The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Self-Publishing: A Clarification (for those who don't know)

Apparently I've raised a tiny bit of a stink over self-publishing based on what I said here, particularly with folks who apparently are not familiar with my full position on self-publishing, which had no purpose being reiterated in that post. So, to make things more clear on my position, I give you this list of points:
  • Self-publishing is not the same as traditional publishing.
  • Self-publishing does not deserve unearned respect. Why? Because anybody can self-publish, and for free these days. You wouldn't give unnecessary respect to someone who ate a carrot, would you? That's essentially what is being asked of folks like me, that we should respect the process unconditionally, when there is no difficulty in said process. Self-published authors must earn the respect, and that often means through persistence and hard work; even then, there's no guarantee.
  • Most self-published novels are crap. That's reality, not just a talking point. You can cite a dozen novels that are exceptions, but that still does not change the fact that the vast majority of self-published novels are not worth the paper they are printed on.
  • When I say that they are crap, I am specifically talking about the quality of the writing: typos, grammar, style, etc. One could argue endlessly about the merits of plot or character, but when it comes to the quality of the writing itself, there are few, if any, arguments. Crappy writing is crappy writing.
  • Self-publishing is not legitimate. If it were, then you would be able to cite authors who have been successful doing it. But there are basically none. No, Paolini, Scalzi, and the handful of others you could cite do not count primarily because they didn't become successful, bestselling authors due to self-publishing, but due to being picked up by legitimate presses, which put them in bookstores. There are no bestselling self-published authors, only bestselling former self-published authors. If the form were legitimate, said folks would still be doing it, because why would you bother working with a traditional publisher if you could be just as successful by yourself?
  • Self-publishing will not be legitimate until such time as a filtering system can be put in to weed out the overwhelming majority of garbage. To expect the consumer to figure this out on their own is not only rude, but unacceptable. The consumer expects a certain level of quality in a published work and self-publishing, unfortunately, has not met that demand and won't until someone can figure out how to make it clear which self-published books are worth spending money on.
  • Telling the consumer to read excerpts to figure out if a self-published book is worth buying is essentially asking the consumer to go out of their way for you. The consumer is not your bitch. Their time is equivalent to money, except that they cannot earn it back. This is another reason why self-publishing is not a successful endeavor for the vast majority of would-be authors: because the consumer has no desire to take gambles or waste their time reading excerpts to figure out if a book is worth their hard-earned dollars when they can just hop on over to Borders and find a book printed by a legitimate press that they know will at least be of a certain written quality. The following are the only reasonable demands to make on a consumer:
    • To look at the price.
    • To look at the cover.
    • To read the dust jacket or the back of the book.
    • To glance inside to see if the writing is in a tense that the consumer likes to read.
  • Self-publishing is not an escape from an evil corporate publishing scheme, because traditional publishing is not an evil corporate publishing scheme. These sorts of untruths are the kinds of things spoken by bitter writers who couldn't hack it, for various reasons. Vanity presses are evil corporate schemes, and any press that asks you, the author, to pay for the honor of being printed is an evil corporate scheme, even if you're paying for something as simple as distribution or an ISBN. The reality is, if traditional publishing were such an evil thing, some of the most successful authors in history would not be published through them. After all, writers like Stephen King should just as easily be able to make a living publishing their own work rather than dealing with a traditional press, right? The problem is that people who are against traditional publishing are either delusional or sucked into a self-publishing trap and perpetuate the lies shoved onto the traditional platform. These people do a disservice to self-publishing as a whole by misrepresenting what it actually entails and by ignoring and even lying about what traditional publishing offers.
  • There are some excellent self-published novels. But one great self-published novel does not make up for an overwhelming supply of filth and wasted paper. With tens of thousands of self-published books being thrust on the public, most of them horrendous, you cannot possibly expect the consumer or anyone to wade through to find the good stuff. When I say good, I don't mean excellent or superb, just good, as in entertaining (gets the job done). This is really the only reasonable expectation by the consumer.
  • I do not begrudge anyone who self-publishes. I wish them all the success in the world, but that does not mean that I am not going to point out a harsh reality. You should know what you are getting yourself into when you self-publish.
  • I will begrudge those who lie and are deceptive about self-publishing. In particular I am thinking about people who create "presses" in order to publish their own work. This gives the consumer the impression that a work is legitimate, but what it actually does is confirm everything I've said here: that self-publishing is not legitimate, that it has a stigma attached to it that is not unreasonable, and that said author is much more willing to manipulate and deceive the consumer rather than let his or her work stand on its own merits.
  • Print-on-demand is not a self-publishing model, but a method of printing. It is used by both traditional presses and self-publishing firms. I do not agree with lobbing all POD presses into the same self-publishing bag, because it's not a fair association.
Yes, I acknowledge that some of my harshness in regards to self-publishing is the result of some particularly terrible experiences with self-published novels, but that does not remove the fact that self-publishing is a troublesome endeavor. You can get upset with me all you want, but this is only upsetting because it's reality, and one which is not at all favorable to the self-publishing scheme. If you want to self-publish, be aware of what you will face. There is a wall against it because it has earned itself a black mark in the consumer world. To fight that wall, you'll have to not only assure the consumer that your work is of exceptional quality, but also fight tooth and nail through a forest of spikes and thorns to get on top. And even then, if you make it after fighting and fighting and fighting, you still might fail miserably, wasting your hard-earned dollars on an endeavor that will go nowhere (or not wasting it, if you prefer to think that way).

Reality bites, but it doesn't go away no matter how much you don't like it.

SF/F LInks: Book Giveaways Galore!

Yup, there are more of them out there, constantly. Too many books to list, to be honest. So here are a few to wet your appetite:
And that's it for today. Enjoy!

Comic Book Reviews Up: Asylum Press Comics

I have a bunch of mini reviews of several comics from Asylum Press up here.  The comics include Warlash, DTOX, and Evil Dead.  Click the link to check out my little reviews!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Story Wordle: "Soul For Sale"

"Soul For Sale" is actually one of my favorite science fiction stories. It's part comedy, part something else. And here's the Story Wordle for it:

Wordle: "Soul For Sale"

Feel free to let me know if you've used Wordle lately!

Book Reviews Up (Sort of): Paradise Island, The New Mars, and The News Mars (A Family Vacation) by John L. Manning, Jr.

I have a set of harsh reviews for three novels by John L. Manning, Jr. They're partial reviews because I could not finish the books, but I think my reasons for not finishing are sound. It's a short post, which can be found here.

Reader Question: To Self-publish or Not to Self-publish, That is the Question

Blondishnet recently asked:
What are your thoughts on 'self-publishing?' Would you recommend it? And if so, for whom?
This is a good question, the answer to which will not be remotely surprising. No, I do not recommend self-publishing except in the following instances:
  • You are writing a family memoir that you only intend family to read.
  • You are making a photo book of some sort and have no intention of selling it.
Unless you're creating something that will only be appealing to people close to you, such as friends and family, avoid self-publishing like the plague. The reason? Because it can damage a potential writing career, there are too many companies that intentionally and unintentionally prey on people who don't know any better, and almost nobody fully understands what they are getting themselves into when they do self-publish. But I will elaborate here just a bit.

When you decide to self-publish you need to face the stark reality that you will not only get absolutely zero respect in the publishing community, because you likely don't deserve it, and that most likely your writing will be atrocious--and people will notice. Most people who self-publish do not pay for editing services, and those that do rarely pay for decent editing service, settling for line-by-line work, rather than having someone actually tear apart the manuscript. If you've been rejected by legitimate publishers, you should probably start asking yourself why. Is it possible that you suck? Or maybe your manuscript isn't good enough or still needs a lot of work? This isn't like the short story market where there can often be a flood of good stories that get rejected simply because there isn't space. Legitimate publishers reject novels for very good reasons and very (and I do mean very) rarely do they reject perfectly good manuscripts--yes, it happens, but when that happens you'll likely know about it, which should be an encouragement. If your novel was rejected, you should ask yourself why rather than throwing up your hands and self-publishing.

And here's the thing: self-published authors feel like they should get respect by default, as if being published by a firm like Lulu or Booksurge or whatever is the same as being picked up by Tor or Randomhouse or some other legitimate press. You are not the same as Stephen King, because you have opted to cheat the system, a system which works and which pays authors for their writing. In cheating, you've put out a manuscript that will most likely be seriously flawed, and now you expect folks to take their hard-earned dollars and give them to you because you say your book is good, even though it was not professionally edited, has a crappy cover, and was essentially paid for by you to be put into print by a company that doesn't give a flying fig whether your novel is any good. And that's just it: self-publishing firms DO NOT care if your book is good or utter filth. They want to make a quick buck, and I won't begrudge them that, except where they lie and misrepresent who they are. And consumers generally know this. How they have managed to become smarter than a lot of writers is beyond me, but consumers are not likely to buy your self-published book when they can get one from a professional publisher for the same price, or cheaper, and have some guarantee of quality.

And you can damage your career by self-publishing. You might get lucky and still get published by a real press, but the chances of that are slim to none. Most likely you'll get so entrenched in the self-publishing world, and even bitter about it, that you'll never leave it. In the process you'll lose out on any chance to not only improve your craft, but to also develop a career.

Self-publishing is also manipulative. Yes, there are decent companies out there that do a fine job of not misrepresenting what they do (such as Lulu), but there are also a lot of companies out there that will do everything they can to snatch up your book and make you pay to have it printed. They prey on the unsuspecting author and are the only ones who profit from it.

Be smart about your writing. If you honestly think it is good, don't give up after a few rejections. Keep trying. Just because you're having it rough now doesn't mean you won't get a break later. You won't get anywhere by giving up, and there are a lot of benefits to persisting in the writing world. Self-publishing should only be the answer if you have a certain kind of product, but if you do decide to self-publish your fiction, be fully aware of what you're getting yourself into. Don't expect respect and come to grips with the reality that you will be looked down upon as an inferior author for legitimate reasons. You'll have to work even harder to get anywhere as a self-published author, and if you're willing to put that kind of effort there, why wouldn't you do it in the more legitimate market?

Self-publishing certainly has some benefits (you have greater control of your intellectual property), but again, is it worth it? I say not.


If you have a question you'd like answered, whether silly or serious, feel free to send an email to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com, send a twitter message to @shaunduke, or leave a comment here or anywhere. If you like this post, please stumble it, leave a comment, or tell your friends! Thanks!

Graphic Novel Review Up: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry

You all can check out my review for this awesome graphic novel here.  A great read and definitely worth picking up at the store.


Rejection: Nobody Gives a Crap About Compsagnathus

Well, got another one.  Probably my fault, actually, since I accidentally submitted the wrong piece to the magazine that this one was meant to go to.  So be it.


Friday, May 29, 2009

The PKD Files: The Little god

Many of you are aware that during the 2007-08 academic school year I took an independent study course on Philip K. Dick. I read three of his novels, a whole bunch of his short stories, and a good bit of non-fiction and biographical material. One of those novels was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Most of you know this novel as the basis for Blade Runner, and I would recommend you get into the novel if you haven't already, because it is certainly a far different experience--more deeply rooted in psychological issues. Reading this novel for the second time in an academic setting has brought something to my attention I find rather curious.

Page 171 of the Del Rey/Ballantine 1996 edition of the book has a line that says: "He entered the elevator and together they moved nearer to god." The sentence itself is not necessarily too impressive. It's being metaphorical about the action of going upwards--and you could certainly interpret it on a deeper level (such as the fact that the elevator leads Deckard to the roof, which is a location where much of Deckard's problems arise--Polokov and the goat incident)--but there's something wrong with it. God is spelled with a lower-cased G. I am well aware that this could just be a typo, except that this spelling shows up in more than just this location and this book. Surely the copy editors didn't make the same mistake over and over?

With this in mind I thought it would be interesting to try to unpack this spelling. Since we're not talking about "a god" or "the gods" it is clear that Dick is trying to make some sort of allusion to the Christian God. But making it lower-cased does something to the sentence that is really difficult to describe. What exactly could he mean by "god" rather than "God"? Why would Dick leave it lower-cased?

Those who may be familiar with Philip Kindred Dick are probably well aware that he was a deeply spiritual person. I would say spiritual because it is really difficult to pin him down to a specific religion. Dick was specifically interested in the spiritual and psychological aspects of the mind. Taking this into account I have to wonder why he chose to leave God lower-cased. Perhaps it was to lessen the effect of what God stands for. Or, perhaps what Dick is doing is attempting to portray in the actual writing a sense of the spiritual loss or reassignment of a dying Earth. This is a future dystopic Earth that has replaced Christianity with Mercerism, a religion with no god or gods, but with the shared experience of a brutal journey--Mercer's. This shared experience, coupled with the technological impact of the mood organ, is a crippled version of the Christian drive to embody Jesus's sacrifices, because the success of the experience does not constitute any sort of awakening or rise to a higher plane, even psychologically. When Deckard actually experiences Mercer's journey, there is no drastic change in his person. In fact, change seems to be dominated by the androids, more than anything else (and I'll probably talk about this subject later).

The problem in asking what the purpose of "god" is in Dick's text is that we cannot know what he was thinking while writing it--not fully, anyway. Our glimpses into his mind are just that: glimpses. Trying to understand completely what he meant by devaluing the traditional capitalization of God leaves us with little to work with. But perhaps I've touched on it here. Maybe the use of "god" is, in fact, connected to the hopelessness of Earth, as if to say that God has abandoned the planet and its remaining people. But again, I'm not sure.

I'm going to toss this out to all of you. What do you all think it could mean? Have you seen this used before and in which context? Or am I reading too much into this and it is nothing more than a typo that pops up all over his work?

Rejection: Archaeopteryx

Yup another. Not much to say, just mentioning the rejection.

Anyone else getting any rejections this week?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Video Found: Interview Clips w/ Octavia Butler

I'm a huge fan of Octavia Butler's work, as she is certainly one of the best science fiction writers to have lived. Here is a selection of clips from a panel she did several years back that I found rather interesting. Enjoy:

Free Advertising For Small Presses

I've been mulling over this idea for a while, but finally have decided to put it together. Since I am a fan of the small press I've decided to offer free image advertising to any small press AND a free text link in my blog roll. There are separate requirements for these two forms. To get a link in my blog roll all you have to do is fit the following:
  • You're a speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, and related) press that at least publishes something other than erotica (if you publish erotica, but also publish non-erotica, that's fine).
This means that any small press can get a free text link in my blog roll, which makes it easy for me to find you all, because there are so many small presses out there.

However, if you want an image ad, you need to fit the following guidelines:
  • You pay your authors OR
  • Your publications send proceeds to charities
  • You publish non-erotica and are a speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, and related) press (if you publish some erotica, that's okay)
Here's how it will work:
  • Send an email to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com telling me who you are with an image for your ad attached (no larger than 234 x 60).
  • Ads must not be animated (they're annoying, sorry).
  • Ads must not contain pornographic images, nudity, foul language, or excessive gore.
  • Ads will run for a month only, and then you have to renew, unless there is nothing to take your slot.
  • Ad spaces are first come first serve beginning on the 1st of every month. This means that you may not permanently have the space, but must go back into the line on the first so another press can get a shot. Since it's free, I think that's fair.
To get an idea of how it will work, here is an example:
Joe, Jim, Jane, and Jill are all small presses. Joe and Jane send me an ad first, followed shortly after by Jim and Jill. During Month One, Joe and Jane will have an ad displayed, and during Month Two Jim and Jill will have an ad displayed. Joe and Jane may renew their ad for Month Three if they so desire, in which case they will show up once more in Month Three, unless someone else came along before them to claim the slot.

Hopefully this makes sense. In any case, if you are interested and are a small press, feel free to send me an email to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com letting me know. This is completely free, so it's a great opportunity for some free advertising.


(This post may change in the future as I fine tune things, but for now, I think that's fair. If you are a small press or an author published by a small press, please spread the word about this. It's free advertising to help support the little guy.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video Found: A Green Lanter Movie Trailer (That Isn't Real)

It's unfortunate that this trailer is fan made and not a collection of early production shots for what could be one of the best superhero movies ever made. Nathan Fillion as the Green Lantern is, well, the perfect fit. If they pick anyone else to play Hal Jordan (a.k.a the Green Lantern, or one of them, at least), which they likely will, then I will be sorely disappoint. In any case, here is the video:

Special thanks to SF Signal for bringing this video to my attention.

SF/F Links: End of May Book Giveaways

Lots of books being handed off in the blogosphere recently. Here are some notable links:
And unless I'm forgetting anything, that's it! Good luck!

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

Well, the summer movie season has officially been saved. I recently saw the new Terminator Salvation film and am reasonably assured that there will be at least one good thing about this summer's movies.

Terminator Salvation takes place many years after Judgment Day (the events we saw in Terminator 3). John Connor (Christian Bale) has become a member of the human resistance, though he doesn't run it, and things haven't been going so well. The machines control most of the world, patrolling the highways and cities. What's worse, the machines have started taking human prisoners and nobody knows why. When the resistance uncovers a signal that could effectively shut off the machines for good, Connor volunteers to help test it out before a massive worldwide offensive is launched. But there's a problem: a strange man appears, claiming that Kyle Reese, Connor's father and one of the major keys to the survival of the resistance, has been captured by the machines. Even more problematic is the fact that this strange man is actually a machine...
Terminator Salvation lives up to the hype. Not only is it a decent Terminator movie in general, but it certainly succeeds in portraying the post-judgment T-universe, giving us an astonishing sense of the desperation and terror that the machines have instilled into the human remnants of the Earth.

The thing that has always stood out for me about this series is that despite it being full of explosions and other visually stimulating things (such as robots, car chases, and general action) it is a surprisingly thoughtful series. Setting aside all the confusing time travel stuff, which you simply have to accept at face value to even enjoy this series, the T-universe asks us constantly to question our own humanity and to imagine what it would mean for a machine to become human--that last part is no more apparent than in Salvation. I am always pleased when a science fiction movie tries to do more than just be about explosions and action, and Salvation certainly raises some interesting questions about humanity.

Salvation, of course, is full of action, and it is visually stimulating, with excellent CG throughout. The cast is actually well-chosen, in my opinion, with only a minor concern with how Yelchin is going to fit into the shoes of Kyle Reese as the character grows older--will they replace him? The action, of course, is intense, as is expected of this franchise. Additionally, if you're looking for a pretty consistent and interesting story set in an SF universe, then this is certainly for you. There are some minor issues with the story in that some characters don't quite get enough screen time to fully legitimize their actions, but beyond that, Salvation is solid.

You have to give the creators credit for being conscious of the source material, because everything about this piece to the Terminator puzzle reminds us not only of the original Terminator movie, but part two and three as well, using the enormous quantity of previous story and visuals to create a fully realized post-judgment world. While certain parts of the movie are cheesy callbacks (such as Connor saying "I'll be back"), you can't blame the writers/creators for trying to keep some of the intensity and charm of the original series flowing through Salvation. Even though Salvation is significantly darker than the original movies, it still maintains hope, always reminding us that we should never give up, even in the face of an immensely superior enemy. I suspect that the Terminator movies want us to acknowledge that human is better than machine, but if Battlestar Galactica has taught us anything, it's that there is more to such things than we're usually aware of, and Salvation touches upon this in a big way.

Salvation isn't without flaws, though. The editing on this is fairly poor. This isn't to say that the movie suffers drastically from the quality of the editing, just that there are moments where you wondered why the editor decided to use a particular effect between scenes; anything that detracts from the viewer's connection with the film should be removed, which was the case with some of the scene transitions. Additionally, I wanted a bit more from this installment. While I suspect that the next movie will give us a clearer picture of the implications of humanoid terminators (particular those that think they are human), it would have been better placed here. But this is nitpicking more than anything else.

Overall, I found Terminator Salvation to be not only enjoyable, but a worthy addition to a classic science fiction series. I loved how we got to see more of the machine world, particularly the various mechanized monstrosities they have created to destroy mankind. With plenty of action and top notch visuals, this movie really is one of the best to be released thus far for the year. Go see it in theatres while you still can!

Direction: 2.5/5
Cast: 3.75/5
Writing: 3.75/5
Visuals: 5/5
Adaptation: N/A
Overall: 3.75/5
Value: $8.50

Rejection: Nobody Gives a Crap About Compsagnathus

Not much to say other than it got rejected with a nice personal note. And it is off to a magical other world where magical things happen, or something like that.


Rejection: Artemis

Yup, another one. It must be a mark of my extraordinarily thick skin that I don't even think twice about rejections anymore. I see them, shrug, and sent the work somewhere else. This isn't to say that I haven't put a lot of work into this particular piece; I have. But the piece is as far as I can really take it, I think.

In any case, this piece is off to another place far away.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Video Found: Who is Mark Twain? (Narrated by John Lithgow)

This is a rather entertaining video on the writing of Mark Twain narrated by one of the coolest actors in history: John Lithgow. It's short and quite cute. Give it a look and let me know what you think in the comments:

Who is Mark Twain? from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

Blogging on a Busy Schedule

The argument some people have about not blogging is basically the same argument made for not writing: I just don't have the time. Bullsh*t. Everyone has the time to write or blog, it's just a matter of actually setting aside that time to do so. You can devote a few hours a week easily to blogging and get a lot done, depending on the kind of blog you're running and what sort of content you want to use. Whether you want to post daily, a few times a week, or once a week, you have the time and all it takes is setting it aside for the express purpose of blogging.

One important thing you should do before blogging, and something I didn't do, unfortunately, is consider what you want to blog about. Take a moment to lay out what topics you want to cover, consider developing a handful of "features," and then get started. You can learn everything else as you go.

But you should ask yourself first and foremost: is this what I want to do? If you really don't want to blog, then don't. There's no reason you should have to do it, just as there's no reason that you have to write. You write because you want to and like it, not because it's a demand on your person. The same is true of blogging: you do it because you want to. Don't treat blogging as an obligation, but as something fun. If you can't do that, then it will show. Blogging is, in some ways, an art, and to force yourself to perform in something you really aren't interested in is not a great way to develop that art. But, if this is what you want to do, then don't use pointless arguments to get out of doing it. Do you have 10 minutes to spare? If you do, then you can blog. If you don't, find a way to create those ten minutes.

Understandably, blogging can take up a lot of time, particularly if you want an exceptionally active blog. Thankfully the blogging community is incredibly supportive and it's not hard to find people willing to offer free advice or to give you a helping hand. But you're not going to get anywhere at all by saying you don't have the time or the resources, whether you're an independent bookstore like I discussed here or just someone wanting to blog about whatever; everyone has time, just some of us want to use it for other things. But there are always a few minutes here, or a few minutes there. How you use them is up to you. Here are some situations and options:
  • On the Road
    • Bring a tape or digital recorder and writer your content verbally while in your car. You can transcribe it in a matter of minutes when you get home, or ask a friend or significant other to do it.
  • Public Transportation
    • Bring a laptop or a pad of paper. No reason why you can't write on the bus or the train. And it takes only a matter of minutes to type something up that's already been written.
  • Work Two Jobs
    • Use your breaks at work or find a few minutes elsewhere to spend each day blogging.
  • No Internet
    • Use a public library.
See? It's not that hard to find the time. This applies equally as well to writing in general, but I'm using it here to illustrate a point. There's no such thing as not having the time when it comes to writing or blogging. Usually that is an argument used to prevent oneself from acknowledging that he or she doesn't want to do it. But if you do want to do it, well, what's stopping you? Takes no more than ten minutes to set up a blog with free hosting. You could be started in no time!

What do you all think about this? Any thoughts on blogging on a busy schedule? Advice? Feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Story Wordle: "Once a Dream Did Weave a Shade"

This is a Story Wordle for a story I originally wrote for my international cyberpunk class during winter quarter. I like how it turned out.

Wordle: "Once a Dream Did Weave a Shade"

It's kind of neat and reflects the story in a way. Anywho, have you done any Wordles? If so, let me know!

Silly Reader Questions: Super Powers, Magic, Bathrooms, and Poetry

This week we have a few more silly reader questions. We'll go in reverse order this time around and start with GothixHalo:
Why in books do they never have them going to the bathroom?
I don't know if anyone is aware, but it is actually illegal to write about going to the bathroom in books. Yup. Sometimes it happens, but if you do it you're likely to be sued. You see, back in 3100 B.C. a guy named Nunchuck Dungfoot (anglicized from the original language to make it easier to remember) invented the first toilet and he declared that the whole world must acknowledge his invention lest he curse mankind to the fiery bowels of hell. Unfortunately, that has carried on into the modern world as an unofficial ban on discussing the use of bathrooms in literature. Discussing such things will result in the Trans-Orkneyan Liberation Front showing up at your house to serve you with papers. I know, it sounds insane, but that's what happened to that guy who supposedly "lied" in his non-fiction book on Oprah's show. Remember that? It was a cover for his writing about a bathroom. He's since disappeared, which tells me that he was probably murdered by the Trans-Orkneyan Mafia.

Yes, I'm making all this up. I have no idea why nobody writes bathroom scenes in their fiction. They just don't.

GothixHalo also asks:
Why do people not like poetry, but love songs, which are basically music set to poetry?
Because people are too stupid to realize that they're basically the same thing. There's really no difference between poetry and song lyrics, except that one is traditionally sung, while the other is not--although, historically this isn't true. That's basically it.

For the record: song lyrics are poetry, and if you hate poetry, then you also hate song lyrics. This is a strange conflict that everyone needs to acknowledge.

Lastly, Mulluane sends this question:
Super power or magical power?
I don't quite understand what differentiates these two things. Can't a magical power also be a super power? And do I have to choose one or the other? Let's be fair, with such a vague question you can't honestly expect me to choose one over the other. I'm taking both. I want super powers and magical powers. Why? Because in the event that someone figures out a way to neutralize my super powers, I'll still have a fallback with which I can whoop some major superhero ass.

Oh, what, you took my super ability to shoot energy beams out of my eyes? Yeah, well, I put a curse on you, fool! May you forever listen to the Sound of Music in your head, forever and ever and ever and ever.

Yeah, it's like that. But maybe I shouldn't be allowed to have any abilities. I think I might abuse them. I can imagine myself getting revenge on people who bother me, and that's not how super heroes are supposed to act.


If you have a question, whether silly or serious, about science fiction, fantasy, writing, or, well, whatever, feel free to leave it in the comments, email it to me at arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com, or tweet it to @shaunduke. If you liked this post, feel free to stumble it, digg it, tweet it, or whatever.


Memorial Day: A Fond Thank You

To all the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, from the dawn of our country to the present, who have died serving the people of the United States of America, I say thank you. Whether you fought in the Revolutionary War or Iraq, you deserve every American's thanks and gratitude. It matters not whether the war was just, because Memorial Day is not about the decisions of politicians, it is about the men and women who died doing what their country asked them to, who sacrificed their lives for every one of us.
So, again, thank you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review Up: The Dragon Hunters by Paul Genesse

My review of The Dragon Hunters by Paul Genesse is up and can be found here.  It's a good book and well worth reading.  Check out the review and leave a comment!

How Independent Bookstores Can Survive

The other day Mulluane pointed me to an interesting discussion on independent bookstores and blogs and one of the quotes stood out to me as a particularly absurd statement:
Very small stores may not have the time or the resources to devote to maintaining a blog. Small to mid-size stores may not be able to dedicate someone to consistently write a blog (and you must be consistent). Some bookstore owners or managers may not feel they have the technical expertise or Internet savvy to create a blog. Some stores question the effectiveness of a blog in generating sales. I’ve heard all the excuses.
Small stores don't have the time or resources to devote to a blog? Perhaps this explains why so many independent bookstores are suffering right now and have been suffering for a while: they simply haven't converted. I would argue that the only hope for independent bookstores to survive is to establish web presences, to enlist the avid support of cause-oriented web-goers, because there will be a point when almost all purchases, particularly of books, will be made online, rather than in the store, and no store can hope to survive if it cannot make itself available online. But that's not what this post is about. This is about blogging on a busy schedule and a tight budget (and it is advice that is useful to anyone, not just bookstores).

I think the above quote really makes it clear what kind of people tend to run independent bookstores: not particularly web-savvy ones. Blogging is essentially free, and probably always will be so long as places like Blogger and Wordpress continue to offer their services. Obviously bookstores want to host their own websites, which does cost money, but a blog is free to start and relatively easy to transfer over to a personal domain, which I'm not going to talk about here. Basically, you don't have to pay anything to start a blog and maintain it. You can use a free service, get a free template that suits you, and blog like nobody's business.

But bookstores also have resources: they have supporters, friends, etc. There's no reason why an independent bookstore cannot create a small following of Internet friends who would be happy to provide their words free of charge to support the store. This is why we have websites dedicated to supporting independent bookstores and why the Internet is flooded with people who buy indie (there's sort of a movement both online and otherwise that puts the indie store at the top, and I suspect this is an extension of the hippie movements).

This all depends on the store and the people who run it. Independent bookstores cannot hope to survive the rapidly technologizing industry without adopting within themselves the complicated mechanisms that make up the Internet. They have to adopt new practices including social networking on places like Twitter and Facebook, creating websites that incorporate all aspects of bookselling and promotion (from author events to buying books online), and reaching out to supporters. This isn't to say that doing these things will guarantee the survival of indie stores. I suspect that bookstores are a dying breed; we'll likely reach a point where only a handful of stores will exist, whether chains or otherwise. When even massive stores like Powell's are feeling the burn (a store that has, in my opinion, surpassed any other bookstore in existence by not only having the widest possible selection--which, understandable, not all stores can have--but also staff who have actual experience in the various genres/sections of the store itself) it is perhaps a bad omen for bookselling in physical form in general.

But the death of the independent bookstore need not be because of negligence. Let it be because of forces outside of their control (shifting buying habits, change in markets, the economy). There is no reason why independent bookstores cannot devote some time to their own promotion online, and it is, in my opinion, and essential part of running a bookstore. If you don't have time to do even something as simple as running a blog, then don't be surprised when your store dies because nobody knows about it.

SF/F Links: A Few More May Goodies

I have a handful of new links that you all might be interested in. The blogosphere is certainly alive this month! Enjoy:
And that's it. Hope you find the links interesting!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Movie Review: Wolverine (X-Men Origins)

This summer isn't shaping up to be a particularly good one for movies, at least not for me. While I didn't despise Wolverine like I did Star Trek, I also didn't think it was that great of a movie. Okay? Sure, but far from what was necessary to do justice to the origin story of the Wolverine character--arguably the favorite of the X-men next to, perhaps, Professor X.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is, to put it bluntly, a mostly pointless story of how Wolverine became, well, Wolverine. It follows him as a young boy with a troubled and conflicted past to a young man waging a personal war alongside companion/brother Victor Creed (a.k.a. Sabertooth). When Creed's insatiable drive for violence lands both of them in a military prison, and subsequently in front of a firing squad that fails to kill them for obvious reasons, they are approached by a fellow we've met before (William Stryker) who convinces them to join his special team with "special" privileges (which essentially means they can do whatever they want).

Logan, however, decides he's done with that life and skips town, resolving to start a new life without death and murder surrounding him. But apparently you can't just leave the team and expect never to hear from them again, and when Logan's past comes back to haunt him and destroy his life, we find out what happens when the wolverine let out of its cage...
Wolverine isn't a bad movie, per se, but it's not a particularly good one either. I would say it's more along the lines of an okay movie, one which entertains only enough to keep you from leaving the theatre, but not a film that makes you ooh and ahh--although there were some points where I verbally indicated that an event on the screen must have hurt. Wolverine's flaws are partly due to the fact that it is a prequel and partly due to some rather mediocre computer graphics.

The problem with prequels, and especially with the Wolverine story, is that we already know what's going to happen. We know that Logan meets up with the X-men at some point in the future and that all his lost memories--or at least most of them--are eventually unlocked--you find out which ones he never finds out in this movie. So, it seems somewhat pointless to have a story that tells us how he became Wolverine when we kind of already know. That isn't to say that his origins aren't important, just that this suffers from many of the problems that plagued the Star Wars prequels as stories. And it's more so with Wolverine because we were given an enormous amount of detail in the X-men movies.

The plot for Wolverine is pretty easy to follow, though it does get a tad convoluted towards the end. I don't think this is necessarily a problem, though I think the writers could have dug deeper into the ethical issues within the story--but it's an action movie, so I guess I shouldn't expect deeper storylines. I do think the ending itself is somewhat questionable; we needed, in my opinion, more to go on to understand and accept what happens.

Probably one of the most glaring issues with Wolverine, however, isn't the story, but the computer graphics. There were far too many moments in which questionable computer graphics were used, often at times when one could easily have put the actors on strings and achieved a far better result. There are times when Wolverine's claws look almost like someone had fabricated them for a video game rather than for a film, which would have been fine if we were playing a video game rather than sitting calmly in a theater.

I'm not sure where the folks behind this film moved away from the relatively competent CG work of the X-men movies, but the departure here is a monumental failure. When the audience becomes painfully aware that they are looking at computer graphics and not something that is either real or pretty darn close, you start losing credibility, particularly because the more we're exposed to such things, the more we start to lean away from that leap of faith moment that allowed us to buy the premise of the story itself. So, why the filmmakers half-assed the computer graphics in this film is beyond me. Ten years ago, this would have been top notch, but now it looks like a bunch of amateur filmmakers were trying to make an awesome fanfilm. To me, there is no logical reason for any major Hollywood production to have such weak visuals; the technology is readily available and affordable.

But beyond this, the film is a mixed bag. The cast are good in some respects, and questionable in others. Liev Streiber was surprisingly effective as Sabertooth; he was menacing, wicked, and kind of scary. I had been concerned that he wouldn't pull it off, but I think he was, perhaps, the best choice for the character. Other good choices: Kevin Durand as Fred Dukes/The Blob, Dominic Monaghan as Bradley, and Will i Am as John Wraith. Taylor Kitsch as Gambit left a little to be desired; yes, I think he managed to capture the character fairly effectively, but his accent was off and needed some fine tuning, some enhancing to give it enough of that Cajun flavor.

Where the cast gets questionable, however, are in its selections for Stryker and Deadpool. As much as I like Ryan Reynolds, I am also a bit sick of him. He essentially plays himself in everything he's in, and it was impossible for me to separate his rendition of Deadpool from his character in Blade 3. The fellow who played Stryker never came off as evil as the fellow who played him in the X-men movies and was largely forgettable. Most of the other actors, unfortunately, can be forgotten in this film, and that's really a sad thing when you realize that some of them are actually integral to the story. So be it.

There were also some serious continuity issues with the film, though I suspect that only attentive viewers will notice or care. For example, it is supposed to be extremely painful when Wolverine's claws push through his bones and skin, yet we get almost no indication that he ever feels pain when this happens. Other issues are with Deadpool, who is supposed to be a masked figure with a disfigured face; but here we get a pretty-faced Reynolds. Perhaps I'm just nitpicking, but I found that they bothered me throughout the film.

All in all, I don't consider Wolverine to be a terrible movie. While there are moments that I hated, there were also plenty of moments that I really enjoyed. The opening credits were, for me, enjoyable, and I really hope we see more of the Blob in the future. I don't know if I would recommend seeing this movie in the theaters. While it's always better to see a movie on the big screen, sometimes a film isn't worth the cost of the movie ticket (this is why I'm adding a new feature to my movie reviews: value). I saw it as a matinee and I don't think I would pay matinee prices for this movie again. It's okay, but certainly not worth $7.00. But, if you like action, this has plenty of it and will probably keep you entertained throughout.

Direction: 3/5
Cast: 2.5/5
Writing: 2.5/5
Visuals: 1/5
Adaptation: N/A (I don't know enough about the comics to adequately voice an opinion here)
Overall: 2.25/5
Value: $4.00

Friday, May 22, 2009

Writing Prompt #1: 300-word Story Challenge

Recently John of SF Signal challenged me to write an extremely short story using a rather bizarre prompt:
A steampunk culinary cat mystery involving manga in 300 words or less.
Since a commenter recently suggested I start offering writing prompts to my readers, I thought this would be a great way to start. Since I've already written my 300-word story on this prompt, I'm going to put it up to my readers to come up with their own versions.

So, in 300 words or less, tell a steampunk culinary cat mystery involving manga. You can use those elements however you please, so long as it remains under 301 words. Post your stories in the comments section for this post and let everyone else know about it. Anyone may enter, whether you're a budding writer or someone who has never really written anything before.

Here is my entry:
Catnip Pete and the Case of the Naruto Blanco
The rusty cat-box steamed and told me it had happened at midnight. Someone had stolen the infamous Naruto manga from Mr. Wilson’s front window, and the Mechanical Steam-powered Cat-box Enclave didn’t like that one bit. So I took the case, along with a recipe for Cherry Rhubarb Pie for the misses. I can smell it now, like catnip for the sophisticated palette.

That’s not all I smell: Mr. Wilson’s front window reeks of five-year-old, and the chocolate fingerprint smudges on the glass tell me I’m dealing with none other than Johnny Stumblefeet. I follow the scent; he’s close, too close, but what do you expect from a five-year-old?

I find him in the alley, munching on a chocolate bar and rubbing his grubby fingers over the pages of the manga. Already I can see that half the pages are ruined. He smells of old cheese. Gouda.

He sees me and grins. “Kitty!” His hands grab, tug my tail, mess my fur.

I push him away with a declawed hand. “Give me the manga, Stumblefeet.”


I grab the book. No time to argue, the misses is waiting for her pie. He stands, but his grip loosens and I flash him a toothy grin and rip the book away. His feet catch underneath him as he pursues. I hear him strike the ground as I round the corner at the end of the alley. He’ll live.

Mr. Wilson grins when I return his Naruto. My reward is a can of cherries and some sliced rhubarb. Heading home, I think about that pie and salivate. The misses meets me at the door, her fur gleaming in the sun.

“So?” she says, wondering how it went.

I grin. “Elementary.” School, that is.


Hope you all enjoyed that. Make sure to spread the word about this post and to post your entry!

SF/F Links: The Giveaway Batch

Because there are a lot of book giveaways going on during the month of May, I thought I would have a post dedicated specifically to them. Here goes:
And that's it for now! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

7 Reason Why I Won't Follow You on Twitter

Twitter is a great tool when used properly. One of the biggest problems with Twitter is that everyone and their mother is trying to use it, and unfortunately I'm not going to follow everyone and their mother. Here are the seven reasons why I won't follow you on Twitter:
  1. You post nothing but links. I'm not interested in your dozens of links about a topic I'm already not interested in. Twitter isn't a link mill. Do something else.
  2. You use Twitter only to promote yourself and refuse to be a part of the community. I don't follow people I know I'm not going to be able to chat with. I want conversations, sharing, and cooperation, not a one-sided borefest. There are exceptions, of course, for publishers.
  3. You type in textspeak or are otherwise incapable of using even basic English spelling, punctuation, and grammar. I know you only get 140 characters, but if I need a chatspeak dictionary to decipher what you're writing, then you're a waste of my time.
  4. You follow ten times more people than follow you. Unless I already know you, I'm likely not going to follow you if it's clear to me that you're on Twitter to spam.
  5. You try to force me to buy your product. Chances are, I don't want it, even if it is something up my alley. Tell me about it, and then shut up.
  6. You're just another of those self-proclaimed SEO masters or whatever other nonsense Web 2.0 titles are out there. Honestly, I don't really care. I'm not on Twitter to find out how to make my blog the next Boing Boing or whatever. That, and, there are about ten trillion of you people out there, and none of you offer anything new. I can Google most everything you say.
  7. You're interested in subjects that I'm not interested in or you don't have a bio. With rare exception, I am not going to follow you if your bio indicates that you are into something that, quite frankly, I could care less about. I don't care about horse racing or bingo or how to sell dresses. My bio indicates what I am interested in, and unless I know you or somehow find you interesting, I'm not going to bother following you if your Twitter account will be dominated by subjects I find exceptionally boring or inappropriate.
What about you? What reasons do you have for not following people on Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and if you like this post, consider stumbling or digging it. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Story Wordle: "To Lie With Spirit"

Here's one for a piece I wrote quite a while ago about Mars.

Wordle: "To Lie With Spirit"

As always, let me know if you've done one of these, even if it wasn't for a short story!

1000th Post Massive Giveaway

In celebration of my 1,000th post here at WISB, I've decided to host a huge giveaway to all my current and future readers. Special thanks to SQT for offering up a few books she has in her pile for this giveaway.

I'm giving away four different prizes, all of them books or comics. They are as follows (click the Read More to see the whole post):

Prize #1 (Comics/Graphic Novels)
Welcome to the Jungle (The Dresden Files graphic novel) by Jim Butcher and illustrated by Ardian Syaf.
Undead Evil (special edition) from Asylum Press
Warlash: Dark Noir from Asylum Press
Warlash: Zombie Mutant Genesis from Asylum Press
DTOX (special biohazard edition) by Frank Forte and Nenad Cucunja (from Asylum Press)
Prize #2 (Novels)
Low Man by T. J. Vargo
Arthas: Rise of the Lich King (World of Warcraft) by Christie Golden
Prize #3 (Novels)
Where Angels Fear (short story collection) by Ken Rand
Into This Mind by Lisa Nevin
Low Man by T. J. Vargo
Prize #4 (Novels from SQT)
The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt
The Princep's Fury by Jim Butcher

Here's how to enter (open to US Residents only, unless you can pitch in for international shipping; open to everyone except myself, because that would be ridiculous):
  • Leave a comment or email me at arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com saying one thing you like about WISB and one thing you dislike or think could use work (criticism if you will). No, it need not be elaborate. You can say "I like green" if you want. I don't care what's said, so long as you say it. Please provide an email so I can contact you (either in your profile or in the comment).
For additional entries, and there are many, you may do any of the following (put them all in one post to make it easier to track, please)(options with *s by them are favored options by me, but by no means mandatory):
  • **Subscribe to my blog using one of the options in the upper left. If you are already subscribed, let me know in your comment and through which method and you will still get an extra entry -- +1 Entries
  • **Blog about this giveaway and leave the link here -- +1 Entries
  • Tweet this giveaway on twitter with @shaunduke and a link to this post and leave a link to it here -- +1 Entries
  • **Stumble and review this giveaway and let me know where (your stumble name, etc.) -- +1 Entries
  • Stumble and review any other significant post on WISB (not my rejection posts, but my actual post posts) and let me know where (your stumble name, etc.) -- +1 Entries per Stumble (let me know where they all are if you do more than one; maximum of +5, because otherwise you could get +500 and that's ridiculous)
  • Become a fan of the Facebook Page for WISB (let me know who you are in your comment) -- +1 Entries (if you are already a fan, let me know too and you will get +1 anyway)
  • Follow me on Twitter and tell me who you are (if you're already following me, let me know who you are and you'll still get the +1) -- +1 Entries
  • **Leave a comment on this page letting the artist know what you think about his project to turn The World in the Satin Bag (my blog novel) into a graphic novel (more than just a sentence, please) -- +2 Entries
  • **Write a review of my blog on its Kindle page (more than just a sentence, please) -- +5 Entries
  • Buy any one item from the YWO Zazzle Store (lots of shirts and other fun things there; let me know what you bought) -- +20 Entries
And that's it. There are a heck of a lot of ways to improve your chances of winning (most of them really easy, actually). Hopefully it's not too overwhelming. Giveaway will be open until June 11th. Four winners will be chosen on the 12th using a random number generator.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alternate History: Science Fiction or Something Else?'s recent post got me thinking about the problem that is alternate history. As highlighted by Tor, the opinions on alternate history seem to be relatively split down the middle: some believe it is science fiction and others do not, except in certain scenarios. I think I've voiced my opinions on this before, but never in a post dedicated to the topic.

I have issues with considering alternate history as science fiction. I probably fit into that second camp that considers the genre largely something else, except in those occasions when someone from a future point is actively participating in the altering of history (Back to the Future, for example). The problem seems to be one of definition. I consider science fiction to largely be future oriented, in some capacity, with a heavy focus on some aspect of scientific discourse, whether accurate or otherwise. Thus, works like 1984 and Star Wars can be held within the science fiction genre (where they are then split into different subgenres for the purposes of differentiation). Science fiction, for me, must always consider the impacts of the present (or even the past) on a future point, even if that future point is tomorrow, rather than one hundred years from now.

With that in mind, how can one possibly fit alternate history into the science fiction genre? It's not about the future, it does not at all reflect upon the present, and it is not, as a genre, concerned with scientific subjects (from sociology to politics to physics)--though such subjects may play a part in certain tales. Alternate history tends to ask "What if this did or didn't happen?" while science fiction tends to ask "What if this happened?" There is a disconnect there between what I consider to be the under-riding question. Science fiction never asks us to think about what didn't happen; it is an active, progress-based genre (whether for good or for bad).

But what do we do with alternate history if we can't place it in science fiction? Wouldn't it be fare to give it its own category? The generally accepted genre classification takes speculative fiction as the main genre, with science fiction and fantasy underneath as subcategories--sometimes horror gets put in there too. Why must we stick everything within those two subcategories? It seems somewhat absurd that everyone must either be fantasy or science fiction, and not something else--except where legitimate crossover is concerned, such as a science fiction horror, or a science fantasy, etc. Couldn't we take the easy road and introduce a category specific to alternate history? As a genre, alternate history is neither science fiction, nor fantasy, but it is speculative. Perhaps that's the best thing to do with it.

What do you think? Do you consider alternate history as science fiction? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reader Question: When to Think About Endings

GothixHalo recently asked:
When you are writing is it better to have the ending already worked out or to have it work itself out during the process?
There's no proper way to answer this question. How you write endings is entirely up to you based on what works best. Some writers have them worked out beforehand, and others like to leave things open, if not a little mysterious. I'm one of the latter and it would be foolish of me to tell you to write the way I do if it will not help you. A lot of writing tips tend to have an issue of presuming that everyone should write the same way, when in reality we all should write in a manner that works best for us as individuals.

With that in mind, however, I can talk about my process for endings in hopes that will be of some use to someone. I intentionally avoid planning endings in anything I write, at least not in the beginning. Clearly I have to have some sense of where I'm going, but the more vague I can keep the final moments of the story, the more interesting the story is to me. I have an issue with losing interest in stories that I already know the end to. A part of me wonders what the point is in finishing a story that I already know the end to. Since the writing process is largely about me, and not anyone else, this makes sense, but I imagine it will lose that clarity when I get published and develop fans (and if they are at all as rabid as George R. R. Martin's fans, then I'm in for it).

Endings are, for me, both the most important and least important elements of stories. On the one hand, the ending is, well, the ending, and without it the story never concludes, never fulfills its metaphysical contract with the reader, the writer, or the characters. On the other hand, endings are less important than the other factors that make a story, such as the characters themselves, or the imagery. Endings can make or break a story, but they don't always have to. An ambiguous ending is not necessarily a bad one, and in some cases the more ambiguous the ending, the better. This all depends on personal preference, though, and I find that I enjoy certain kinds of endings more than others (I prefer incomplete or less-than-happy endings).

There's no easy answer to this question. What one should do is try it both ways. Try planning the ending ahead of time and see if that works out for you. Then try it the other way and see what happens. It would be wrong of me to say that you have to do it one way and not another. Nobody, even a published writer (unlike myself), has the authority to tell you how you should write. Writers may give you advice and may suggest to you things that have worked for them, but what they say should always be taken with the understanding that what works for them may not work for you. People fiddle with "conventions" all the time, and there's nothing wrong with that.

What about all of you? Any thoughts?


And that concludes this week's Reader Question. If you have a question, feel free to let me know in the comments, send it via a tweet to @shaunduke, or email it to me at arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com. If you liked this post, please consider stumbling it, bookmarking it, or whatever.

Rejection: Archaeopteryx

Another rejection!  Unfortunately it was a form rejection, but considering what the magazine just went through I suspect almost everyone is getting forms right now.

Oh well, I'll be submitting to a new magical place shortly.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rejection: To Paint Lords Green

The second rejection I had yesterday was actually far more positive than the other.  "To Paint Lords Green" is a fairly new story that I finished editing on the 15th.  In any case, it will be going off to some other fantasy place.  But the good words were as follows:
This is a perfectly good story, but it doesn't quite have the feel I want. Try it on another market.
And that's that.  Toodles!

SF/F Links: May and a Half!

Another roundup of links for the month of May. The interesting stuff keeps coming and coming. So here goes:

Rejection: Nobody Gives a Crap About Compsagnathus

Yesterday was an excellent day to get rejected.  I got two rejections yesterday.  The first is for the story mentioned in the title for this post.  The editor had this to say:
Thanks for sending in your story "Nobody Gives a Crap About Compsagnathus," but I've decided not to accept it [I cut the mag's name out because I'm not sure if I should keep such things]. The writing is well done, but the idea for this one just didn't connect with me. Good luck to you with it and thanks for the look.
That's a decent rejection in my book.

Anywho, it's off to some other magical place, wherever that may be.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek (A more optimistic view of Abrams' future and his film)

I would love to insert a witty (A.K.A cringe-inducing) quote from previous Star Trek installments here to start this review off but unfortunately, if this movie is any indicator at least, I have no prior knowledge on any star trek canon beyond the simple “Beam me up Scotty” and Spock’s death grip. Even though I had no knowledge on the matter I still wasted no chance to ridicule anyone who showed a particular liking towards the series or anything having to do with the series. I unfairly mocked Trekkies and upheld Star Wars’ superiority; an upheld opinion I still see as true. Today I am glad to report that all my previous judgments have been turned over and I send an apology to any Star Trek fan I may have mocked in the fan because I believe, unlike my good friend Shaun, that this movie was amazing and beyond anything I could have expected.

The film starts off immediately with U.S.S Kelvin (I apologize in advance for any misspelled ships or creatures since I have no idea as to anything about them prior to hearing about them in this movie) being attacked by a Romulan ship led by the evil captain Nero (Eric Bana). Right off the top the visuals are stunning with Nero’s ship, which is this massive mining vessel that just reeks of evil, emerging from a lightning storm in space in front of a miniscule by comparison Kelvin. Nero summons the captain onto his ship and immediately kills him upon learning that he knows nothing about anyone named Spock, who Nero is searching for, and proceeds to attack the ship. The new captain George Kirk valiantly flies his ship into Nero’s giving his wife enough time to escape and give birth to their newly christened child Jim. Fast forward years later and we are introduced to the characters of Spock and Kirk as children and then adults ready to enlist in Starfleet which sets the movie in motion.

There is much to rave about this movie and it has been hyped up since the beginning, but the first place that really succeeds, or the backbone of it all, is the story. It’s a complex tale revolving around the introduction of all the original crew members and also adding to the mix a time travel bit which sets up an alternate existence. Without getting too much into spoilers let me quickly remark that while some people (cough cough) have found parts of this time travel arc ridiculous beyond any means or reason, I myself found it extraordinary not only in the fact that it serves great purpose to the story itself, but that it also manages to set up this prequel perfectly by having the time travel create this set of characters as an parallel universe to the original characters and storylines. So in the show apparently Spock was never captain and Kirk’s father never died, well this new movie changes that and it allows for introductions of all of the characters once more and wonderfully builds those characters from the ground up which is I why I think someone like me, who had no previous knowledge, could enjoy it so much.

So you have the story and you have the effects, and that’s better than most movies get these days (I’m looking at you Wolverine), but it’s not over yet. People still had to worry about the acting and how these new people were going to revive or ruin the characters that they had grown to love and after seeing this movie I have to say that I don’t think any one of those characters could have been replaced. (With the exception of maybe Uhuru.) The acting was just so good in this movie that you could probably sit down watching these characters talk to each other in a white room and you wouldn’t get bored of it. First you have Chris Pine as Kirk, who is really just a stupid college kid who gets into trouble a lot and has no real goals in life. I never really bought this guy as someone who could lead a starship or do anything (in other words, he was NOT Kirk.) Especially since he seemed to get his ass kicked in every scene that he fought in, but then at the very end you can see that he has grown as a person, and as he majestically takes his seat on the enterprise you know that he is now Kirk. Eric Bana isn’t amazing as Nero, but he does an ok job, and I bought him as a villain, although if we’re going to nitpick and I had to find something wrong with this movie I would have to say this; If you watch your planet get destroyed as Nero did and then get sent back in time (Way back in time) wouldn’t the first thing you try to do be… save your planet and not wait around looking for a man? That’s might just be me though.

Of course while Kirk may be the lead character in this film, the big show stealer is his future partner in crime Spock played by Zachary Quinto from Heroes, and Quinto is, well, amazing. There was not a second that went by in this movie that I doubted him as Spock, and I didn’t even know who Spock was. I just knew that every line that he delivered was perfect and by the time he pulled the infamous Death Grip on Kirk I was jumping up and down my seat with the knowledge that if all else fails, at least there was one amazing performance that came with this. Apart from the major characters all of the side characters get their parts done well too. What I like particularly is that none of the crew members that we are introduced to are expendable. They are each shown to us and instead of disappearing into the background immediately to be used as props more than anything, they are each given their time to shine. Each crew member gets a moment where the movie tells us, “This is Scotty…and this is why he belongs on this god damn ship.” You have Zulu who says he learned to fence, and then they show us his fencing skills and he saves Kirk. Scotty who can beam you up like no one else can. Seventeen year old with the accent whose name escapes me is just awesome in his own right, and Bones (probably the best of all the supporting actors) who just nails his character.

Overall this is an excellent movie, and one of the best movies that’s out right now, so your choice should be easy if you and your friends have no clue what to watch this weekend. There’s action, there are awesome characters, it’s funny, it’s well directed, well written, and It’s just a great movie. See IT! 4.5/5

I’ll now take a moment to point out Shaun’s arguments (Warning: Spoilers Ahead! This may get messy) beginning with our little mutual agreement; Uhuru..

I feel that Uhuru was also wasted on this film, not so much that she was completely disposable (But if you had to choose one character, she’s the one to go), but in that she was the only character that they never really fleshed out or used. She got to use her skills once, and even took over a higher ranking official because she was better at languages, but that’s pretty much it. She’s thrown into this relationship with Spock which was never introduced and we’re just supposed to accept as an audience, but unlike Shaun I don’t feel she was there simply to aggravate the tension between Kirk and Spock (because that never happened with her) but as a parallel of Spock and his own father, which made Spock all the more human. So not a complete waste of time and space, but definitely could have been better.

I liked Chekov! (Thanks for the name, I’m assuming he’s the seventeen year old) I thought he played his part really well and he was funny. Not in the way that I was laughing at him, but at what he did. “I can do that! I can do that!!!!” He was an awesome little guy, and was nowhere near the sludge that is the epic/date movie crapfest.

I think Kirk was awesome because you’re right he wasn’t Kirk. He was not playing Kirk the entire movie until the very end, in essence the whole movie is just the road that leads some idiot kid to become KIRK! And I think the movie played that out really nice. “What a great way to try to develop a character by essentially cheating and telling us that there's no reason for Star Trek to remain true to its form” Well hey Shaun, isn’t that kind of a recurring joke in the movie. You might think it’s cheating because you view it as a perfect system which shouldn’t be messed with, and I see it as a great idea that brought great changes to the film and a wonderful way to move the story along.

Abrams decided to keep the Enterprise’s look roughly similar to the original (I would have said it was the same, just shinier until you said it had changed…) because the ship is as much of a character as anything in the original series. It’s the God Damn U.S.S. Enterprise! But Nero’s ship on the other hand is nothing. It’s not a major cardholder in the Star Trek universe. It isn’t something the average Joe would know anything about, and it is these types of things (minor cardholders) that I think are entitled to be changed by Abrams. So what if it doesn’t keep in check with how Romulans actually design their ships? It’s a mining vessel so it’s huge, understandably, and it looks amazing and evil. You can’t get mad every time some detail is changed in a remake/reboot. If you’re not going to change anything, why bother making a new version?

I could tell from the beginning that we were going to have to agree to disagree, but those are my points to your points. I thought it was great, and you thought it was horrible. If there’s anything else in need of debate I have no problems with discussing this movie more.