Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Sunday, 25 November 2012
Well, you have made your pilgrimage to my site once again, darling fans, and you're in for a treat. Tonight, I have an interview with JC Eggleton, author of the one and only Brookhaven.
Brookhaven, book 1 of the Web of Fate series, can be bought here; and you really should buy it, now, as soon as you can. It's dark, it kept me up with its waking nightmare world, and it's rather well-written. I can't tell you too much about the plot without giving things away. I will say, though, that it involves a crime plot in a small southern town, plenty of pitch-black humour, and a struggle for a man's soul--and that none of this goes in the directions you'd expect. So, without further ado, give a warm welcome to the warped and wonderful JC Eggleton!
Though billed as horror, it's strongly influenced by urban grit, fantasy, and science fiction. As the series progresses these influences are made more prevalent as a sprawling mythos is explored. My aim was to craft a modern mythology that draws inspiration from folklore, Jungian psychology, and quantum theory.
Q: What, or who, inspired Marcus Dodd's character?
Submitted by JC, picture of the author. This is definitely his 'scary' face.
Sunday, 18 November 2012
Well, I've been less reliable lately, but I hope you all still love me. I did promise that I would finally catch up with Halloween content. I still have some reviews of classic monster movies that I'd like to stick up, so hopefully those will be going up in the next week. I don't want to promise too much, because NaNoWriMo has been eating my time like a cat with the last can of his favorite wet food. The good news is...this means you can probably have a new book by December. I KNOW, RIGHT? So, stay tuned for more info about that!
The fun thing about the story that follows is that it's 'based on a true story'. This one is dedicated to Kim, Rebecca, Linda, Judy, and Malek, as well as the rest of you at the office (you know who you are). It was a pleasure working with you. Events were a bit different than this, and may have included less ghost, but we did, in fact, win the haunted cubicle contest with a house basically the same as the description below.
So, without further ado, I present a new short story written in the spirit of holiday frivolity--ladies, gentlemen, and others, I hope you enjoy "No Free Lunch".
With shaking fingers, she adjusted the recording in a hidden corner. The screams, moans, and sounds of howling wind were underlaid with the music from “Thriller”. It was a surprisingly creepy combination. A particularly agonized moan made her jump, and she found herself giggling hysterically.
Sam thought quickly. Sam wondered if she should duck out of the way, and considered that the ghost would likely follow her. The black eyes held a faint white spark at their centres, like a pupil, glowing in an unholy way.
I can’t believe that worked. “Thank you. What did you need help with?”
“The haunted office?”
Sam shook her head. Well, it had to have been a dream or something like that. Sleep deprivation did that, didn’t it? Made you hallucinate? Suddenly, the whole office seemed happier, brighter, and so was Sam, as she considered the completed office. Loaded with candy and surprises, it was sure to land them a lunch. She sighed, feeling relief that her nightmare hadn’t been about evil paperclips, and finally headed home.
Sam kept her face neutral as she set down her fork. “I dunno,” she managed. “I think it’s less empty than it looks. I…I’ll be right back.”
“It’s okay, buddy. We fooled her good. Same time next year?”
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Today, we touch on a dark topic, one that has evoked the strongest of feelings for the last handful of years. For some, they are feelings of love, frenzied adoration, and longing; for others, passionate hatred and disgust. And for still others, they are feelings of pain in the lungs and abdomen after laughing too hard. I speak, of course, of that literary abortion, Twlight.
After perusing that pre-eminent page of perlustration, Reasoning with Vampires, I remembered something I'd conceived earlier in the year. Unlike Bella's demon-child abomination, this conception had some merit to it. Bear with me, here; I managed to find a sensible theme in Twilight as a series. It's a remote possibility, but it may be that Stephanie Meyer is smarter than she looks, and has thrown all of us for a loop. Twilight, you see, can be read as a heavily allegorical American fable about the downfall of the economy and the world today.
Oh, there's my monacle. Right, then.
Thanks, Leonhart! Not sure if subtle acting, to be perfectly true to book...or showcase of incompetence...
Bella: Airheaded and abstracted, her depressed state is a mainstay of the books. She is detached from the world around her, and even from the boy she mentions as an object of obsession. This is a fine representation of the current state of the youth of America. Disenfranchised, they pay lip service to ideals that are fading fast in the glare of modernization and a new world. Forks is represented as an old-fashioned town, where the modern young Bella is adrift--even though its inhabitants purport to be friendly, her poor self-esteem causes her to distrust and reject them. Her immersion in old-fashioned literature is remarkable for her lack of absorption and connection with it. In spite of being able to name-check many fine authors, she passes over them as if their work has had no effect on her, no emotional resonance. She becomes obsessed by a thing she seems to hate...that is...Edward: He is clearly an embodiment of the American dream: to be rich, coming from a balanced and wealthy family, and envied by all. He is physically perfect, but not tame, still wild and independent: a perfect American hero as much as a Byronic hero. He is a cowboy-like Lone Star figure who cannot be captured without sacrifice. His vampirism represents the way this dream is sucking the life out of the youth of America, who cannot escape it and are oppressed by their obsession with it. He even sparkles, not unlike the glittering hopes of the nation. His arrogance, entitlement, and infuriatingly superior personality keep him out of reach, while his form and figure are described as the glass of fashion and as 'angelic'. Need I mention the hint of Lucifer-like characterization in this literally "dazzling" love interest? Add, too, his moral stances, romanticised chastity, and Christian beliefs; and clearly we see Meyer's attempts to show the allure of bygone principles.
Jacob: With his doglike aspect and the subordination he is subject to, is a representation of both First Nations people and the family. His heritage is heavily emphasized in the series, as is the conflict between his people and the American Dream team. He is constantly oppressed by the American dream and shunted to the side by society. Bella, representing the youth of America, finds him appealing and relateable, but ultimately dismisses his devotion and affection as uninteresting. (She frequently discards adoration from others in the same way, illustrating her alienation further.) This has actually happened in 'real America'; consider the cultural appropriation by hipsters of First Nations art and symbolism for aesthetic reasons. Consider, too, that other non-whites become white when they are made into vampires; Jacob, unable and unwilling to assimilate, must be conquered another way. He eventually is subservient to Bella and Edward, and is assimilated in this fashion. This is shown by the way he falls in love with their child, whom he is willing to care for even if she can't return it as romantic love.
Ultimately, though, the pursuit of absolute happiness is an ideal that is more destructive than hopeful. Bella herself becomes a vampire in the end, after much debate. Her struggle is unhindered by her parents, remnants of the unsuccessful older generation who long to capture the dream themselves. Still, she debates with herself, endlessly tortured--is it worth giving up everything she knows to chase a dream? It seems blessed by god, and sure to bring her immortality, but what is its price? When she withdraws from the world and bears a child, she dies. Clearly, bringing a dream into reality is painful, and often more destructive than it is creative. Edward himself is disgusted by the child and considers it an abomination. After the birth, Bella becomes one with her dream, and in doing so, loses everything. She has become a part of the American Dream, but at the cost of her own destruction.
...Either it was the most subtle metaphor ever, or it was just an over-rated piece of racist, heteronormative, misogynistic crap. I can dream, but ultimately, there is no way (I hope) that Meyer intended all those levels of subtext.
Source. Thank you, Reasoning with Vampires. Dana, you give the best relationship advice!
I did mention fixing the series, though, implying that apart from my rather dark and hopeless reading of the themes, it would be possible to salvage this pile of soppy, overly emotional dreck. After a late-night ponder with the boyfriend, I found some actual solutions.
1) Good Editing: I'm only going to mention the soul-destroying, hilariously awful writing of Meyers for a moment, because it's been done elsewhere. And done again, brilliantly. Still, the writing is really abominable on a mechanical level. Cut out the excessive descriptors and go all Wuthering Heights up in this bitch, and you'd get some very interesting results. That novel, by the way, is characterized by really good descriptions of weather and terrain. Not only are they exceptionally skilful, they advance the plot, augmenting it like a small diamond set next to a larger gem. Take note, aspiring writers; your descriptions can be useful, instead of so much literary fapping.
2) MOAR DARKNESS!: Cut out the crap about her boring family, the kids at school, and the Cullens, or make it darker. Bella is already mopey...give the bitch something to mope about, and something to fear! Give the enormous cast of minor characters some genuine characterization, and make it sinister. Forks is too innocent and boring, and it could use some shadows. Hell, even a few cheesy ghost legends would help a bit. No one, especially Bella, ever seems to have had anything at stake, and the worse things that have happened are a slightly sad divorce and a car accident. More blood and guts, please, with a side of trauma. Make it painful. There is a bit of gore, sure, and the whole 'my boyfriend may eat me and not in a fun way' thing, but the fact that Edward is abusive is far more frightening than his vampirism. That is not good.
3) The Love Interests Need to be Monstrous: imagine a world in which vampires don't sparkle, they kill. Yes, I know, it's Anne Rice's territory, but her work is bogged down by pornographic details. Emphasizing the Draculean monstrosity of Edward's hunger and personal magnetism would have made for a much more interesting struggle. Jacob, too, should have done more slavering and less whining and cringing. A little more horror--other than the horror of all of those superfluous commas and dashes--would have done the job so nicely. As it is, the stalking, obsession, and threats of danger are often hilarious and disturbing rather than really frightening. Instead of being swept up by her love, intelligent readers worry for Bella's mental health, as much as it's possible to worry about such a despicable character.
4) Bella Sucks: Bella, of course, is a monster for different reasons, but if she had had her naivety abused by Edward and Jacob, it would've been a very different story. Her jaded, strained, depressed persona would have to go, obviously. or else it would have to be contrasted with some genuinely likeable traits. Give her a history of abuse, or at least a reason to be such a tough, emotionally resistant broad. A dose of tomboyishness would work, for instance. She hates everyone, and they like her in spite of it; any analysis of her character reveals a frighteningly warped personality. Instead of acting as though her stupidity and meanness are normal...why not worth around these traits? Bella lacks self-awareness even more than she lacks self-esteem, and that's saying something. Granted, she's a teenager, but even the most difficult teenagers have not inspired so much hatred. A harpoon gun to the face is the only thing that would improve Bella Swan at present, and there has to be a better way.
5) Atmosphere: Well, I have to give Meyer this much: she did a good job at establishing an atmosphere in spite of herself. Now, while I am tempted to regurgitate my supper at the mere admission that Meyer got something right, I have to underline this. The meteorological descriptions and scenery are, at heart, not too bad. The erotic tension in the book is also interesting, although the puritan approach to sex is a serious downfall. More sexytimes--less than Anne Rice, but more than what is currently shown--and more storms, with better descriptions, would have really enhanced the power of the setting and mood.
There's probably more that could be added here, but as entire blogs have been devoted to the subject, I'll leave my two cents here.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Well, I wasn't going to suck up to Disney on purpose. I have an ambivalent attitude towards the company. Sometimes they do things that are very, very right. At other times, they screw up and make 'Latina' characters look white. This time, though, they mostly did things right. Here is my fairly glowing review of "Wreck It Ralph."
Let's start with a couple of caveats.
First, this isn't going to be a plot-based review, it's going to be analytical. I know plenty of people are already flooding the internets with their opinions on this one, so I'll be contributing mine in the most unbiased fashion I can muster.
Second, there will probably be spoilers.
All right. Feel forwarned enough yet? Without further ado, get your geek on, and let's talk about Wreck It Ralph.
Part 1: Geek Wankage Supreme With Pac-Man's Cherries On Top (Literally)
This is pretty self-explanatory. An inherent strength and weakness of Wreck It Ralph is that it is unabashedly targeted to geeks and nerds. With its arcade-game theme, Disney is making no bones about its target audience. This one is for 'us', the geeks, and if you're not at least somewhat familiar with classic arcade games or arcade-style games, you're not going to enjoy this nearly as much. Thankfully, since most people have heard of Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, Mortal Combat, and the various kill-the-aliens/zombies games, even international audiences are probably going to have something of an idea of what's being referenced. Still, this movie is firmly rooted in pop culture to an extent I'm not sure I've seen before, travelling the line between fan-fiction and homage in a tap-dancing sort of way. I really can't decide whether it was a good thing or a bad thing that it flagrantly played to geek knowledge bases. It exists as a sort of shrine to the place these games have in our consciousness, and I'm going to let the professionals and history weigh in on whether this is a good or bad thing. Keep in mind that the film was in development starting in the nineties, and was only released now. Clearly, times have changed enough for it to be really marketable, and that says something. What, I'm still working on.
Source. I live for Wiki, seriously.
Part 2: Equality Epic Win Time
Okay. Now that I've gotten my first reservation out of the way, let's talk about geek culture a bit. It's fairly egalitarian, but still pretty ethnocentric to 'white' North American culture (though this is definitely improving). The cast for this one is definitely lacking visible diversity, which annoyed me. (That said, the short before the film, "Paperman", actually had not-entirely-whitewashed design elements for the characters, which was a nice little detail.) Most of the classic characters--when they were human at all--tended to be white, which you can't do much about, but the 'amorphous blob' and background characters should have had it mixed up a bit more.
Okay. I've mentioned that, and now I can glow and gush about the feminism epic wins. I don't think I need to mention that Jane Lynch is amazing in this, and an absolute scene stealer. The cast is fairly equal in female/male casting proportions, it passes the Beschdel (two named women must talk to each other about something other than a man) very easily, and best of all, the 'external' character, the gamer who sees some of the action going on--is a little girl. The little red-headed girl wears pink and is equally comfortable playing Hero's Duty, Wreck It Ralph, and Sugar Rush. It's so satisfying to see a tiny change like that, something that reflects the world accurately. There was a tiny bit in which two fat male geeks were rude to her and excluded her from 'Sugar Rush', too, which made me wonder if it was an intentional stab at the sexism in gaming.
Part 3: We Can Has Moral Complexity
I just mentioned the Sgt. Calhoun character, and I will again. She bears a second look just to emphasize that she's an ass-kicking woman who isn't made into either a man (her metaphors are hilariously feminine, and she still has a heart) or a mom by the end of the movie. I can't even tell you how happy that made me. Like Vanillope, Calhoun is sassy, and we lose nothing by two witty women in our main cast. Throw in an unexpected romantic path, and you have yet another proof that yes, there is hope for Hollywood after all.
Vanellope von Schweetz is an equal triumph; Sarah Silverman is very Sarah Silverman-y, though, and it's hard to get past. Even without that, the fact remains that this movie has a character with a 'disability', who is almost explicitly treated as a 'special needs' person, and referred to as a 'glitch'. Sure, the glitch turns out to be a superpower, and we have to deduct a half-point for that. Still, the fact that Vanellope is bullied and excluded by the other girls in a very realistic way was actually surprisingly moving.
Finally, I'm going to mention that the eponymous character, Ralph, is the one and only character I've seen in an 'accepting your place in the world' movie who didn't make me want to stab my eyeballs out with forks. I can't really compliment John C. Reilly's performance enough, but the way he stays true to the character's hopefulness while giving Ralph both bitter anger and darkness is brilliant. As well, the candy-car smashing scene that makes Vanellope cry might be one of the saddest fucking things I've seen in a while. I admit it, I teared up in the theatre.
Source. This is actually less sad than what happens when Ralph lies to Vanellope and disappoints her. LESS SAD.
Conclusion: Prognosis is Positive
I said I was going to be balanced, but I have to admit, for its flaws, this movie really swept me up. Sure, it speaks to 'my' subculture, but it also has a really solid story. The Candy Rush set is delightfully rich and well-imagined, to the extent that I was craving candy for the rest of the night. The blended elements are strange and creative enough to make things work. They managed to make unusual, original characters work in a strangely fused world. It's somewhat bogged down by referentials, but it's such a love song to video games that the references really make the movie. I can nitpick further on the equality issues and the feminism, frankly, but the rest of the implementation was very solid. The pacing is excellent, and designs and lighting really fit. There is a lot of love in the small details of this movie. It's a solid 9 out of 10 stars/rings/coins/mushrooms in my book. Stop reading my blog and go buy a lizard-loving ticket, you electric donkey-bottomed fools. Seriously. This is not a film you want to miss.