Star Wars: Rebels Review

When it comes to Star Wars, I’m pretty easy to please: it’s got to feel like Star Wars (AKA A New Hope), be fun, and not be horrible.

That leaves out the pre-sequels. Hey-Oh!

The trailers for Star Wars: Rebels made it seem like my kind of series. I really enjoyed the Clone Wars, and Rebels seemed to have the quality level of Clone Wars but be set in the A New Hope universe. There were TIE fighters! Stormtroopers! Star Destroyers!

Then again, that might all be window dressing on a condemned building.

I got the chance to watch the pilot recently, and I am pleased to say it kept all its promises. This really felt like Star Wars. Even better, it felt like Firefly in the Star Wars universe. I have no idea if this was intentional or conscious on any level, but that’s how it felt to me, and I loved it.

Listen, the writing isn’t the best, and it still has so many of those logical inconsistencies so prevalent in the movies that made it much more a planetary fantasy than science fiction – whatever those terms might mean to you – but I don’t care. It was fun to watch, I liked the characters, and the voice-acting was good. The story was exciting, a souped-up freighter used its turrets to smoke some TIEs, the Imperials spoke with Brit accents and had 70s facial hair, and there were a couple of jumps to light speed.

So far, no midiclorians, stalker love stories, or economic blockades. I think we’re good.

I give Star Wars: Rebels 4 mutton-chopped Imperials out of 5.

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Butchering Farewell, Something Lovely

I’ve been looking once again at Farewell, Something Lovely. The intent was for it to be a sequel to “For Simple Coin” (published in On Spec, Winter 2009 issue) but now I think I’m going to change the protagonist to ‘the Butcher,’ the main character in an unfinished sword noir genre story. That’s not some kind of cool nickname or nom de guerre, she is an actual butcher whose debt to a crime boss puts her in the middle of a bad situation. This could be a sequel to that origin story.

I’m also dumping the first person narration. I used first person because this is an adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. While I liked it, first person narration is very hard to sell. Nothing will be changed by switching to limited third person narration, so that’s another change to make.

Finally, I’m going to change a fundamental aspect of the macguffin character, but that’s something integral to the story, so I’m not going to be spilling it here.

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The Role of That Woman in “Farewell, Something Lovely”

I was reading over my story “Farewell, Something Lovely,” a short story based on the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely. What struck me was the role of the female character who motivates the story – my version of Velma Valento. While she does nothing wrong, she seems to bring out the worst in a lot of men. They do some very bad things in order to “possess” her, and some of them do act like she is a possession. This goes on through most of the story, and only at the resolution is there any real indication of her wants or desires.

I’m worried this is going to come off as sexist, that I’m blaming the woman. The thing is, she asks for none of this. It is not that she has no agency, it is just that she chooses men for reasons other than what they expect, and those reasons are opaque, perhaps even at the conclusion.

I’m still running with it. It has been submitted, and if it gets rejected, I’ll submit it elsewhere. I believe the story strong (not known for my humility), though that female role is problematic (a word some may not like, but which I find useful).

It’s also interesting that the main character is never named nor has a gender indicated. Almost every reader I’ve communicated with still refers to the character as “he.” Might be interesting if among the reveals in the story is that she is a woman. Might come off as faux reveal, done only either to shock or to shift attention.

Another short story I started does have a female protagonist who is a butcher of the commercial variety who gets tagged to become a butcher of another variety. I’m having no problem with the voice, but parts of the plot aren’t working for me. This one is heavily influenced by the Korean neo-noir The Yellow Sea.

You can read more about Farewell, My Lovely at Wikipedia.

You can read my thoughts on The Yellow Sea here.

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Weekly Roundup for 21 September 2014

Alvvays. I picked up Alvvays self-titled album/gaggle of mp3s on Monday and have been listening to it almost on a loop. It takes me back to university and melodic indie-pop. Even when I am working, if Alvvays are on, my foot is tapping even if my head isn’t bobbing. It amuses my daughters to no end to see their daddy bopping along to tunes. This definitely scratches an itch for me.

Battle Beyond the Stars. On a whim, I watched the first half of this one night before bed. While the writing isn’t stellar (get it?) and the SFX are somewhat dated, it’s not half-bad. The actors do their best to instill the insipid dialogue with emotion and gravitas or levity. In the end, it’s a fun space opera remake of the Magnificent Seven . . . I’m not willing to link it to the Seven Samurai except through an intermediary. Just in case.

Avatar: the Last Airbender. And I am referring to the Nickelodeon cartoon series rather than the god-awful adaptation of it. I have really wanted to get my daughters to watch something other than Winx Club, which bothers me in that it focuses as much on the girls getting boyfriends as being heroes. I really want my daughters to have role models who don’t identify themselves through the men in their lives. While Avatar is ostensibly Aang’s story, Kitara is pretty much the strongest character in the series, and I can’t wait until they get to the episodes with Toph. They now request Avatar, though this is probably at least in part because they know their mother and I don’t like Winx Club.

I have also failed in getting them interested in Clone Wars. Me so sad.

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Populating Pandora

I have my team of six for my Pandora Excess fiction – still need a better name, but I keep using PE, so I haven’t put the energy into thinking up something better. Ah well, it’ll do as a working title.

For the PE characters, I am being very spare with description because I believe we all tend to create an image in our head of characters that can be contrary to how the character is described. If I leave it intentionally vague, with maybe a few general pointers, that allows readers to fill in the numerous blanks with the image they would have overlaid on anything I described. Maybe that’s a mistake, but I’m interested in finding out.

Here’s the team, their role, and what little description I offer. I wonder who people see in their heads when they read this.

Hazard, the boss. She does not map to a Borderlands class, though if required, I’d put her as Lilith except the leader rather than 2IC. Her primary weapon is a heavy assault rifle, like a battle rifle. She is intro’d with: ” Lean, dark, and commanding, Hazard took a chair, spun it around, and then sat in it, arms resting on its back.” A little later we get: “Hazard spoke with assurance, her voice resonant, lightly touched by amusement.”

Rutger, the second in command. He’s the “Commando” but instead of a turret, he has UAV-type drones that provide close support. His primary weapon is an assault rifle. He’s intro’d with: “He leaned back and ran his hand over his bald head.” A little later we get: “He had a swimmer’s build, lean and tight.”

Solitaire is the ESPer/mage. She’s the “Siren,” and her primary weapons are an elemental (fire) personal defence weapon (a compact SMG) and a larger, scoped SMG. For her, we get: “Sparse of build, with short dark hair and an angular face, . . . ”

Jester is the sniper. He’s the “Assassin” of the group, and he has two large-frame revolvers and a sniper weapon system. When he enters a scene, we get:”. . . lean man, all in dark colours, masked and with an enhanced vision device over his eyes, . . . a revolver in each hand.” And a little later, when he first speaks: “As always, a modulator veiled Jester’s voice.”

Aura is the tech-head. Originally, I didn’t map her to any of the Borderlands classes. Then I played Gaige, the Mechromancer. Her Deathtrap ‘bot is pretty awesome, and I enjoyed the interaction. I decided that Aura would be the child prodigy that had attached herself to the group, built them a bunch of awesome gear, and got herself “adopted.” She’s a young lady now, and not only integral to the maintenance and design of a lot of the group’s kit, but she has grown into a true bad-ass herself. When intro’d, she’s the PoV character, and so we get: “She had stopped growing when she was 15, and so everyone constantly underestimated her, . . .” Later, through another character’s PoV she is described as “this kind of laughing pixie with guns and deadly intent. Someone somewhere would mention her ‘heart of gold,’ but that gold would be melted and poured down your throat if you messed with her or her friends.”

Her deathbot is called Bruiser, and she built it in imitation of Chopper, her bestie on the team. She once had a crush on Chopper, but that has grown into a big brother-little sister relationship.

Chopper is the heavy weapons dude. He’s “Brick” but more erudite. His primary weapon is a light support weapon that has an auxiliary scope and a removable suppressor. For him, we get a collection of descriptors strewn around in the first couple of paragraphs, including massive hands, beefy frame, and “strongly defined bicep with fluid black and red tattoo in the characters for ‘grace under pressure’ in his native language.”

So that is the team. It doesn’t hit all the Borderlands character types – we’re missing a Hunter, a Psycho, and a Gunzerker. The Soldier is basically the proto-Commando, so I think we have that covered.

I’m interested, though, what people think about the descriptions, or lack thereof. I have been chided before about describing scenery – I generally don’t provide enough details. For characters, though, I feel like the more description I give, the less freedom I’m offering the reader.

Your mileage may vary.

You can read more about Pandora Excess here and here.

You can read a very short snippet of Pandora Excess fiction here.

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Total Recall (2012)

Last night I watched the Total Recall remake with my wife. I really wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a fine actioner, but not outstanding. I would not call it a good movie. I would call it a fun movie with good actors, exciting action, and good special effects.

This movie is pretty standard fare for director Len Wiseman. If you’ve enjoyed his other work (Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, and Live Free or Die Hard), you’ll probably enjoy this movie. Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale are all great. Bryan Cranston has a smaller role, but delivers as expected. None of these great actors were outstanding, but then again, the script was really pedestrian.

Maybe I’m viewing the original through the lens of nostalgia, but I remember Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall holding together really well. Almost all movies have plot holes of one size or another, but I don’t remember any that bugged me in the original. The remake is full of them. Put any logical scrutiny on the movie, and it’s going to fall apart.

In the end, it was a fun movie for a night when my wife was sick of studying and didn’t want to think too hard. And a good thing she didn’t, or the movie wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.

I give Total Recall (2012) 3 embedded memories out of 5.

You can find out more about the Total Recall remake at IMDB or Wikipedia.

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Weekly Round-up for 14 September 2014

Yeah, I’ve fallen down on the weekly wrap-up thing. It’s tough, because I spend so much of my time doing research, reading, and writing at my day job, when I get home I’m pretty mentally wiped. I still find time to work on RPG stuff for my group, but really I am just looking forward to having dinner with the family, then playing some Borderlands 2.

Now, my lunches are almost always at my desk (for reasons), but since it’s lunch, I don’t feel guilty doing a little surfing. These are the three sites I try to visit every lunch during the week.

Blastr. It takes a lot of flak from its readers for a lack of accuracy, but for media news in the speculative realm, I think it does a great job. Yes, it’s light and frothy and not too concerned with fact-checking, but that’s fine. I don’t read every article, but there’s plenty of interesting articles. This is not a news organization, think of it more as a fan rumour and geek interest site. It’s fun.

Tor. I will admit that I am buying fewer and fewer novels these days. I’m just not reading for pleasure as much as I used to. However, the Tor website has got lots of great articles about speculative fiction both in the literary realm and beyond. I love the “re-watch” series, and am really enjoying the DS9 re-watch. It’s also fun to read about books that are coming out, get ideas and inspiration, and bathe in the nostalgia of retrospectives.

Black Gate. I am biased. When Black Gate was a heroic fantasy journal, it was my top target in which to get published. I achieved that, and it happened to be at the point when Black Gate was transitioning to a virtual-only presence. I will admit that I am saddened by the demise of the published work, but this was obviously a labour of love for editor and publisher John O’Neill, and if the money isn’t there to keep it publishing, saving it as a website/news blog works for me. Black Gate pretty much hits all my sweet spots, with lots of sword & sorcery articles, previews, and reviews. It does lots more, like a great series on the Godzilla movies just before the new one came out. There are a lot of very talented people writing for Black Gate, and I always find an article I read from top to bottom. That’s about the biggest compliment I can give.

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