeping the peace. No viewpoints are changed, no minds are settled. It's the ultimate stubborn "dig in your heels" move, and it makes compromise and communication completely impossible with regard to this one thing. The more of those things you "agree to disagree" with that happen within the context of a relationship, the more the relationship deteriorates as a whole.

However, what's troubling about the whole exchange I witnessed second-hand, is that the younger brother clearly thought that feminism had gone too far. It was infringing on a man's right to compliment someone...infringing on a man's right to make suggestions on what would make a person more amiable and approachable. For him, it meant that it was no longer safe for men to be men. The very idea of being a man in the United States was under attack, and he was going to have none of it. "If someone is offended, that's on them," he said. "Being offended is a choice. Make the choice not to be offended, but don't cut off anyone's right to say anything. We have Freedom of Speech fought for by brave men and women." And on and on and on he would go.

I don't understand why he though that this woman being treated as an equal, instead of being a punching bag for a man's words, was somehow taking rights away from a man. And this is just one example. In Kearns, Utah here recently (it's just a few miles from where I live) some high school students burned a Gay Pride flag on a Snapchat video and declared that all gays should just die. As a gay man, seeing this is disturbing. Seeing that no one really cares (other than to take the high school students who were behind the event and kicking them off the football team) is also disturbing. But it's a comfortable cloth that gets draped on our gay shoulders...this idea that someone needs to be the punching bag for someone else. "How dare you stand up for yourself! If we can't pick on you, then who's it gonna be!" Those are the words that I hear when I see acts like the video I've described.

Why is America so uniquely cruel? Why is our society based on punching down on someone? Why do people think that minorities achieving equality is somehow going to rob a person with privilege of some of that privilege? We live in a country that others see as rich, yet we have millions of citizens that have to crowd fund to take care of medical bills. Our students medicate themselves for depression and anxiety. Public shootings are so commonplace now, that the news barely reports them anymore unless the death count is really high. Why are people so angry that gays are finally getting rights? Why are men so angry that women want equal pay for equal work? Why do people think having healthcare for all somehow means that your healthcare will now suck? Getting rights, respect, and living a good life should be available for everyone. But it's clearly not, and I think it's because not enough people actually desire equality.

I guess what I'm saying is that a majority of people actually desire inequality, and I don't get that. If this is true, why are we this way?

Do any of you have thoughts on this topic you'd be willing to share? I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

I think I'd like to give Man Eater a whirl even though I'm afraid of sharks.

Man Eater, a shark video game coming out that echoes the shenanigans of Grand Theft Auto, allows you to play the role of a shark going about eating people and doing "shark things." I've got to admit that I'm intrigued. I've been afraid of sharks all of my life, but there's something mesmerizing about watching  this shark just chomping people and things pretty much 24/7. Check out the trailer below from the E3 2019 gameplay.

The shark is huge too, like probably the size of a school bus. I think that just makes it that much more fun to want to play. At about the two minute mark, this shark just jumps onto a boat with no hesitation, tail whips a person into the shadow realm, then jumps onto another boat 20 feet away like it was Batman... the realism in this game is amazing and terrifying.

Also, as an open world RPG, I think you could choose to be a good shark or a bad one. Always killing people (for example) has its negatives in that people start to hunt you (not that you can just take them out in huge numbers), but I'm sure they'd eventually get you. I also love that there's a meter that measures how much you are actually terrifying the local population. Yet, even at its highest setting, I bet there are people that still go for a swim.

It just wouldn't be fun otherwise.

How about any of you reading this post? Ever have a desire to be a shark?

Monday, June 17, 2019

I finished watching Titans and I gotta say that I'm excited for season two whenever it comes.

There are Titans spoilers in this post, in case you are planning on watching it.

I finished Titans first season, and I actually liked the whole thing. To explain just a wee bit, I'm a pretty big Titans fan, having owned the original run of comic books written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez (who was the Michaelangelo of comic book art). I was there for the first visitation of Trigon the Terrible, and I was there for the second coming as it were when the comics were released in all new format and they dropped "Teen" from the title to just become The New Titans. They've made a bunch of changes from the books. For one, Trigon never needed a bunch of cultists trying to help him to cross over into our world. Raven, a being trained in Azarath and taken under her wing by the goddess Azar herself, used all of her willpower to keep Trigon from stepping into the world through her soul. She ended up finally losing to him, and when Trigon stepped through, he was as tall as a mountain, turned Titan tower to stone, and sat on it like a throne. Then he took over the entire world and all of its heroes with his mind. Not a single hero...even Superman and Wonder Woman...could resist him.

Needless to say, the show doesn't do that, and it probably never had the budget to do that. But I still think it turned out okay. Maybe in Titans's second season, we could get more of Trigon the Terrible and a bigger budget to make the truly spectacular things that are in the best issues of The New Teen Titans and by extension The New Titans. But it does make me worry just a bit that the whole DC Universe is going to implode upon itself with the cancellation of Swamp Thing (while its still airing its first season) and talks of another streaming platform being released because Warner Brothers (and Time Warner) have now merged with AT&T. As new owners go, they have a different vision for where all of these things should go, which is their right. Capitalism ruins so many good things folks, but don't get me started on any of that.

For what its worth, the cast of Titans is spectacular. They are all good actors and actresses, and I even like Raven, though her representation in the show is vastly different to the one that you see in the comic books. But maybe they will get there? Here's to hoping. 

I did like that the season finale exclusively focused on Trigon the Terrible using his mind powers to completely take over Nightwing. I was wondering how they were going to show Trigon's mind control, as it seems like a difficult thing to do. And it made perfect sense to kind of play on Dick's fear of the Batman going off the deep end and going full-on psychopath murderer (which is what happened in Dick's personal universe that Trigon trapped him in until his will to resist him crumbled). There will no doubt be more of these, as the Titans one by one are succumbed to Trigon's will in the first season, and then I imagine somehow they will free themselves to battle him in the second season finale.

I wonder if they will be able to work out any cameos from Warner Brothers' larger DC universe franchises. An appearance by Jason Momoa with Aqualad might be cool, as would an appearance of Gal Gadot with Wonder Woman. And then maybe they could use Titans as a launching point to introduce Pattinson's new Batman and possibly do the same thing with whomever they cast to play Superman.

Anyway, there's lots of potential here. I'm just hoping it doesn't get squandered.

Friday, June 14, 2019

This 3D zoetrope of jumping frogs blew my mind.

The title says it all. Click on the video and watch it come to life. It's seriously awesome, and I imagine it works similar to the way that motion pictures work. When it finally reaches the correct speed, all sorts of magic happens. Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Into the Badlands was a martial arts extravaganza and that's all that really mattered.

Recently, I finished watching the series "Into the Badlands," and overall, I found it pretty satisfying, because the kung-fu and wirework remained top notch until the end. When it first started back in 2015, "Into the Badlands" was one of those shows that struggled with what it wanted to be. You had this setting of "the Badlands," which was ruled over by barons who held onto territory via the might of their armies of kung-fu trained warriors called clippers. The main character in all of this seemed to be Sunny, but it pretty quickly introduced a character called M.K. who had a supernatural power that made his eyes go black and made him pretty much unbeatable by everyone. I thought this guy was going to be the main character. I was wrong.

Over the course of several seasons, who was in the lead kind of shifted about. M.K. started to become a villain, and in true Game of Thrones style, characters just got killed. Sunny's baron who I thought was going to be the big bad was basically a speed bump and got killed relatively early in the series. His widow rose to prominence and was going to be gifted all of the Badlands but she got killed too. Okay then. Soon it was just Sunny running around trying to save his baby son's life and in doing so, he got introduced to a long lost brother who had evil powers (named Pilgrim) and who had a powerful witch as a partner. He ended up being the big Bad, but didn't really show up until the last two seasons. I thought that was an odd choice. It gets even weirder: Pilgrim ended up using his powers to save Sunny's child, but Sunny then betrayed Pilgrim and ultimately defeated him in the season finale with the help of his friends Bajie and the Widow (who was basically the second-best badass in the series).

M.K. with his supernatural dark power that switched on super kick-ass kung-fu ended up being one of hundreds of warriors (so it really wasn't all that special) who had this talent, and they all joined Pilgrim to basically murder everyone else on earth. That didn't entirely make much sense either. However, it was fun to watch them fight. And I guess that's what I came to watch this series for in the end anyway. Naturally, the Widow, Sunny, and Bajie (a fat martial artist that was fun to watch in that role) had some people they could call on that trained their whole lives to defeat those who relied upon supernatural powers to juice their kung-fu. With these guys, they were able to take Pilgrim down and kind of/sort of save the world.

The last scene of "Into the Badlands" had a former disciple of Pilgrim finding an old west pistol buried in the sand and miraculously, it's loaded and he shoots it, and he kind of marvels at how powerful the weapon is. It makes me wonder where they might go with it. But, if it's a western in the next series, I'll pass. I've never been all that into westerns.

I did appreciate the lore that "Into the Badlands" created. They had lots of supernatural things that stemmed from whatever it was that made some warriors into complete badasses by turning their eyes black. Some of these people could use that power to heal their own flesh or even resurrect the newly dead. It was called "The Gift" and it never went to any length to explain just how some people got it, and others did not. It also explained that Pilgrim stole his "Gift," but I don't think I ever understood just why his stolen gift was so incredibly powerful (he could basically dust anyone that stood against him). Honestly, it felt a lot like plot armor.

Another thing I appreciated about "Into the Badlands" was that even with the interjection of things that could be seen as sorcery and magic, that to create anything good required a lot of elbow grease. People who went looking for the mythical city of Azra (for example) learned the truth about the place during the story. When it was found to be destroyed, Pilgrim decided he would create a new one and proclaim himself a god. Okay then. Additionally, people just didn't fall in and create a utopia, they had to be made to do so. Everything felt like it was earned through hard work for better or for worse. I feel like this kind of thing is missing from the real world a lot. For example, I know a lot of people who go to work for others and expect to be guided into a career, and they end up disappointed and depressed when it doesn't happen. For me, that just makes perfect sense. It's been my experience that in order to get anywhere in life, you have to make it happen because it's never just going to pop into existence all on its own.

"Into the Badlands" was all about people making things happen, and the entire storyline was driven by these people for good or for ill in trying to make whatever it is they cared about happen.

Was "Into the Badlands" worth watching? Yeah. I wasn't great, but if you like watching wire work and people kicking others while wielding swords, it's great. Plus the Widow fights all her antagonists wearing stiletto high heels. That right there should just tell you how truly awesome at fighting she was.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Would a world where kaiju are worshiped by humans ever run out of fun plotlines?

I was talking with a friend this weekend about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and we ended up talking about the surprise inclusion/revelation of a previously unknown and undiscovered civilization that obviously worshiped Godzilla as a deity. In Kong: Skull Island, there was another group of individuals still actively worshiping Kong as a kind of god, and there were some strong hints that Mothra may also be worshiped by twin priestesses (which is a tradition in kaiju movies that include Mothra in them). And as we know from previous kaiju movies, the priestesses preside over a small gathering of prehistoric worshipers who live on "Infant Island," and may be able to draw upon the equivalent of mystic powers.

So thinking about all of this, the Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie may be the third installment (in a movie franchise beginning with the Godzilla reboot in 2014 by Gareth Edwards), but it is the first movie in the trilogy to firmly establish an entire world wherein humans have learned to live with "Titans" or "Kaiju." And it was Ken Watanabe's character's shtick the entire time in the movie, with him saying (essentially) that humans would need to learn to be the pets of Godzilla (and not the other way around).

It's apparent to me that these previous civilizations did exactly that by worshiping the Titans as deities, which (let's face it) they basically are. Conventional weapons which humans take for granted not only seem to be ineffective, but actually strengthen the kaiju. Sure, there was that oxygen destroyer thing which seemed to only really harm the one kaiju that was on our side, but it potentially might be effective against others. But the cost of using it was really bad. That being said, I don't really see a way you could deal with these creatures very well without risking your own life and the lives of thousands if not actually millions of people. King Ghidorah was so powerful, it created hurricanes in the atmosphere just by flying around. And Rodan was so incredibly strong in flight that conventional fighter jets stood no chance against him. If you can't beat them, join them, right?

It makes me wonder what this kind of world is going to look like. If humans choose to go about worshiping the Titans as gods in order to gain their protection against other kaiju, civilization is going to be very different (by its very nature). I'm eager to see what new developments happen in a world where big creatures could, at any moment, appear and start destroying huge cities. It honestly sounds like the kind of world which would be fun to explore in a story, or even a tabletop roleplaying game. How fun would it be to be a scientist having to take shelter in an underground bunker, because a gigantic kaiju rose out of the ocean and started laying waste to the city? I just wonder if this kind of thing will make a good string of movies, or whether it will run out of ideas.

Friday, June 7, 2019

I'm five episodes deep into Titans and I think it's actually pretty good.

I finally broke down and subscribed to DC Universe so I could watch Titans, Doom Patrol, the third season of Young Justice, and Swamp Thing. I did get a seven day free trial, and I've been rapidly consuming Titans (I'm on episode five of thirteen as of this writing). I know I'll have to pay for at least a month just to get through all of these shows, but I want to give credit where credit is due, before you just see this as a subscribe/binge watch/ and cancel routine to save money. Titans is actually kind of enjoyable despite what I've heard other people say (which did prove to lower my expectations quite a bit).

Most of the negative criticism is directed at the series by Titans die-hards. And by all reckoning, I should be a die-hard Titans fan. I owned all of the original run of the comic books by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. For a time, I enshrined my "Who Is Donna Troy?" and my "Who is Wondergirl?" comics in mylar. My favorite characters are 1) Raven, 2) Donna Troy, and 3) Starfire in that order, although (just to be fair) I love all of the Titans. I should pound my fist as to why Raven doesn't manifest her soul self by episode 5...that thing is integral to her character. I should be bugged as to why Princess Koriander (or Kory Anders as she's called in the show) doesn't fly around with energy streaming from her hair or fire blasts of energy beams (not fire) from her hands (in the show she just shoots out fire like a flame thrower). Personally, the way Carol Danvers powers are in Captain Marvel remind me a lot of how Starfire should look. Those issues aside, I actually love this show.

Dick Grayson is very handsome. He's also got a huge chip on his shoulder from living with the Batman. I'm not sure how I feel about the Batman being painted as a psychopath, but the shoe does kind of fit. But in these first few episodes, Dick does kind of come across as a bit of an ingrate, reminiscing on a childhood that was stolen from him when his parents were murdered and which he landed in foster care and had the misfortune of being adopted by a billionaire who was in a perfect place to understand his particular trauma. Oh how unfortunate that must have been! Poor boy!

I actually love Gar (Garfield) who is Beast Boy. The casting on him seems to be perfect, and he too is quite handsome. Koriander is gorgeous so they nailed at least three of the cast. I'm not happy with Raven's look. In the comics she had an otherworldy maturity to her (and an otherworldy beauty to match). In the show she's a goth teenager who dyes her hair and is into tattoos and wearing black. There's way more to Raven's character than that. I am pleased that they are making a solid attempt at showing her incredible empathic and healing abilities. However, we need that soul self. It's just awesome, and I'm not sure why they aren't showing it yet.

I already know that Cyborg is part of Doom Patrol, and I'm okay with this choice. But in the Wolfman and Perez comics, Cyborg was a huge part of all of the stories. But then again, so was Titan tower, and I'm hoping that at some point we get to see an actual Titan tower. That would be great. I honestly don't expect much from the first season. I already know from a spoiler that Trigon the Terrible, when he appears, is just some actor. They probably didn't have the budget to make Trigon into his real comic book terrifying self, but who knows? Maybe they'll have that budget together a couple seasons down the road if this thing proves to have legs. Maybe we'll get some really amazing Titans's storylines.

It's what I'm hoping for at least.

So yeah, I'm five episodes deep into Titans and I think it's pretty good.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

This June we're talking genres for the Insecure Writer's Support Group

Hello all.

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time, and the start of June, which here in Utah promises to be less soggy and perhaps more sunny than May (we got record levels of rain in May). I for one am looking forward to summer. However, the rainy May days did afford me time to curl up with a book or two. I suppose that my go to choice was Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey. This is the eighth book in the Expanse universe, and firmly rooted in space opera, which is a sub-genre of science-fiction. And yes it was a good read.

If you are unfamiliar with the ISWG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you can read about it HERE and at the same time sign up for the monthly blog fest, which was started by Alex Cavanaugh.

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

It's easy for me to answer: speculative fiction. It's also what I like to watch as far as entertainment.

Why? Speculative fiction is fun. Godzilla movies are speculative fiction. The Expanse books and Star Wars and Star Trek and Game of Thrones are all speculative fiction. I crave my escapes from the reality of my life, and speculative fiction does that for me (and always has). Look...I realize that by saying this you may infer that "Mike's life may not be all roses." Well (spoiler alert) that's true and congratulations for understanding me. But on the flipside of this statement, at least I'm not hiding from anything. I know what my life is, and that my choices to a large part have landed me exactly where I am. As a philosopher once said, "It is what it is."

But while we are being honest let me at least say this: I think that most people's lives have pockets of misery here and there. It's unavoidable really. The reality of working at a job that seems unrewarding...or the day to day toils that bring us pain and feelings of unappreciation...or even the hype of getting to know a new person only to be disappointed by them later goes on and on forever for most people. And then there is of course other things like aging, loneliness, boredom, and just sheer exhaustion brought about by a 24-hour news cycle. Reality can be a real downer, and there's a lot in current events that can even be...should I dare say it...a bit depressing?

So choice of reading AND writing isn't to delve into some expert's analysis of why our current president is cray cray. I already know that, and I'm not going to read about it in novel form. I'm not going to spend time trying to understand what made Michelle Obama. I'm not going to peel back the layers of whatever comedian decided to pen a memoir. I don't care about that stuff.

I spend my free time flying amidst the stars, exploring lands where dragons live, and slipping into the skin of someone whose direct actions can change the world for good or for ill. It's escapism, plain and simple. And I likes it a lot. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Good Omens nails its ending which in my book makes it exceptional in the unremarkable genre of urban fantasy.

There are no spoilers in this post so you can read the whole thing.

This weekend I binge watched the mini-series Good Omens with my friend Meg, and I was pleasantly surprised and had an overall feeling of satisfaction after it concluded. I think the main reason for it is that the mini-series (and I'm guessing the book as well) nailed the ending.

Ever since Game of Thrones ended, I've been examining over and over my reaction to endings and how a negative one can taint the entire thing. So for me, I've realized something that may not be true with others: it's not just about the journey--the ending must land for me to enjoy a good story. I'm not sure why this is, or what's wrong with me psychologically that I can't just appreciate a journey and realize that the ending is only a small part of the entire time that was spent. But it is what it is. I have to get a good ending people. :(

An ending is so important (in fact) that it can actually make me like something that I originally felt so-so about. Good Omens for what it is, seems like old hat these days. Its plot is nothing new. Practically all urban fantasy has demons, angels, and retreads of the Anti-Christ and witches and ghosts and zombies to the point of it being ad nauseum. Supernatural, The Dresden Files, The Iron Druid, the Anita Blake books, and on and on and on. These stories just recycle each others plots and Good Omens is essentially breaking no new ground at all. I have a feeling that if a nobody had written Good Omens, it might not even have gotten published these days because there are half a dozen stories just like it out there on shelves already. However, what it does do good is make you care about the characters. And then it gives an extremely satisfying conclusion that feels good.

It's unfortunate really that Game of Thrones couldn't do this. With as much time and effort as George R.R. Martin and the actors did by inhabiting roles he created, I feel like his whole saga has been tainted a bit...discolored...and, well, perhaps shat upon? If we are being perfectly honest. Not that he or HBO didn't make their money's worth, but still.... And my feelings toward endings may not be shared by a lot of people. So I get that. But I think that if May 2019 left me with anything (looking back on it) it was this: that I understand moreso than ever before where my joy comes from when looking at stories. It lies with endings. They've got to land in a way that resonates with a way that leaves me fulfilled so that I can walk away from these characters with a feeling of peace.

So I guess that's it. For me to be happy with endings, I need to feel like I can walk away from the story, from the characters who I spent time with, and I need to be able to say, "I am at peace with them." I hate endings that leave things unsettled and conflicted. Conflict as part of a story should be in the middle and not at the end, and Good Omens does this. It's a wonderful tale, and even if you are jaded by urban fantasy stories, it's worth the time to watch all six episodes.