Vision for Fiction

Listening to Slate’s Money podcast, Carl Richards was speaking about one page financial planning, which in itself sounded fascinating (seriously, it sounds like something imminently sensible as a first step) and he was talking about vision. Why are you investing? What is your goal?

This got me thinking about my goals. Not for my financial planning but for my writing. What am I doing and why am I doing it?

For riches and glory! Not going to happen. Listen, I might have believed there was a shot of this just after I got out of university. I may have thought this while I was writing regularly, when I got my first story published, but somewhere along the line reality caught up with me. I am not saying that there is no possibility that I won’t make it big as a writer, but I am not putting the work into marketing myself – both inside the industry to editors, publishers, and agents, and outside of the industry to readers – to make that happen.

And frankly, if Howard Andrew Jones can’t make it happen, what chance do I have?

Am I compelled to write? I kind of am, but not as much as I once was. I have so many outlets for my ideas these days through RPGs – playing and running as well as publishing – that they have become my primary creative outlet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I find fiction much more creatively fulfilling. There is more cachet to being a fiction writer, but that’s not it – fiction does not have the mechanical component of RPG writing and design, so it is much more creatively free than RPGs.

Do I like to entertain people? Yeah. I definitely do. It’s why I like to GM rather than play.

So what does that mean for my writing?

Well, I am still mercenary, so I would really like to see money for my fiction. When it comes to something that is marketable, I’ll try to sell it first, but a lot of my writing is either not marketable or am I completely ignorant of the markets into which it might fit. I’m thinking specifically of my modern action stories.

I have three stories in various levels of completion that have laid by the wayside because I don’t really know what to do with them. I have other stories that don’t really fit into the modern fantasy market, at least not in venues that pay professional rates. This means I have a small collection of stories I could share.

I figure once a month I can share some fiction – sometimes a whole story and sometimes part of a story. This will give me impetus to finish some of the stories that have languished and hopefully give me a chance to entertain some people as well.

I guess that’s my vision. I aim to please.

You can find the Slate Money podcast here.

You can find out more about Howard Andrew Jones here. He mentions the poor sales of his Dabir and Asim novels in this post.

I have two short stories collections – For Simple Coin and Gifts of the Elder Gods – because I am mercenary.

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Disney’s the Black Hole

Every weekend I’m watching a movie with my daughters, six and eight. Their mom isn’t exactly thrilled, especially when it’s a beautiful day out, but we spent the late morning and the hour after lunch cleaning up the yard and washing the car, so there’s not too much she could say yesterday.

This weekend was Disney’s the Black Hole. This is a movie of which I have very fond memories. I absolutely love the soundtrack by John Barry (who also did a bunch of scores for the James Bond movies) and the concept of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Over a Black Hole” is outstanding. The cast assembled is also pretty darn good with some real standouts – Robert Forster knows how to play a captain and you can’t do mad scientist better than Maximillian Schell.

The biggest problem for me was that Disney couldn’t seem to decide if this was a kid’s movie or an adult’s movie. Now, it is absolutely possible to do both, but it’s hard and I don’t think that happened here. The character of “Bob,” the beaten up old robot voiced by Slim Pickens and S.T.A.R., the sentry robot prototype that pretty much self-destructs after a loss and some juvenile taunting, are examples of ideas that really only works for kids. The main narrative purpose of Bob seemed as a way to get confirmation of information the main characters had already gleaned for themselves, and it might have worked better to excise that character and allow the protagonists’ suspicions to only be confirmed by Alex’s action on the bridge.

It certainly worked for my girls, except for the ending, which left them perplexed. It gave me a chance to discuss how sometimes it’s up to you to decide how a movie ended and to try to explain imagery and ideas in movies. I think they got it, and my eight year-old made her interpretation of the ending that we all accepted (riddled with holes though it might be – she’s eight!).

I would cautiously recommend this movie to fans of sci-fi, but provide a stronger recommendation of it as a serious sci-fi movie one can watch with children. I give the Black Hole 3.75 huge red psychotic robots out of 5. It’s an entertaining enough movie, but it has some real issues with tone and consistency.

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Edge of Tomorrow

As usual, I am years behind in my movie watching. Edge of Tomorrow slightly intrigued me when it came out because it was a sci-fi directed by Doug Liman, whose work on Swingers, the Bourne Identity, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith I appreciated. And it had Tom Cruise. As creepy as he is in real life, I have to admit that he delivers on the screen. Even in mediocre fare like Oblivion, Mr. Cruise is entertaining and watchable.

Since I very rarely get to the cinema, I didn’t see Edge of Tomorrow until recently. And recently I saw it twice in as many weeks. That’s got to tell you something.

Do I need to summarize? How about I characterize instead? Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day by way of Aliens with combat exo-suits.

What did I like about this movie? I think the action worked well. The battle scenes were exciting and gritty, though this has become de rigour since Saving Private Ryan. Edge of Tomorrow had some fresh ideas, using the aircraft and the enemy both to create tension.

The setting and costuming were excellent. The combat exo-suits (called jackets – I called them harnesses in Starship Commandos, which I think is a better term, though I am biased) seem pretty darn cool, if a bit bulky. The bulks works in this as it is supposed to be near future. The jackets look like something we could come up with if really pressed.

And the acting was uniformly good, if not breathtaking. This is a film for solid performances rather than Oscar grabs, and that’s what we got. I was especially appreciative of Bill Paxton showing up as Master Sergeant Farrell.

This did everything a sci-fi actioner should, and did it well. Time travel always creates problems, and there were a few but I noticed nothing glaring – nothing you could put your fist through let alone drive a truck through. The ending, though, really bugged me. I can’t give it away, except to say that the climax worked whereas the denouement destroyed that.

I give Edge of Tomorrow 4.75 Alpha aliens out of 5. Minor plot holes and an ill-fitting ending mar what was otherwise a great ride.

You can read more about Edge of Tomorrow at Wikipedia and IMDB.

You can read more about Starship Commandos here.

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Earthquake in Nepal

You may not be aware that there was a major earthquake in Nepal. The aftershocks were almost as bad as the actual earthquake. For a country with the limited infrastructure and emergency services as Nepal, natural disasters cause levels of suffering we can’t even imagine in our safe and comfortable homes. Fellow human beings who will never have the luxuries we enjoy have just been devastated, and while I’m not wealthy, I can’t help but donate something. I’ll be honest with you, it was only $50 CAD, but if everyone who could afford that (or $20, or $10) did so, charitable organizations can multiply the impact of those donations with their knowledge, networks, experience and skills-base.

I donated to Oxfam because it is one of two charities that I support on a monthly basis (the other being World Vision). Please consider giving something to a charity that is active in the international sphere. Some people are very suspicious of charities, and that’s fine – do your homework, find one that you accept as trustworthy, and then donate.

I wish I could do more. This is one way I can try to extend my own charity.

You can read more about the earthquake here.

You can donate to Oxfam Canada here. Find a local chapter here.

You can find World Vision Canada here and international here.

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Netflix’s Daredevil: A Review

When I first got into comics, it was just after Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil, but it was because of his work – and specifically the run collected in the Born Again graphic novel – that Daredevil was on my pull list. Ann Nocenti was writing, and it was good. Really good. Daredevil has continued to be a favourite character of mine.

I didn’t mind the Daredevil movie. I didn’t love it, mind you, but I didn’t mind it. I might have even enjoyed it. Watched the director’s cut, and found that good enough.

Thankfully, now I don’t have to settle for good enough. Now I can have a nice helping of awesome.

I watched the first three episodes of Netflix’s new original series, Daredevil. It is good. Really good. Like “oh-my-god-I-want-to-keep-watching-this-forever” good. Charlie Cox is really killing it as both Matt Murdock and Daredevil. The costume is not the one I remember, but it is apparently patterned on the costume from the Man Without Fear origin story – I need to look that one up. And it’s good. I know that the red costume will come, but you know what? I wouldn’t care. It isn’t the costume that makes a hero to me.

What the episodes I have seen have done is get Daredevil right. The stories, the characters, the action, it all fits with my recollections, with what I loved about Daredevil. That the red costume is going to play some part in all this is the frosting flower on top of the frosting that is on the cake – oh so awesome, but I’d be totally happy if it hadn’t been on the cake.

Netflix is going to do more of the miniseries, but we’ll be waiting for them. It’s going to be a lone wait. I’m especially excited about Iron Fist. The Immortal Iron Fist has been my bar-none favourite comic in the last five years. It helped get me get my toes back into the comics’ pool. If they can do as well with Danny Rand as they’ve done with Matt Murdock, Netflix will have earned every damn penny I’ve spent on it. And then some.

It’s a good time to be a comics fan and a Netflix subscriber.

I give Netflix’s Daredevil 4.75 broken ribs out of 5. It’s not perfect, but it is close enough that it doesn’t matter.

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Social Commie Justice Something

Total commie

I really don’t like identity politics . . . although I’ve never actually seen a good definition of identity politics, so I guess what I don’t like is identifying people by their politics or beliefs. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a raging socialist. Even in Canuckistan, I’m pretty red.

I’m also a supporter of the military who believes the Canadian Armed Forces should be warfighters and not peacekeepers.

And I support the right of citizens to own firearms, though I believe there should be limitations.

I’m not defined by simple labels, and I don’t judge people based on their labels. I have lots of friends who don’t share my politics at all. Actually, I have friends who think my politics are horrible. We still game together, joke together, and have fun together. Sometimes we even talk politics. We totally disagree, but that’s okay, because they explain how I am wrong and I explain how they are wrong.

By the way, they are very, very wrong. ;)

I have very close friends with whom I’ve gotten blind stinking drunk and for whom I’d give an organ who disagree with everything I believe regarding how we should govern our nation (or their nation, for my international brethren) and how we should treat others.

Making decisions about people based only on their politics is, frankly, stupid. Except when you are electing them, then totally make your choices based on their politics.

This came to mind looking at the brouhaha over some directed voting at the Hugo Awards, brought to my attention by Black Gate – one of my favourite places on the internet.

It really looks like a case of deciding who should or should not win an award for fiction or other endeavours based on politics. That assessment is almost certainly driven by confirmation bias, since I support inclusiveness. That doesn’t mean that I don’t support the writings of “straight” white males, ’cause I did say inclusive, I just don’t think there is a problem with non-straight, non-white, and/or non-males making genre fiction and winning awards.

The situation with the awards looks a lot to me like making decisions about creativity based on politics. Which would be stupid.

I guess that makes me a social justice warrior or something.

Labels. So very convenient.

You can read about this brouhaha over at Black Gate.

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Cinderella: A Review

The family went to see Cinderella on the weekend. I have to admit I was looking forward to this, given that I generally enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s work. Unlike Thor, Cinderella seemed much more in the laneway of a Shakespearean director, given that it is about relationships and drama rather than action and spectacle (though I still think he did a serviceable job with Thor).

And I believe Branagh delivers. There is much to enjoy in this movie, though it hews very, very closely to the Disney storyline. While some amplification of certain character’s motivations and desires is offered, overall this is a live-action version of the Disney cartoon.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, though I really wish a decision had been made – by Branagh or Disney – to extend the courtship of Cinderella and the Prince. Maybe after finding her, the Prince proposes marriage but Cinderella says something to the effect of “we’ll see,” and then maybe have the wedding, but indicate – since there is a voiceover narrating much of the film – that this occurred a year or two later.

I’d like to give Branagh some kudos for inclusivity – Cinderella’s native land is a real melting pot of ethnicities – but I don’t think he went far enough. This is the man who had Keanu Reeves as Denzel Washington’s brother – okay, half-brother, but still – and Washington was the lord of Aragon – although he seemed pretty much the only non-white in his own land – in Much Ado About Nothing. This is the man who brought us Idris Elba as Heimdall. I just wish the speaking cast – especially in the lead roles – was more diverse. Given this is a fairytale, what’s to stop the king, Cinderella’s father, or – dare I even think it – the Prince or Cinderella from being non-Caucasian? Would it really be so bad?

In the end, this is a light and enjoyable confection. Unlike the animated movie, this is not a musical, though there is some singing. Like the animated movie, this is great family entertainment. It was the first time my girls saw a movie in a real movie theatre – rather than an auditorium standing in for a movie theatre. We all had a great time, which opens up the realm of family visits to the cinema on a more regular basis – with the costs of tickets, that regular basis will likely be no more than twice a year – which is pretty cool.

I give Cinderella 4 glass slippers out of 5. This was a fun movie, but there’s nothing that makes it standout as great or significant.

You can read more about Cinderella at IMDB or Wikipedia.

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