Monday, November 30, 2015

The Desire to Re-Watch Star Wars

I could try to troubleshoot/rip these stupid DVDs.
                Maybe I just need another player app.
                                Little devil on shoulder appears and says: “well, if you’re going to rip DVDs …”

Nope. Not ripping stuff at this time. So I could just go online and spend, what, sixty bucks? Get them on the Amazon cloud? Yeah, but they have both HD and SD.

And I just happen to have a HD laptop sitting across the room. I was going to get an HDTV to hook it up, but somehow I got distracted by writing my story and forgot to buy a TV again. 
                So this option means I should go configure the HD laptop … AND buy an HDTV.
                                In which case I might as well spend the hundred and whatever on HD copies of 
Star Wars. My problem-solving ability has taken a massive leap in expensiveness. Plus as long as I’m getting this HDTV delivered I might as well also get a microwave, since mine’s about to break. So now I have to go to one of those creepy bigbox stores to get an HDTV and a microwave, or I could just get them on the internet, and either way I’d have to schedule delivery. This issue is getting more and more insurmountable every minute – and it’s all because I’m too lazy to troubleshoot some DVDs.

Not to mention I have forbidden myself any expensive goodies above and beyond the media necessary to survive. Until I get this book published. That’s why the HD laptop isn’t configured. So I can have a microwave, maybe. For now. 

Let’s try some YouTube. Obviously I’m not expecting to find Star Wars just sitting on YouTube, but … there are gazillions of fan films. The complete-SW-in-30-minutes edit! The Lego edit! The JarJarless Episode 1 edit! Animated version starring rabbits! Watchalongs! Commentaries! Comparison between special and regular editions! Bloopers! The beloved Star Wars Holiday Special! As someone with fond memories of the Fett’s Vette machinima from SWG, I could spend a lot of time here. There’s a lot of Star Wars periphery.

It’ll do.  For now.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Inside Out Proves Animated San Francisco is More Real Than Real San Francisco

Instead of re-watching Star Wars again, I decided to watch a new movie that I’ve never seen before: Inside Out.

This movie appeals to my San Franciscan bias that leads me to accept even terrible movies, as long as they take place here (e.g. George of the Jungle).  In fact, it even gives a glimpse of my actual street. There is a tour of an authentic-looking San Francisco house that would probably go for $3-5m or so, complete with retro radiators and landlord-white walls. The hockey rink in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge is right there in the Presidio, near Lucasland and the Disney Family Museum. The animated San Franciscans inhabiting these digital sets are as diverse as actual San Franciscans. This animated movie has more San Francisco-ness than the last several live-action movies I’ve seen set here. 

A local-style no-longer-functional decorative fireplace (San Franciscans often put decorative lights in them to simulate fire)
Some people believe we San Franciscans can be smug at times; they’re probably right. This is more proof why I’m terrible at subjective reviews. Set in SF? Automatic 10. Set in NY? Engage bias.

But besides the big gooey hug for San Francisco, there’s actually a decent movie here, where several personifications of various neurological states cooperate in animating a young girl named Riley, who suffers an extreme injury to her psyche in that she temporarily refuses to accept her status as a smug San Franciscan, and tries to escape to the flyovers.

In Riley’s case, this leads to an Odd Couple situation as her somewhat narcissistic sense of Joy teams up with her pragmatic Sadness as they navigate the destruction and rebuilding of Riley’s spheres of interest following her move to San Francisco.

It’s often hard to express, but sometimes psychological-type movies leave me screaming “no, shut up, that is absolutely not science” at my screen, while others leave me nodding happily, thinking yes, this is good useful information that might help people. And Inside Out fell into the latter category. I’ve got this fascination with formation of personality that occasionally leads me to read about psychology and neurology and similar things, but I freely admit to being untrained and incapable of possessing any authoritative opinions. Still. I liked the visualization of the complexity of Riley’s memories, and the way Sadness actually gets things done amidst Joy’s compulsive cheerleading, and the way each personification resembled their host – the same happens in the glimpses of the command teams inside other characters’ heads. Sadness is not an essential Sadness, she’s Riley’s very own Sadness, non-interchangeably.

Riley has an imaginary friend named Bingbong, a being uncomfortably similar to Jarx2 Binks, who pops up to help escort Joy and Sadness through their perilous journey from memory banks back to executive function. He irritated me slightly, as the presence of a magical knowitall seemed to detract from Joy’s scenes with Sadness. Fortunately he goes away, because if he didn’t, poor Riley would be schizophrenic and doomed to his annoying company for the rest of her life. 

This movie makes me happy because it might inspire people who like it to come visit, and I get the impression that people who enjoyed this movie would be especially fun to chat with on Muni buses or in cafes. Way more so than George of the Jungle fans. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not Watching Star Wars, Not Hiring an Editor Either

Final decision: I’ve already seen Star Wars 4-6. Several times. If the cheap, miserly studio heads had only given Lucas the bucks to shoot the finale with wookies in Kashyyk instead of Ewoks on Endor, I would have ponied up the cash for the original trilogy yet another time. Until then, I have my memories.

So I worked on my WoW characters, which is my hobby whenever I’m not writing, and then I headed into the Final Edit. It was a good thing I did. There was a line about Sonny having nightmares three paragraphs under a contradictory line in which he slept well, plus I had a party set for July 28, 3748, which is a Sunday, and actually the party happens on Saturday the 27th.  Other than that, and a mild redundant line (which I kept because there was a different audience), it’s tight.

While going through Final Edit, a question crossed my mind.

Why am I too cheap to hire an editor?
Short answer: bad experience with last editor.

Long answer: I’m new, I’m stubborn, what can I say? A lot, probably, and while going through my own final review, I was tempted to write an interview between the creative portion of my brain and the editing portion of my brain. The creative side is temperamental and moody, the editing portion is mean and pedantic. They don’t work together well at all, so performing each side takes a different frame of mind. After numerous sessions with each of them, the first third of my gigantic 400k word novel has been whittled to a lean, mean 116,602 words that stands on its own.

Possibly by the time I get to volumes 2 and 3 I’ll find an editor (and develop a sense of professionalism) (and grow up), but maybe not. Since I’m prepared for either eventuality, I’m working on my editing skills. 

But yeah, the long answer is that this book is personal. I tried to be all serious and mercenary and full of corporate appeal, and I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen short of that mark, so here’s what I’ve got instead. I’m not really interested in changing it around to fit anybody’s idea of target demographics. I’m fully aware some of these characters are bad role models; that’s intentional. Absolutely right, that paragraph on page hundred-seventeen makes no sense, it stays. Oh yes, I’m well aware of the Tom Swifty. Yes, that trope actually reverses, but I’d be spoiling chapter eleven. 

Possibly after I finish with this book I’ll be able to find an editor tolerant of my eccentricities, for future books. Until then, I’ll continue giving both ends of my brain a workout.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Re-Watching Star Wars: A Disturbance in the Force

My re-watching was disturbed by the fact that my 10-year-old DVDs refuse to play. I got Episode IV to run all the way to the garbage compactor scene, and then my laptop seized up and ever since then all I get is black screen and stuttering soundloops. Apparently this is a plot to make me buy them again, even though I already bought them in VHS, and saw them in theaters, multiple times. Since the prequel trilogy worked just fine, I blame the Sith.

Now I’m enmeshed in indecision. Buy the movies again? Find them on the interwebs? Sit here thinking about them nostalgically? Watch something else? Get on with my Absolute Final Prepublish Edit of One Sunny Night?

Some random precrash thoughts:

Greedo only appeared to shoot first. Han was actually activating a small holograph projector to make it look like Greedo shot first in case anybody who cares was watching. Greedo’s absolute lack of motion toward his pistol before the clumsily-inserted shoot-first frame appears confirms my theory.

The Star Wars franchise does a pretty good job of casting appealing men. Each movie contains at least one dashing jedi, and most of them also throw in a hot space pilot, and badboy Anakin tried to take over both roles, given that he’s a massively insecure control freak.

As far as women, I think Leia is much more appealing than Padme. Padme’s the kind of privileged woman who would be nagging you to sign up for hundreds of charity activities while disapproving of your lunch, while Leia’s lived her life smiling for cameras while secretly leading the resistance. When we meet her, she’s being cool under fire, talking back to Anakin – who has become considerably more grumpy over the last twenty years. She withstands torture, is given a horrendous part in the destruction of Alderaan and scheduled for execution, yet she’s still mentally composed enough to help the boys figure out how to get out of the detention block.

People criticized the first Star Wars film for being about a bunch of white guys; Lucas agreed, noting he was too broke to hire very many actors at the time, and proceeded to cast more women and people of color, increasingly so as the series has continued. No outrage ensued.

The seventies actors move as if they’re not contemplating that each frame will be scrutinzed by fans. It’s a relief to hear them argue and bicker after the tight emotional restraint of the prequel trilogy, where every frame is a carefully composed painting and gestures are more controlled.

The moment I fell in love with Episode 4: it was playing, on a video, in the background, while I was reading or doing something else. I had one of those old VHS players with a digital clock on the front, and I happened to notice that in the death star battle sequence, all the times line up.

This intrigued me, being that I’m familiar with editing, and how to stretch the last ten seconds on some spy’s doomsday clock to half an hour (or squish them into three if that’s what the plot wants).  I watched it, paying attention to the times, trying to figure out if Lucas storyboarded it that way or if he added the time references last, after everything was all pieced together. I watched it again, paying attention to how each little snippet of film was interwoven with the next. 

At that point, something in my brain clicked. This was not really a movie about fighting in space, it was a movie about what all can happen in ten minutes. And not just any ten minutes, but a ten minute period where you feel like you’re on a roller coaster the entire time.  That was George Lucas strutting into my living room, saying “I can put you on the edge of your seat for ten minutes, using nothing but a twenty-year old video that you've already seen a bunch of times.” And me replying, “Wow, I finally see what you did there, and I applaud it.” 

What Star Wars means to me: Many people know I’ve got a nerdly interest in Star Wars. [It’s one of those secret ways we nerds identify each other; normals go “oh, isn’t that a movie with dragons?” while nerds can usually expound on the Star Wars universe at length.]

Within the umbrella of being interested in Star Wars are many subinterests. Some people pay particular attention to the spaceships, or the Joseph Campbell touchstones, or the convoluted Imperial politics. Some have a fascination with the Jedi; I’ve always been vaguely distrustful of the Jedi and their cold, dispassionate religion that leaves them wide open to Sith influence.

I love Star Wars because it was the gateway drug that brought me into science fiction. It led me directly to Ray Bradbury and Larry Niven and George R.R. Martin and so many others, all because the Star Wars movies led directly to a craving for more stuff like that. There was a thriving More Stuff Like That industry at the time, by the way; Battlestar Galactica spawned from it. Most of the MSLT fell short of giving me the same kind of brain jollies as Star Wars, but some of it was pretty decent.

There’s a lot of gatekeeping in science fiction, and sometimes elitism, which put me off science fiction in the first place. There was a lot of dismay in that community about how Star Wars admitted a lot of undesirables to the tent; such as people that didn’t even care that there wouldn’t really be sound effects in space. And that was really the crux of the matter: a band of hairy, unkempt, unsophisticated marginals waging war on the cleancut shiny uniformity of the military industrial corporate complex, and winning. Star Wars is American like Huckleberry Finn, or maybe it’s like the Great Gatsby if you look toward the prequel trilogy. It’s about upstarts challenging the status quo. Crashing sideways into a fairy tale.

When Star Wars first came out, I was too much of a hipster to like it, or science fiction for that matter. Then I discovered science fiction hipsters, who told me I should actually be reading that book about the misunderstood alien who gets it on with lots of babes instead. Then I realized hipsters are silly, and popularity isn’t bad, although sometimes bad things are popular. More science fiction fans isn’t bad; some decent science fiction has come from it. More Star Wars fans isn’t bad; it’s a nice conversational icebreaker. I’ve gotten into some great conversations over Star Wars, in fact, with creative and interesting people.

So to me, Star Wars is about having an open mind, and embracing things that bring you closer to people outside your typical sphere -- and having the guts to like what you like in spite of cultural policing from your peers. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Re-watching Star Wars: Episode Three, Revenge of the Sith

We already know this is going to be a movie where evil wins. Anakin Skywalker is about to be entombed in the Vader suit not long after finally becoming handsome. The cherubic child and the gangly teen have been replaced by a dashing Jim Morrison. Obi Wan has even conceded defeat in the handsomeness competition, sporting a fresh new hipster do.  And Padme has lots of new outfits. 

The three of them travel to many stylish interiors with breathtaking views of Coruscant, and emote. In between that are some elaborate CGI fight scenes. We finally get to see the wookiee planet, Kashyyk, and they’re having their own private Omaha Beach as the Clone War grinds to a halt. The Clone War, in fact, lasted from the end of last movie until the beginning of this one, and in fact it was just a little part of the Sith long game, which comes to evil fruition here.

This installment plays like a wicked fever dream, with acres of plot holes that have to do with all of these powerful psychics keeping secrets from each other. All the touchstones to episode four are poignant and sad. Oh look, there’s Owen and Beru, standing in the spot where they’ll eventually die. Wow, Alderaan was a beautiful planet in addition to being a peaceful planet, pity. Hey, Yoda and Chewie are old friends – too bad Luke never mentions “by the way, I know this cool wookiee” during his time on Dagobah, thus preventing the old pals from reuinting before Yoda becomes one with the Force. Awww, there’s Padme naming the twins with her dying breath -- “bye kids, I’m going to check out for medically unknown reasons, have fun with your evil sithlord dad.”  I guess discovering she was working for the bad guy all along was more than she could handle.

R2 and C3PO are enjoying a blissful interlude together, shortly before falling into the hands of Captain Wedge Antilles, at which point C3PO’s memory is wiped, and R2 appears to be gleeful about this development.

This movie is a lot like the last Harry Potter movie, in that it contains lots of dark brooding shots of attractive young people while gothy music plays. I can’t wait until that looks dated. 

The Prequel Trilogy, in Summary

This is the story of some assholes who live in a marvelous world. Doing their best to mess it up, every chance they get. Cults! Dirty politics! Things that go boom!  A chosen one is born, fathered by the very essence of plot complications, with the specific destiny of complicating the plot beyond all imagining.  Does so, in spades.

Meanwhile, we get background glimpses of a marvelous world full of spaceships and aliens and opera with giant floating bubbles and vertical-climbing lizard mounts and droids that fight other droids. A world teeming with other people, many of whom almost certainly have more interesting stories than this pack of assholes running around trying to complicate everyones’ plots.

I probably wouldn’t have become an obsessive Star Warsian if the prequels had come out first. I don’t really like any of these people, although they are attractive and well spoken (except for Jarx2). Their characters are set firmly in jello. Anakin goes from being a streetwise kid from Tattooine to a gullible rube that gets played by Windu and Palpatine and Padme and Obi Wan, and then they all get vexed because he’s so easily played. Obi Wan is a suave ninja at times, then at other times he gets fussy because Anakin drives too fast. Padme is the voice of righteousness and reason, except for when she decides to hop in a spaceship and go somewhere because the plot isn't complicating fast enough.  

I'm ready for the original trilogy. Where even the robots and spaceships have personality. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Re-Watching Star Wars: Episode 2, Attack of the Clones

Episode 2 is several parsecs better than Episode 1. 

Cherubic Anakin has grown into a brooding teenager, while Obi Wan has assumed Qui Gon’s spot as handsome bearded old jedi at a comparatively young age. Natalie Portman is still sweet and bland on the surface, with a simmering undercurrent of righteous smugness, as she explains how electing young girls to take turns serving as queen is actually democracy. 

Recently I saw a cute video on the Mid Atlantic accent, or the “classy” style of American speech heard in mid-20th century movies. It occurred to me that in episodes 4-6, the characters speak Midlantic when they’re being formal (Princess Leia sometimes loses her accident under pressure). 
In the prequel trilogy, the Queen of Naboo has her very own super-emphasized Midlantic, which none of her fellow citizens use. It goes with the dress. 

After some great Coruscant car chases and stylish new outfits (even Jarx2 has silken draperies), the teenage not-lovers are sent to languish in a lovely rural resort while Obi Wan sneaks around doing Jedi intrigue. They have to pose as refugees, and Padme even carries one of her own suitcases while wearing a Syrian-style headwrap, and feasting from the humble steerage buffet. Fortunately she soon has her regular non-queen wardrobe of cute dresses, and she changes into several of them while trading romantic dialogue with Anakin that would be unendurable in an uglier setting.

Meanwhile, Obi Wan’s getting it done. A chrome diner full of aliens! The Jedi library!  Jedi kids lightsaber practice! Clone factories on a planet made up of stormy seas! Stormtrooper origins! Boba Fett origins! Temuera Morrison being awesome as Jango Fett!  The unnervingly slender Kamino people and their conveyor belts full of fetuses!  All of it leads up to a kickass space battle featuring the Slave I, which Boba is about to inherit, and its stash of seismic charges.

I should mention that for this rewatching of Star Wars, I tweaked my home audio so that my speakers are now suspended, dangling on each side of my head at approximately ear height, because that eliminates the rattle of subwoofers interacting with furniture. Why yes, the audience is listening, in a little cocoon of optimized sound on the couch.

I was still glowing from the seismic charges all the way through Anakin’s taking his girlfriend home to meet mom, and enjoy some nice chilled blue milk. And execute a bunch of tusken raiders, and then cry about it, even though Anakin personally obliterated a trade federation ship full of robot-controlling personnel (almost some of which were certainly independent contractors) before he even hit puberty.  And yes, they were attacking Naboo, but the tuskens were attacking his mom.  Of course, that’s kind of a reoccurring cycle with Darth Vader – massive overkill, guilt and angst, leading to emotional explosion, leading to massive overkill, repeat.  He’s so operatic.

With Padme taking a properly assertive and active role in the action, they then head over to rescue Obi Wan from the wicked geonosians, who are in league with Count Dooku aka Tyrannus the guy who ordered up the clone army, and the trade federation, and the Fett family. After an arena contest with some Oddworld monsters –

Oddworld is an odd little series of computer games, in which you play a sentient meat animal escaping from sadistic factory farms.  One of the monsters you must face is a long-legged galloping crab, the “scrab.”  Scrabs apparently struck a chord in the collective imagination and they have made their way into places like Star Wars, and World of Warcraft. The Star Wars scrab is a particularly big and scary one, with a mouthful of pointy teeth. 

Also, while everyone’s busy, Jarx2 uses Padme’s proxy to give Palpatine unlimited power. Yoda and Mace Windu trade exasperated looks and prepare for battle.

-- our heroes find themselves in a big old Jedi versus robots battle, followed by a big old mech battle, followed by some insane lightstabering. Even Yoda gets a few slices in. Heroic stormtroopers beat up evil battle droids, spaceships drop off walkers for a ground battle, lasers go pewpew and stuff explodes. Seriously, all the fighting one can ever hope for in a Star Wars movie is in the last half hour of this film. Followed by a brief and understated secret wedding. Because if Padme had a non-secret wedding she’d probably have a dress that takes up an entire city block, and ice sculptures depicting works of fiction she thinks are more literate than Star Wars. 

This movie goes on way too long, and most of that has to do with the young lovers’ agonizing courtship, but it has a lot of high points and photogenic moments. The debris-filled rings encircling Geonosia, and the sloshing blue milk on Padme’s tray betraying her trembling hands, and the deathstick peddling hoodlum in the nightclub, and C3PO’s joyful reunion with R2D2. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rewatching Star Wars: Episode One, The Phantom Menace

I’m spending Thanksgiving week re-watching episodes one through six while doing the absolutely finalist finalization of my book.  Starting with one, saving the best for second-to-last. 

I went too easy on Jar Jar earlier. He’s horrible, and embarrassing, and not funny. And grating. And his feet look creepy. I’ll have to avoid watching this movie for another decade to replenish the nostalgic fondness for him that I was starting to develop. 

I really liked Qui Gon the first time I saw Phantom Menace. A tall, handsome, long-haired maverick Jedi, perpetually in trouble with the boss, not above gambling. On this rewatch, I was checking him for signs he knew what would be happening in the next five movies, and I concluded he did know a little, and was slightly unstable due to this knowledge. Repeating, in his death scene, that Anakin was the one to bring balance to the force, and not giving Obi Wan any choice as far as his training. A “do it because I said so on my deathbad” kind of order has to weigh heavy on a padawan, given that they are traditionally removed from their parents.

I just read an eloquent Facebook post by David Gerrold about the soul of science fiction, in which he touches on the human potential movement as reflected in science fiction. Which is probably the reason Jedi are removed from their parents.  The human potential movement was still influential when Star Wars came out, and it drew heavily from the Freudianism popular at the time. By this thinking, removing children from caregivers and giving them to the hyper-sane jedi was doing them a service. Because they were free from the “original sin” of faulty upbringing, they could use their dispassionate complex-free wisdom to handle potent magic.

By the time we get to Phantom Menace, science and popular thinking have moved past Freud and all the attendant theories about how we could all be superhuman psionic star beings if we didn’t have mum and dad filling us with complexes and headtrips.  In this retcon of the Force, now the magic flows from your popularity with symbiotic bacteria, and instead of providing enlightened leadership, jedis are now concerned with bringing balance. Such as keeping corporate interests from drawing actual weapons, and not making waves with slaveholding gangsters. People who still cling to human potential sci fi seem to dislike the midichlorians the most, and the whole chosen-one storyline that goes along with them. I think it’s interesting how the characteristics associated with the Force fluctuate according to the era.

Personally, I like the whole operatic notion of a six-part story about the Faustian decline and redemption of Anakin hovering in the background of a gee whiz shoot-em-up in space. Jake Lloyd gets the saga off to an uneasy start as he plays Luke-as-a-kid with an overlay of Vader’s obsessive overbearingness. He’s a very pretty kid, with a cherubic rounded face. I found myself noticing his buddy Kitster and wondering how a kid with more angular, brooding features would’ve done in this role, which frankly doesn’t really call for skilled acting chops. If you’re the chosen one, you get to interact however you choose, and it’s interesting that you’d just happen to choose being purchased as a slave by a jedi-immune race at age three when theoretically you could have used the Force and have gotten a more jedi-amenable race to outbid him, but you know, Star Wars philosophical arguments.  [Gallic shrug.]

My favorite parts were the exteriors and crowd scenes establishing the marvelous Star Wars universe. The entire pod race segment, with its diverse stadium crowds and Big Daddy Roth vehicles. The distinctive sounds made by all the SW vehicles, including when they’re in space. The Twi’lek tarts attending to Sebulba. The backslung pelvises of the strutting battle droids. The Coruscant exteriors (in the SW universe, I would totally be living in Coruscant).  The rich dyes of Padme’s orange burka, the Dinotopian grandeur of the Naboo capitol, and every last one of those one-scene-only appearing aliens; I hope they each got their own action figure.

I also loved Darth Maul, full of sexy Sithy slither. His climactic battle with Qui Gon and Obi Wan always makes me think of Kurosawa.

Besides being an opera about Darth Vader, Star Wars can also be seen as an epic love story between C3PO and R2D2. In Episode 1, they meet cute, complete with a tease of a nude scene, establishing clearly that R2 (who has already been commended for combat skills) is the older and more experienced one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Star Wars!

Yes, I’ve got my ticket.  It’s for Saturday, nearly 48 hours post-release, at the iMax place conveniently near my house. 

I go way back with Star Wars.

I didn’t see the first one until 1979, out of an abundance of pre-hipsterish shunning of things that were Too Popular.  And Star Wars was waaaaaayyyyyyy too popular. I knew the storyline, of course, since I was a compulsive reader of everything. I knew it was science fiction, which to me at that point was a genre in which polyester-clad dudes chased babes. I was more into horror. 

I saw Empire a few days into its release. I believe the Darth-Luke connection had already been spoilered. That was the movie that turned me into a fan. By the third one, I was ready to stand in line getting sunburned for hours. I grew to love the first one later, on a living room screen, after coming to an appreciation of the skill involved in editing. 

When the fourth one came out, I had dubious journalistic connections, and I got into an early screening, following which my internet died for about a week, leaving me in this horrible time-travel-shock kind of headspace to digest my thoughts independent of conversation with other humans. During that time I concluded that I didn’t hate it, and I’d gladly jump on the bandwagon for a brief respectful interval, but I wasn’t going to stay there. I felt the same throughout the rest of the prequel trilogy. There were moments (sonic detonators!) and then there were scenes lifted directly out of Dinotopia and Oddworld, both of which are more fun than the entire prequel trilogy. 

I’ve read some of the extended universe stories, cast forever into Schroedinger’s memory hole by the new official canon. My favorites were the Han Solo stories, and the compliations of short stories about each character in the cantina scene, or Jabba’s throne room. I played a deeply flawed but wonderful early MMO called Star Wars Galaxies for a couple of years, where you could always find someone to have deep philosophical Star Wars arguments with. In fact we used it to take the sting out of the venomous real world political arguments that were occurring at the time. 

I’ve tried to analyze why Star Wars grabbed me and dragged me into science fiction fandom through the side door when earlier things like Star Trek failed to register. I think it had to do with the way Empire pummeled the characters from start to finish, and then they all lose. Take that, heroes. Sorry audience, no vicarious ego-stroking fantasy for you today.

Of course, they lost in a way which clearly telegraphed a sequel would be forthcoming to set everything right in the end.  But still. A nihilistic, hopeless, Hays Office defying, bleak, dark ending full of failed heroes, in the kiddie movie franchise of the century?  That took some guts. Nobody had done that kind of thing before – of course, nobody had done the Star Wars kind of thing before either, and decades later people are still trying. To this rebellious teen, it was a clear blow against old-fashioned stuff. Very edgy, very cool.

I could imagine myself living in the Star Wars universe in a way I’d never before experienced with science fiction. Before Star Wars, space was limited to clean-cut military types, and I was always more of a scruffy-looking nerf herder. The Star Wars universe was full of civilians, and all the clean-cut military types were villains.

Star Wars is gradually getting more inclusive on human diversity. I’d previously assumed that a little pack of white folks on a spaceship stumbled into this vast intergalactic civilization, and they didn’t have a lot of women, so they made clones, which led to clone wars and the empire.  Now the canon is getting some official black and asian characters, which I think is cool. Star Wars shouldn’t be a discriminatory place at all. Star Wars is a place where you can walk into a diner with a wookiee and nobody bats an eye. 

It’s now a Disney property. That’s cool; I love Disney, and I trust they aren’t going to jeopardize their expensive new franchise with any kind of Jar Jar Binks nonsense.

Although, I can’t really join in the Jar Jar hatred. Jar Jar’s role answers the question of “who could possibly be stupid enough to countersign putting Palpatine in charge?”  During the entirety of episode one, Jar Jar demonstrates that yes, he is that stupid. And the fandom agreed with this convincing portrayal of stupidity! That’s an amazing performance considering it was filtered through a CGI frogsuit.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Island of Misfit Books

This grueling piece from The Atlantic discusses all those novels that were rejected many times, and the website that tracks frequently-rejected bestsellers, and the publisher that met a submission with “there is no audience for this.” Which makes me want to read that book right now.
So yeah, I’m bypassing the rejection stage, although I did get rejected by a couple of agents. I’ll take my rejections directly from the readers, thank you. 

And I’m frankly horrified by the vision of some Alexandrian collection of books – for real books, non-commercial books, people talking about their lives books (which are the best kind), books that have No Audience.  It’s guarded by well-armored orcs wielding battleaxes, and lasers, and a fa├žade built entirely of remaindered Thomas Kincaide coffee table books.

“But I’m an audience,” I want to whine. “At least for the good ones.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Struggling with Short Stories, Promo Blurbs and Generalized Angst

I was almost nervous I’d scare that talented cover artist away with my pink Hello Kitty flavored short stories. So I took a stab at a couple that are more hard-boiled; with guy protagonists, and I can’t seem to finish any of them. I’m having a hard time coming up with a short, digestable slice of writing that conveys what I’m about.

In the meantime, I saw an announcement where a large publishing house is doing a Willy Wonka special, inviting unagented authors to send in their stories, with promises of developmental assistance and quotes from big names. I couldn’t quite shoehorn my story/ies into either the urban fiction or military sci fi they wanted, though. I noticed another fiction contest dealing with climate change stories, and I might squeak under the wire there, except much of my changed climate has to do with the meteor leaving the planet dark for a few generations. That's probably not what they want.

The “development” concept – with a team approach -- is scary. Nightmarish visions of hair stylists and anti-slouching coaches. They might even want me to not wear Converses, and I've forgotten how to wear other kinds of shoes. Conversely, they might pick on my adverb addiction instead of my shoes. There could be a hazing or initiation into the secret anti-puppy cult the puppies believe in where they try to get me to rewrite/delete all the characters' genders. Or maybe they'll be puppylike and upbraid me for not making my female characters delicate enough. 

Back to the original plan. Self publish. Locate people who actually enjoy reading my stuff before attempting to categorize it. Categorize better while writing second book. This is my only chance to make noob mistakes, so I might as well make them all!

I did successfully write a promo blurb.  Here it is:

On March 20, 3748, Sonny Knight had a very bad day. First, he had to stand in a really long concessions line in a stadium, in a country without air conditioning, or portable electronics. Then he fell from the top deck, suffering many fatal injuries, but fortunately there happened to be a doctor standing right there, armed with medical nanobots, because clashball can be a very violent sport. After that, a bunch of evil clones rolled up in submarines made of gigantic bioengineered jellyfish and interrupted the game, taking all the spectators hostage, including Sonny’s family and friends. 

It wasn’t a completely bad day, though. He got to meet one of his favorite sports heroes. He got a new dog. He met a girl, and he had an excellent seafood dinner. Plus he ran into this eccentric guy covered in tattoos who has a really fast ship, fast enough to get Sonny safely home in a couple of days.  Assuming they don’t run into any further complications.  [Spoiler: they do.]

One Sunny Night is sort of like Harry Potter for people that don’t like magic, or school -- oh all right, I'm lying, it’s not like Harry Potter at all. It is an action-adventure series for young adults and old kids, set in a futuristic earth full of acidic seas and redefined coastlines and perpetually disgruntled volcanoes. A world of sentient sea cows and digital citizens and bioengineered pliosaurs. Not to mention catastrophes, explosions and interpersonal conflict.  There might even be a sensitive coming-of-age story in there too.

Coming soon to Amazon’s self-publishing division.  

Wisdom from Ursula K. LeGuin

Ursula K. LeGuin is a legendary writer and author of one of my favorite novels, The Lathe of Heaven.

Here's her recent essay which just brought a big smile to my face.