Saturday, February 06, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

Welcome and hello to the eastern edge of the west. If you squint you can glimpse the plains of the fantastic in the shimmer on the horizon. Thanks for stopping by to read a ramble.

2015 was a damn good year for science fiction. We got a new Mad Max film, we got a new Star Wars film, Failure made a new record. Warren Ellis gave us Trees and Injection. Syfy (rebranded once again!) dropped Childhood's End and The Expanse on our TVs. And THAT my friends, is just scratching the surface.

Seemingly, genre is cool again.

Who's to blame for that?

Maybe it's the nerds who support the endless run of superhero movies at the metroplexes. Maybe it's the crop of executives coming up in the studios who remember when science fiction was cool among a smaller set, who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy and films like Outland and Heavy Metal and TV shows like the Hulk on CBS. Maybe they remember reading about Marvel's plans from the 70s for a Silver Surfer movie, a Spider-Man movie. Maybe it's writers who decided that Superman The Movie and Tim Burton's Batman could've benefitted from slightly better scripts.

Or maybe it's that technology advanced enough that George Lucas decided to make his creatively underachieving prequels. More likely it's the influence of Marvel once again over-saturating the market with big FX-driven, testosterone-laden fight fantasies. It's the other aspects that allow for more story, more development of new characters.

And those characters are played by women. I disdain the 'strong female character' label in favor of 'strong character' but either one works.  In 2015 we got three great characters in science fiction films: Imperator Furiosa, Rey the scavenger and Captain Melissa Lewis.

If you haven't seen Ridley Scott's The Martian, there are spoilers from here on. You've been warned.

Lots and lots has been written about both Furiosa and Rey and maybe there's something written about Captain Lewis that I haven't stumbled across. Maybe it's because she's a supporting character in The Martian that she's been overlooked, but she shouldn't be. Without Captain Lewis, Mark Watney does not make it off Mars alive. Let me emphasize that: Captain Lewis is directly responsible for Watney getting off Mars.

She does not feel guilty for leaving Watney behind when the storm hits, her decision is the right one for everyone else. It's not her fault Watney got hit, either. When she learns he's still alive on Mars she's determined to go back and get him but she wants input from her crew. She's loyal, not guilty. Big difference there. Watney survives on his wits, his education and his disdain of her choice in music.

But because The Martian isn't her story, we don't learn much about her other than she's an excellent leader and her taste in music runs to 1970s disco. In my mind that doesn't make her any less a strong character than Furiosa or Rey, just not as fleshed out. Her will to rescue him is strong and maybe it influences the crew but I doubt it took that much for them to want to go back and rescue their companion. They were all willing to pay the cost.

And Lewis sets everything up exactly the way a leader is supposed to: with each crew member contributing. When the plan goes cockeyed, she takes over; she is the one who goes out to grab Watney. She puts herself at risk not because she feels guilty, but because she's responsible. She's loyal. She's a commander and she's the one who takes the risk. She's the one who grabs him so they can be reeled back in.

She's brilliant in the short time she's allowed to shine.

Everyone could grow up to be like her. Girls could use this supporting character in a very entertaining film to decide that a career as an astronaut might be cool. Guess what? NASA's next class of astronauts is 50% female. And they may be heading to Mars sooner than later.

That's fucking cool. (As an aside, they'd better get equal pay to the men. Make sure that happens, NASA.)

At comic conventions last year I saw an awful lot of Furiosa cosplay. There'll be more this year and Rey will figure MUCH more heavily in the mix, too, because there are more women and girls coming to comicons to cosplay. Will I see more Agent Carters? Probably. Will there be any Captain Lewises? I doubt it. Maybe, but probably not. I hope so, though. She deserves to be cosplayed as much as the other two (well, three including Peggy Carter) because she's as badass as the others. She just didn't get the publicity.

Watch The Martian. Pay attention to the last half, close attention and tell me that Lewis is not a badass. I dare you. Lewis is the reason Watney gets to go home.

This year we're going to see Wonder Woman on the big screen for the first time. Next year, she gets her own movie. That's cool. It's about time. There will be a Captain Marvel film with Carol Danvers as the main character. I would love to see Jessica Chastain in the role. There should be a Black Widow movie. There should be toys of all these characters, especially Rey. The controversy over the deliberate exclusion of Rey action figures and toys is reprehensible. Don't let it happen again.

So with Lewis in mind, and NASA making an effort, will we see an uptick in girls and women working in the field that could define the human race for centuries to come? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm too old and too stupid to be an astronaut. Someone needs to get out there and do cool things. Gentlemen, open your minds and set aside your prejudices. There are women who will kick ass when you give them the chance.

The world doesn't have to rest on your shoulders to do great things. But when it does, I'm hoping you've got strong, capable people around you. If their names are Imperator Furiosa, Rey or Melissa Lewis, you're in good hands.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Laughter Around the Room

It's too warm here on the eastern edge of the west. Too warm for January. Too warm for our own good. It sounds weird to say "where's Winter?" when it's 40*-50*F but - where the hell is Winter?

You know how there are scenes in movies and TV shows where someone says something serious, really serious, and the rest of the characters all start laughing? Or when the villain chuckles and all his henchmen laugh along with him? Sure, you've seen those bits. You know what I'm talking about.

No one's laughed yet after I announced my publishing plan last week. Now I'm more than a little nervous. If no one's laughing, am I on the right path? Are my friends too polite to laugh? Or are they laughing into their hands behind my back?  I guess it's possible that they just didn't notice. What I've heard from the few who've said something is good luck. I hope that means it's a decent plan.

Of course the writer wants to know if all is well, wants the reassurance that the work is good. It's the paranoid part of us. Of me, anyway. Damn it, it's all circular. All I can do is my best. I'm going through the book again and yeah, it's the best I can make it until I get notes back from my editor. I suppose I'll be fretting about this until the book goes out to you all.

I promise, PROMISE not to tinker with it once it's out in the wild. I will not be like George Lucas.

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I'm currently reading Nnedi Okorafor's Book of Phoenix. From the first page it's engrossing and takes me out of my world into the rich story of Phoenix, a speciMen. She was grown two years ago and appears to be about forty. Fantastic start and rolls along at high speed. Worth your time.

I'm also researching food halls. And how millennials and Generation X get along for my day job. Because it's unlikely I will ever be a full-time writer. I mean, I hope and dream of that but one must maintain a home, transportation and be able to buy food to put on the table as well as keep insurance. I love all those things so my goal is to write one novel a year for the foreseeable future. And maybe a couple of short stories. It's possible it might go more the writer way than the day job but until then...

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Once upon a time I was an artist. I wanted to draw comics more than anything because of Neal Adams and Jim Aparo and John Byrne and Sal Buscema and John Buscema and so many, many more greats. I got to tell Neal Adams that once and I shook John Buscema's hand and thanked him for his comics. Back in the late 90s and early 00s I made comics for a spell. Drew quite a few pages and made progress but I quickly learned I was a better writer than I was an artist.

Anyway, I write that to mention that I've been doodling a lot lately. It helps me focus and may result in some decent ideas for things in the future. I may share a few of them over on my Instagram. Trying to take more pictures but it's not in my nature. Look for 'em over there rather than here if you're so inclined.

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Finally, I'll be appearing at Empower ComicCon on a couple of panels about writing and publishing, I think. I may wander the floor a bit to get a feel for the show.

We are a minority based Comic Con centrally located in Topeka Kansas  

The Empower ComicCon, is what it exactly sounds like. We want to Empower you, to be you. It is strange to how something so simple, could be so difficult to implement. Here in Capital City with all our negative press we need to stand up and support each other, and Yes it is that simple! 

Ours in a place to love not judge....

So I'm excited to be involved. I'm going in with my eyes and mind open to a wonderful experience. As things get firmed up I'll post here. In the meantime when someone starts laughing at something someone else said, will you laugh along?

Thanks for reading. Glad you're here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Details and a Promise

The novel is finally ready to go. It's the first of a series. There's certainly enough material for five or six books but it all depends on how it plays out. I know the middle, I know the end, it's a matter of getting there. But what's The Cold Distance about?

It's the story of Dee, the rebellious ward of a powerful politician who decides to escape the fate she sees coming for her. She apprentices herself to an inscrutable alien and his partner, a quantum-based artificial intelligence. Out in the galaxy, Dee enjoys a life of danger and adventure traveling between worlds but must come to terms with all she's done.

The Cold Distance, will be available across all electronic platforms including Kindle, iBooks, Kobo and Nook as well as paperback in July 2016. It's a space opera, science fiction.

So, details. Here are some details:

  • That's not the cover up there. That's just for the announcement. I expect to be able to reveal the cover at the end of May. I'll tell you more about the artist as that gets closer. Those who stop by my Artists Alley table at Planet Comicon will get to see it before it goes out on the web. 
  • I've hired an independent, professional editor for the book. It ain't cheap, but it's absolutely worth it. I'll get it back from her at the end of March, I think. Follow me on Twitter for how that's going on a day to day basis. Fewer updates will show up on Facebook.
  • There are other hands involved in getting this book out to you: a professional designer and a dab hand at formatting will help out.
  • The title comes from a song. You can probably guess which one.
  • A gang of beta readers have given me feedback, one of whom is an editor herself. This story has changed and grown, been cut and built through multiple drafts into what it is now with their help. I owe them a debt I can never repay.
  • The book started out as a NaNoWriMo work in 2011. It's taken a long, long time to take what was a good outline generated during NaNo and turn it into a real novel. You've heard the stories of people writing a 'novel', slapping a cover on it and 'throwing' it up for sale. That's definitely not the case here. This book is the best I can make it. It's 1000% better than the zero draft.
Which leads me to my promise to you, my potential reader.

I am giving you the best possible, most professional novel I can at this time. I am working with people who know what they're doing. It's my book, but it's not just me putting it together for you. I won't give you a half-assed, rushed out piece of dreck. I promise you're getting a professional-level product, or as close as I can get. Anything I ask you to pay for will be at that level. 

All this comes from my history of playing in bands and self-publishing comics. All my experience in those arenas, and the moderate successes of them, is informing this. The Cold Distance is the best thing I've ever created. I want it out in the world in the best way. 

I want you to have it. 

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Post-Bowie World

This is where the attempted clever opening would go, where I would welcome you to the eastern edge of the west.

It seems superfluous to do that today. Despite the somber tone so far, this is more about happy things than not. Let's explore.

David Bowie died last week. As has been much ballyhooed all over the Internet and throughout the various media, he was a creative inspiration, a genius musician and wonderful artist. He challenged himself to be as good as he could be. He made it all right for the geeks and the weirdos to be geeks and weirdos. If he was only ever remembered for his theatricality and the characters he created he would be a giant. But he pushed boundaries and expectations. Constantly. He made music that reflected the times he composed it in. He was part of a band (Tin Machine) that deserved much wider recognition. He influenced fashion and commented on fame and celebrity in ways that connected with everyone. He was an actor who gave us memorable performances.

For me, I grew up with the hits on rock radio. He blew up with the advent of MTV and hit my generation with the Let's Dance album and its Serious Moonlight tour. The first album I bought of his was Never Let Me Down. I saw the tour, Glass Spider, with Peter Frampton on guitar (a 70s classic rock staple) and Toni Basil (an 80s one hit wonder) running the choreography. Not my first concert by a long stretch but the one that showed me the power of art in music. Go look it up and watch the videos. Then think about the time it landed. It was a Broadway production, a video in real life.

I thought about it all the way home. I kept the program from the show for decades and passed it on to someone I knew would appreciate it when I decluttered some a while back.

Several years later he toured Sound+Vision, claiming that it would be the last tour where he'd guarantee he'd play all his big hits. I went with my best friend and my girlfriend and heard all the songs he didn't play during Glass Spider. Adrian Belew opened with his band and then came back to play guitar for the main show. It was pure magic that ended with more energy than the rest of the show combined.

His death hasn't hit me as hard as some other celebrity deaths (John Lennon and Robin Williams) but it's no less a void in my entertainment and inspiration. The Sound+Vision show and his comments later that he wouldn't have the hits to rely on in building future shows made me think about how I approached my own art on subconscious levels. Over the course of the next decades he would float up and down in my inspiration stream. His collaboration with Trent Reznor is notable in that he reached yet another generation by challenging himself to be different and/or better.

Which is as much his legacy as his music.

Now we have to turn and face the strange without Mr. Bowie. Those of us who grew up with his music as it was released - whether from the beginning, the middle or the end - are fortunate to have been on the same planet as him. Most of us never met him but we know a part of him.

And that's something to be grateful for.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

What's Next - Maybe











I'm still trying to figure out the literary equivalents of chord structure, key, time signature. This will be my year to explore those things here and there.