Some people like to party on New Year’s Eve, myself included. However, my idea of a party is plopping down on the couch with a bottle of wine, a pound of fudge, and a stack of anime films on VHS. Yes, my brother Daniel and I went “old school” for the last day of 2017. And believe me, having a couple glasses of wine makes watching 1990s anime even more hilarious. The previews were a blast even before the feature presentation started. I haven’t actually sat down to watch any anime, new or old, for a while, and a thought struck me during our viewing: anime combines some weird-ass shit. Continue reading “Bizarre Genre Combinations”→
Okay, I’ve got a little bit of Marvel movie fangirling to get out of my system, so consider yourself warned.
Still with me? All-righty, then.
I’ve been to see Thor: Ragnarok twice in the last five days. Was it a good movie? Well, I had fun and enjoyed it, but as for a more objective view, that depends on what standards qualify a movie as “good.” I’ve got a bit of a sliding scale for films which depends heavily on what kind of movie it is. Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get more lee-way from me than some others because they are based on comic books, and those are already all over the place in terms of plot, character, and continuity. But I still acknowledge that many of them are held together with explosions, CGI, and witty banter rather than solid storytelling. They are essentially what I call “popcorn movies:” films with a lot of visual splash and pizzazz, but little real depth or even sense. Films like Pacific Rim, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the James Bond franchise. And yet they still have a great, almost magnetic, appeal for me. Continue reading “Films Just Gotta Be Fun”→
While most people are excited for the coming of pumpkin spice, winter, or the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo, which begins in (gasp!) only eight days. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk since April when I finished Courting the Moon, and only nibbled at the edges of projects. But National Novel Writing Month (especially in conjunction with the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge) usually gives me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.
So, to facilitate this imminent frenzy of vomit-typing, I picked a project that I only have the vaguest idea about: the second book in my planned Mariner Sequence series entitled Seahawks and Storms. Now, even though this is the second book I’m writing in the series, Seahawks and Storms takes place about 600 years before the events of the first book, Ravens and Roses. It will tell the story of the first Admiral of the Mariners, Samuel Tempest, his wife Amaris Seahawk, and the founding of their new home, the land eventually called “Marina.” If you’ve ever read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, you’ll see that the relationship between my two books is in a similar style. Each book can be read as a stand-alone, in publication order, or in chronological order, and should all still make sense. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for. Continue reading “Of Prep and Prequels”→
Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:
Horror, because we still like to be scared. Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world. Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose. Humor, because we need to laugh. Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.
But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.
I’m going to tackle some stereotypes present in modern fiction that I think are dangerous when used irresponsibly. Any entries part of this series will be labeled as “Dangerous Stereotypes.” You can read previous entries in this series, which discuss the Scientist and Bad Boy stereotypes.
Every culture has certain expectations of how people are supposed to behave. Sometimes these social rules apply across the board, but others are gender-specific, and this is reflected in our media. While a lot of scrutiny is given to the short stick that women get instead of proper representation in books, films, and video games, less attention has been paid to the toxic masculinity that pervades so much modern media.
When you picture the hero of a story, especially in science fiction or fantasy, what do you see? Chances are the kind of man that comes to mind is tall, physically fit or imposing, and who can win a fight with style, even if violence isn’t their first choice. Many are handsome, cocky, reckless, often abrasive, and tend to fill the leadership role with a sense of natural ease. They are almost always heterosexual playboys, exuding a charisma that draws women to their bed and encourages other men to either follow their lead or to become their competitor. Some prime examples of this archetype can be found in Captain Kirk from Star Trek, John Carter from the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, any incarnation of James Bond, the half-demon Inuyasha from the manga by Rumiko Takahashi, and mythic idols like Thor and Robin Hood. Even heroes who start off shy, awkward, nerdy, or reluctant, like Harry Potter and Peter Parker, eventually become independent leaders and warriors thanks to their adventures. Expressions of emotion, empathy, or sensitivity are often shown as weaknesses to be hidden behind a wall of witty banter, arrogance, or stoicism. It is the stereotypical “Alpha Male” who always comes out on top.
Another film review from the Penn-Mar Literary Critics! Many thanks to Avellina for joining me on this venture into Arthurian legend.
Be advised that this entry contains spoilers!
I will not pretend that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a good movie. It was average at best, mediocre at worst. It managed to be better than Beowulf or Dracula Untold but did not reach the level of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. And yet, to my surprise, I rather enjoyed it.
King Arthur is a popcorn film, a Pacific Rim in the fantasy genre. It focuses on CGI action and glib character moments rather than the deeper tales of good and evil. It has the look of such epic films in many respects, (the production values are quite good) but lacks something vital that keeps it from true greatness. Well, actually, it lacks a lot of things. It’s filled with internal inconsistencies, plot holes the size of Miami, a magic system with no real rules, an over-emphasis on action that looks good rather than what makes sense, gratuitous CGI, inability to really distinguish between characters (especially the women), and a tragic, almost criminal under-use of Jude Law. Continue reading “Not a Legend, Not a Flop – A Review of King Arthur”→
Souls permeate fantasy. You find them everywhere. In books like the Vlad Taltos series; in movies like Crimson Peak; in television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; in video games like Jade Empire; in anime like Soul Eater; and manga like Fullmetal Alchemist. Even if souls are not the focus of the story, it is almost always assumed that souls exist. In some universes, all living things have souls, while in others only sentient races have them. In a few, only humanity is granted this unique ability to transcend oblivion.
I try not to get excited about new movies and this is why. I love the original animated Disney Beauty & the Beast (which I have mentioned before in my Favored Fairytales entry on the subject). But I also love the idea of a Beauty humanizing a Beast in general. It’s such a compelling story, so I was looking forward to seeing a live action adaptation. I was curious to see how they would play the story, what kind of depth would be imparted to the characters, a new spin on a “tale as old as time.”
What I got was an often inferior carbon copy of the original animated version.
I cannot express how much this disappoints me. Don’t get me wrong; the movie isn’t bad per se. I don’t feel like I should demand my money back or that I wasted my time. It’s competently done. The singing (for the most part) is good, the CGI passable, the sets rich and ornate (albeit over-Baroqued), the costumes were pretty, and I enjoyed the talking furniture. There are some good moments between Belle and her father, both Gaston and LeFou were entertaining, and some of the plot holes from the animated film were explained (like how Gaston knew where the castle was, what happened to Belle’s mother, and why everyone didn’t seem to know that a giant, impossible-to-miss castle was sitting within a day’s ride of the village).
There were so many things they could have done to enrich the characters, to deepen the story, that were missed. What depth the animated version had was mostly lost in the translation to live action, and what backstory there was felt pasted in as an afterthought rather than integrated into the film.
The word “melodrama” has taken a rather sorry turn in modern usage. Today, if someone or something is called “melodramatic” it is viewed as “over the top” in a bad, silly, or unbelieveable way. It suggests a lack of subtlety or character or a firm relationship with reality. Generally, if someone calls your work “melodramatic,” it isn’t a compliment. (And yet the word “dramatic” hasn’t quite descended to the same depths as its longer cousin.)
This saddens me, because in the classical sense, I love melodramas. The work of Dickens or the Brontë sisters and even Jane Austen can be called melodramas because they appeal to emotion and are sensationalized to heighten those feelings. So many of my favorite stories are technically melodramas, from Little Dorrit and Jane Eyre to more modern incarnations like Ripper Street and Doctor Who. (The argument could be made that these are technically dramas, but I personally feel like “drama” is just short for “good melodrama.”)
There is a slightly frightening tendency to glorify war and battle. It’s a big part of fantasy and science fiction; we’re always waiting for the big battle between good and evil at the end. But what happens when we carry this thinking over into the real world? This us-versus-them mentality, the idea that we are the brave warriors fighting the good fight, is especially attractive if we perceive ourselves as the little Rebellion fighting against the giant evil Empire, or as Peeta and Katniss resisting the malicious Games of the Capital, or as the Alliance of Men and Elves standing against the destructive might of Sauron. Everyone loves the underdog.
That’s fine in fiction. I have nothing against battles in stories and frankly I enjoy them. Halo would be pretty boring without the Flood or the Covenant to fight. It’s when this mentality leaks into real life interactions that it concerns me. If you look at the language being passed around the internet these days, especially when it comes to politics, you’ll find buzzwords like “war,” “soldier,” “fight,” and “rebellion.” Even as the world becomes a safer place overall, the language has become far more violent and polarized. You’re either with us or against us; there is no in between. Continue reading “The Glory Illusion of War”→