What will help you reach the next level as a writer? What is that thing you can’t quite put your finger on that would take your stories to the next level? Come to my workshop on May 21 and I will walk through the stages I see most writers grow through, from beginning writer to published pro, and some of the common challenges and lessons found at each stage. The workshop will include handouts and a number of exercises. No matter where you are at in your writer’s journey, the goal is for you to walk away with a clear idea of what you can do to “level up” as a writer.
There are limited seats available, so sign up now!
Black Mirror: San Junipero hit all of my (and Finn’s) sweet spots!
I think part of the positive reactions might be due to the fact that Black Mirror is pretty consistently bleak, but reality right now is practically a Black Mirror episode, so an episode that was (possibly) hopeful was such a nice gift.
And yes, the concept’s been well covered, so I understand why some may feel that viewer’s reactions to that concept are overblown, but many viewers may not be deeply read in scifi, so their “mind blown” reactions are understandable and a perfectly good thing.
I am fine if people discover, say, robots through Star Trek or Westworld without going back to read Asimov first (or at all) if Asimov doesn’t appeal to them (and no I’m not saying San Junipero is about robots).
We each have limited time to read and consume media, I don’t think it makes someone less of a genre fan or their love of or reaction to something less valid if they only have experience with recently produced media and not the foundational classics or the past century of fiction.
Yes, knowing the whole history of robot fiction might enrich one’s experience of a new robot story — or at least allow one say clever literary things like “this story was in dialogue with the works of Obscure Author, exploring the metaphor of so and so.”
But it also might not. And in the end, I love the possible conversations a story like this might spark among a group of friends around a table (in between Instagramming whatever artisanal fare they are eating, of course).
I have run fast enough from the theater in the future to break the time barrier and return here to give you my review of the movie.
There was a lot about the JLA movie that was sheer awesome! A lot of cool, snapshot poses, a lot of awesome uses of superpowers.
But by the end I felt disappointed, and even a bit bored.
The first problem was the character intros.
As expected, we spend a good chunk of the movie meeting the new heroes, and getting bits of their backstory. Flash. Aquaman. Cyborg. This was the first big challenge of the movie, to make us care about these characters, so that later when they are fighting and in danger, we actually care whether or not they win, whether or not they are hurt. Care whether or not they achieve some kind of happiness, or peace, as a result of the choices and changes they make through the course of the movie.
But we simply did not get enough time with each character to feel connected to them, to care. I rooted for the Flash just because he was funny and likeable. But what Pixar did in five minutes at the beginning of Up, JLA did not manage to do in the roughly ten minutes of character establishment per character.
Even Batman did not move me much, because we haven’t really spent much time with Affleck’s Batman except in his ragey conflict with Superman, so all his pain and the tragic experiences of his past that would make forming a team and being responsible for others a fear to overcome for him (e.g. the loss of a Robin to the Joker) has not really been established here.
Wonder Woman, at least, we understand a little after her LONG overdue solo movie. Which is probably one reason she was the most relatable hero beside Flash.
Heroes aside, though, I think the biggest problem was the enemy.
Steppenwolf and his MacGuffincubes
Basically, our heroes did not have an interesting villain with goals and motivations that we could relate to on some level. I never felt the villain had personal stakes that I cared about yet knew would be bad for our world and our heroes. Instead, we had a CGI Alien Armor Big Bad who wants some evil boxes, and a bunch of CGI aliens and robots to help him get them, and that would be bad. Because it is bad.
Yes, the battle scenes were epic and full of superpowered awesome. But I never felt that Steppenwolf forced a hero to confront their deepest fear or flaw and overcome it. I never felt that Steppenwolf presented a personal challenge to any of the heroes, that he was the worst possible enemy the hero could have had to face at this time because of what they had been through, or what they were struggling with.
Steppenwolf is a master strategist, yet I never really felt there was a clever cat and mouse game going on between him and Batman that made Batman question his own brilliance or ability or willingness to lead others into danger and death. Steppenwolf never really made me feel he had pushed Batman to the edge and the Bats might lose it if anyone died on his watch. They just were racing each other to get the boxes, a simple set of escalating challenges.
Steppenwolf is a badass, but I never felt that in his conflict with Wonder Woman or Aquaman that any of them were forced to question their own strength, the responsibility or consequences of strength, or who they were without it.
Part of the reason the Avengers worked well by comparison is that they faced off against Loki, a villain we had come to know already, a person filled with pain and anger and tragic, twisted need that drove him, a guy who really just wanted to be loved above all others (is that so wrong?). And because Loki played on each hero’s insecurities and flaws and fears, and turned friend against friend. Likewise, in Civil War, the enemy plays the heroes own flaws and pain against each other, turning friend against friend. And in Avengers 2, Scarlet Witch does something similar.
Steppenwolf did not really achieve that. He was not an enemy of the Justice League, of the heroes individually or as a team. He was just big badass enemy, a threat.
And as demonstrated by the Phantom Menace, simply destroying an army of enemy robots in an epic battle can in fact be extremely boring.
Finally, I understood why of course they had to keep Superman out of it for most of the movie, for much the same reason that Hulk wasn’t in Civil War (he would have just smashed anyone on the opposing team, etc). But his moping/angst over the events in Batman vs Superman was a bit of a lame reason for the delay.
In summary, I of course went and saw this movie, and overall it was a fun popcorn flick. How could I not go to see the JLA on the big screen? Not to mention Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot kicking ass and looking hot doing it. But if you are going to have all the grimdark and Pew Pew, you need to balance it with a tad more humor, and a lot more heart, than JLA delivered.
Finn Gramaraye is back in the third installment of Randy Henderson’s Familia Arcana series, which began in Finn Fancy Necromancy, and Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free.
Finn’s re-adaptation to the human world is not going so well. He’s got a great girlfriend, and is figuring out how things like the internet work, but he is still carrying the disembodied personality of Alynon, Prince of the Silver Demesne, the fae who had occupied his body during his imprisonment. And he’s not getting along at all with his older brother. And oh, by the way, an enemy from his past is still trying to possess him in order to bring about Armageddon.
I grew up reading trilogies. I grew up watching trilogies. I lived in trilogies, walked the lands of trilogies until I knew them better than my own neighborhood, lived many lives through trilogies, fought evil and triumphed in trilogies. I dreamed of writing a trilogy. It is surreal to have actually done so. And wonderful. But really, it doesn’t feel real. Yet there it is. Three books. That I can hold in my hands. With my name on them. It’s like I’m living in some bizarro alternate universe. And it is pretty dang cool.
And I love the UK versions from Titan as well!
Book 3 comes out in the US on March 7th, and I can’t wait for people to read it!
In writing, you are told to say, “Yes, BUT”. In improv, you are told to say, “Yes, AND.” I think we all need a bit more of the latter in our real lives right now.
“Yes, the character gained invisibility, BUT now she is blind and begins to freeze to death because the sun’s light passes through her.” This is MEANT to create more problems for the character to solve in a way that impedes their progress, to present opportunities for conflict and setbacks that create tension and drama.
“Yes, your character is invisible, AND they work in a funeral home.” Or “Yes your character is invisible, AND they cannot speak.” This presents opportunities by combining the elements.
In the real world, Yes AND leads to growth, and progress. Yes, BUT leads to feeling shot down, patronized, or to conflict and argument.
“Yes, that is one idea, BUT you didn’t consider X and Z so your idea is flawed/bad.” “Yes, that is one idea, BUT I think this other idea should be considered instead.”
“Yes, I like X aspect of your idea, great job, AND we should also consider these other ideas, so we can build on your idea together to create something even better.”
I feel like the Left has been sabotaged by too much Yes BUT. Yes, black lives matter, BUT. Yes, that women’s march was huge, BUT. Yes, that is a great way to fight Trump, BUT you ignored that this group over here cannot fight that way so your way is bad.
I hope we can do more Yes, AND.
Not ignore the instances where privilege and blindspots and omissions may be hurtful or harmful, but say Yes you are fighting a good fight, AND we also have this group/ concern over here, AND here’s how we can build on each other’s efforts and lift each other up rather than beat each other down while the real problem goes unaddressed.
Seeing the millions of people marching yesterday was inspirational, and the perfect counterbalance to the events of the previous day.
But when I woke up this morning, my brain couldn’t help but wonder, what’s next?
It is the day after the march. Although millions marched, they weren’t even mentioned on Fox News today (how odd!). And Trump will surely be as delusional and in denial about them as he was about the “millions” who attended his inauguration.
But the marches were not just “preaching to the choir.” Those in power surely took notice. Millions of people of all genders, ages, colors, ability and orientation have become actively engaged, and that is no small thing, and not easily ignored — if it continues. If it leads to something.
If I have any concern at this point, it is that this surge of activism will go the way of Occupy Wall Street.
When that movement began, I was hopeful that it would rise up to be the Progressive counter to the Tea Party. But while the Tea Party was generally united toward specific goals, organized, well-funded, and effectively took over the government from the bottom up, Occupy Wall Street never overcame its beginnings as a sit-in with split focus, unclear demands, little leverage and no real plan to actually effect change.
When I heard one reporter saying how the marchers had struggled with messaging in some cases because, of course, different marchers had different motives and goals and priorities, I felt a brief cloud pass over the bright sun that was the march.
And it seems like other attempts to forge a “Left” movement with equal influence (but more reason and reality-based policy) than the Tea Party also fell away with little effect due (based on my admittedly limited and non-expert understanding) to a lack of cohesion, a lack of strategy and organization, or fell victim to the distractions of infighting and self-policing.
So my personal hope today is that the spirit of activism and participation that swept the country, and the world, yesterday will resolve itself into sustained and effective action.
Here are just a couple of resources that may be helpful with that:
Indivisible Guide is “A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda where former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.” It outlines how you can invest your time to best effect, what doesn’t actually work; and, importantly, there is a lookup for finding a local group of fellow Indivisible participants to join: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/
VolunteerMatch is a website where you can search for local, and virtual, volunteer opportunities. I am very happy with my current volunteer positions I found through this site: http://www.volunteermatch.org/
And of course, we must act locally so that we have the strength to prevent voter disenfranchisement and to push back at Federal power when it is abused.
I am cautiously hopeful for the future. Not because I hope that Trump and the GOP will suddenly do anything different than the self-serving and destructive actions they’ve promised to do, but because you all have given me hope, you who marched and shouted and stood up to be heard, that together we will push back and prevent, or undo, their damage with time, with hard work, with love for one another.
And now, I’m going to continue looking at all those amazing photos of marches around the world and grinning ear to ear.
When you close your eyes and think of ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, feudal Japan, what do you see? What symbolizes “Vikings” to you? If you had to make a person walk into a room and have an “experience” (without food or drink) that is French, or Irish, or Mexican, what would you do? How do you know what life as a musketeer might have been like? How do you know what gods the ancient Greeks worshiped, and how they acted?
I hate Nazis, snakes, and rich people who think art is only meant for rich people.
How many people knew who Alexander Hamilton was before 2015?
What is the book “The Crucible” about, and what inspired it?
How many lives did Dorothea Lange’s photographs save, how much hidden history did they preserve?
Art (writing, painting, theater, dance, music, et al) is important not only as entertainment, but also as expression, history, education, and provocation. Art is also one of the most defining and enduring attributes of a culture.
What defines American culture to the world beyond McDonalds and Starbucks in every town? In 100 years when someone is making a holovid about the period, how will they evoke “Early 21st century America”? How will they learn about experiences not captured in mainstream media, or the increasingly constrained press?
We need the arts. They may not seem important in the day-to-day life of many, but those lives have in fact been touched and shaped by the arts in a thousand invisible, and visible, ways.
And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that many rural and low-income areas rely on PBS and on arts program funding to have any access to the arts, free educational experiences, and the opening of options and opportunities. When coupled with an Education Secretary who’s made it her life’s work to shift funding and support away from public schools to private and charter schools, this aspect is even more important.
There was a recent WWII movie called The Monuments Men about Allied art experts fighting to save art from Nazi theft and destruction. A new fight to preserve a nation’s cultural heritage may be upon us, and that culture is our own.
The Republicans are closing in!
The Republicans have tried many times to undermine and defund the National Endowment for the Arts, usually because it supported something that dared challenge what they have deemed is appropriate for us to experience. And now supposedly Trump has said he wants to defund the NEA. He wants to defund a program that coincidentally supports non-dominant, non-mainstream voices and experiences from being expressed and preserved.
About Bigfootloose: In this sequel to Randy Henderson’s acclaimed debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, Finn Gramaraye is settling back into the real world after his twenty-five-year-long imprisonment in the otherworld of the Fey. He’s fallen in love with a woman from his past, though he worries she may love a version of him that no longer exists. He’s proved his innocence of the original crime of Dark Necromancy, and he’s finding a place in the family business–operating a mortuary for the Arcane, managing the magical energies left behind when an Arcane being dies to prevent it from harming the mundane world.
But Finn wants more. Or different. Or something. He’s figured out how to use the Kinfinder device created by his half-mad father to find people’s True Love, and he’d like to convert that into an Arcane Dating Service. It’s a great idea. Everyone wants True Love! Unfortunately, trouble always seems to find Finn, and when he agrees to help his friend, the Bigfoot named Sal, they walk right into a Feyblood rebellion against the Arcane Ruling Council, a rebellion being fomented by unknown forces and fueled by the drug created by Finn’s own grandfather.
Links for Book 2: Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free:
In this sequel to Randy Henderson's acclaimed debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, Randy Henderson spins another tale full of adventure, magic, and laughs, exploring in more depth the magical world and characters introduced in the first book. More info →
“… it’s an urban fantasy, one that takes place in and around present-day Seattle. But even though it deals with sinister magic and family tragedy, it counterbalances that darkness with something that’s become increasingly rare in fantasy fiction: laughs, laughs, and more laughs.” -- NPR More info →