Saga Volume 1 Review

There’s not much I can say about Saga that hasn’t already been said by people with significantly sexier accents than me, but I’ll try.

First thing you should know about Saga is that the writer, Brian K. Vaughan, is the same pen wielding fella that wrote Y: The Last Man. I can’t remember if I’ve done a review for Y: The Last Man on here but here’s the real quick, smack you in the face and leave you writhing on the ground whimpering like a baby, version: It’s really good. I have some problems with Y: The Last Man, but on the whole, it’s a great series. There’s an interesting story line with some of the best dialogue I’ve ever seen.

ubilical

Well, best dialogue I’ve ever seen until…Saga. For those of you unfamiliar with writing, dialogue is a tricky turnip to do right, to do it well means the capricious writing gods were probably distracted and looking elsewhere whilst you scribbled your words, and to do great dialogue means you likely exchanged sexual favors with the devil at some point.

hades gif

Now, before you get all up in a tizzy, I am not saying Brian Vaughan slept with the devil…er.. okay, well, actually that’s precisely what I’m saying. Deal with it.

As far as deals with the devil go, this one was a good one, for fans of graphic novels, anyhow. What you get with Saga is a fast paced space opera sci-fi/fantasy mashup weirdness. There are disemboweled ghost nannies, royalty robots, a sort of sexy spider woman assassin thing, and a cat that can detect when you’re lying…and that’s not even mentioning our two main characters.

Marko and Alana are soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war, they fall in love (as ram-horned dudes and moth-winged ladies are wont to do) and have an inter-species child. They just want to get away from the fighting and start a life together, but nothing is ever that simple, ’cause now, if being first-time parents isn’t hard enough, everybody in the galaxy pretty much wants them dead.

The thing I really enjoyed about this story, besides the dialogue, was the expansive scope of the world-building. There are at least half a dozen story threads woven into this single volume, and throughout the tale you can’t shake the feeling that Vaughan was actually holding back a little. That’s a good thing because rather than bogging us down with world-building minutiae, Saga Volume 1 leaves you hungry for more.

And that in a nutshell is the beauty of space opera. Crazy, absurd adventures taking place on an epic, intergalactic scale. If that’s your sort of thing, then you can do no wrong with Saga.

Let’s chat about the art real quick, because, ya know, this is a graphic novel and there are pictures on every page so it’s sort of important. Fiona Staples has a really stylistic touch in Saga. None of the pictures are overly impressive–that is to say none of them really stop you dead in your tracks with your mouth hanging off its hinges. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, ’cause Fiona’s style revolves around her characterization.

saga volume 1.1

Forget everything you’ve learned from a Michael Bay movie, you don’t need bright, flashing lights and big explosions to sell your piece. You need good characterization. That’s precisely what Staples brings to the mix. Whether we’re talking about Alana or Marko (our main characters) or some of the lesser characters, she does an amazing job of making their emotions pop off the page. Her work is a beautiful compliment to Vaughan’s story, the two creating a synergistic effect that makes Saga into something truly beautiful.

Oh, god… I’m gushing. Give me a second, let me grab a clean pair of underoos. No, no, nevermind. We’re almost done. I’ll just wallow a bit longer.

So, if you’re into graphic novels and haven’t read Saga yet, well, that’s pretty unforgivable. Go do it, right now. Go on, I’ll wait.

*waiting*

still waiiting

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The Hawkeye Initiative

I’m knee deep in a robo-baby short story over here, but I wanted to give you all a little somethin’-somethin’ to keep you entertained on this Sunday afternoon. Coincidentally, it tag-teams off my previous post about really lame superhero costumes (how’s that for bringing things around full circle?).

One of the comments in that post referenced The Hawkeye Initiative which is a marvelous attempt to raise awareness as to the ludicrous ways women are portrayed in comics.

How do they raise awareness? Click below to find out. I guarantee it’s good for a chuckle or two.

THE HAWKEYE INITIATIVE!

You’re Not Really Gonna Wear That Are You?

Time for another confession: I love superheros. Yeah, in all shapes and sizes, skills and abilities, traumatized pasts or billionaire playboys, doesn’t matter: I love them. I’m a sucker for a guy or gal in a spandex suit, wearing their undies on the outside and doling out good ol’ vigilante style justice.

So, naturally, I tinkle a little whenever I hear about a new superhero movie or television show coming out. Whether you realize it or not we’re sort of living through a second golden age of the superhero. DC and Marvel have both outlined their intent to release huge blockbusters on a yearly basis for like the next century. If you’re a fan, like me, then this is great. Unless it’s not.

Wait, what? Really, Anthony? What are you going to hate on today?

Good question. I’m gonna pick on one of the most important decisions a movie maker can make when it comes to creating a kick ass superhero movie: the costume. Now, you haven’t kicked my dog, or put a hex on my family tree, so I won’t torture you by going all Cosmo on you, but seriously, what your main character is wearing on screen will make or break a movie.

With that said, let’s go through some of the worst superhero costume designs of all time and see what useful nuggets we can gleam from this heaping pile of turd-a-geddon.

First, let’s all give Edna Mole a second to explain some basic costume functionality.

Still not convinced? Well, fine. Let’s ask Madonna’s opinion.

 

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about the next no-no.

This is something I never, ever say, but… NO NIPPLES!

batman and robin

Ugh, Batman and Robin will go down in history as one of the all-time worst reincarnations of Batman.

First, check out those nipples on Robin. Batman was sporting some nips as well, but thankfully you can’t see them in this picture. Seriously costume-designer guy? How did you even think this was a good idea?

Second, chrome Batman? No. I like creative new takes on old costumes, but you strayed too far on this one.

Despite all the negatives there is one thing I’ll give kudos and a fist bump for–Alicia Silverstone is showing practically zero skin.

Wait, what? Yeah, that’s right. I don’t like seeing skin on my superheros. Boys or girls, doesn’t matter. When you’re rolling in the dirt with bad-guys exposed skin is a very bad idea. Unfortunately, where superheroines are concerned, this is a common problem. Let’s take a gander at some of the more egregious examples.

 catwoman_458

Halle Berry is beautiful, no doubt, but this is the least functional outfit I’ve ever seen. And that’s something that needs to be considered when drawing up designs for a superhero outfit. For the most part, movie makers and the like do a good job of this where male characters are concerned, but those poor, poor ladies are gonna have some wicked road rash after one good tumble to the pavement.

Here’s a good example of how male superheros are treated differently than the females. Same movie, different theories on functional outfits.

elektra1

daredevil1

I had my problems with Daredevil the movie, but I will say that his costume was pretty cool. Not only did it look badass, it was cut entirely from leather so that dude could do high-speed somersaults down the street all day long and still have all his skin to show for it. But Elektra? Oh, god… that outfit couldn’t even stop a stiff breeze.

This is where the comic purists will say, “Yeah, but atleast her costume is staying true to the comic book.” Which is true, I concede that point. But let’s take a look at the costume in question shall we?

elektra2

Ugh…Seriously, sometimes it’s okay–nay, required!–to stray from the source material. This would be one of those times!

With that said, there are some exceptions to the scantily clad rule.

You’re bulletproof…

wonder woman

 

Or you can turn into a diamond…

emma frost

 

And that’s it. If you’re not a larger than life engagement ring, or Wonder Woman, you need to be showing a bit less leg.

Oh, I hear your cries of outrage. You say, “But what about if I were a Warrior Princess? Could I skimp on the trousers and body armor then?”

What, a warrior princess sort of like this?

xena

Alright, fine… do what you want. See what I care. But don’t come crawling back asking for bandaids and neosporin when you get all cut up fighting The Porcupine!

Wow, I bet you didn't think The Porcupine was a real character, did you? Well, guess what? I didn't either. Thank you google.

Wow, I bet you didn’t think The Porcupine was a real character, did you? Well, guess what? I didn’t either. Thank you google.

Now that we know to steer clear of capes, nipples, and cleavage, let’s tackle a problem we’re only going to see more of in the near future: CGI costumes. Technology is capable of some real neatorific things these days. And I get it, the temptation to do a costume entirely by means of CGI wizardry is damn near irresistible, but please, please, please… before you walk down that Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Green Day reference here is timely only because of the word green. You don’t understand why, yet, but give it until the end of this sentence and you will!) take a note from the blockbuster dud, Green Lantern. (See! Told you that reference would make sense. Sort of.)

Ryan Reynolds played the Green Lantern in what could have been a fantastic movie. Instead, they screwed up two fundamental things and the whole kit and kaboodle started hydroplaning out of control.

First: the plot was pretty loosey-goosey. You can sacrifice a lot, but not story. Never story.

Second: the costume was entirely CGI which, could’ve been cool, but instead looked cheezy and made Ryan Reynolds look anemic. A bad look for a superhero. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

green lantern

Actually, you know what, I’m a big Ryan Reynolds fan and I could’ve found it in my heart to forgive the costume, but that mask. Oh god, that mask is atrocious.

For comparison purposes, here’s Mr. Reynolds rocking an awesome Deadpool costume.

deadpool2

Granted, you can’t see his face, but that’s the point. Superhero’s need to do a better job concealing their concealables. If there’s a lesson to gleam from this post thus far it’s this: full leather suits ala Deadpool and Daredevil = awesome.

I love leather. Don’t tell Peta. Or Katniss. (<– Oof.. that’s… that’s not a coherent joke.)

Full body suits are great, they offer a lot of protection which I think should never be underestimated whilst fighting crime. But there are some big no-no’s one should be aware.

One: full body spandex or leotards are questionable even under the best of circumstances.

fantastic four1

Notice how your eyes are immediately drawn to the crotch-al regions. But hey, it could be worse.

fantastic four2

Is Sue Storm wearing a superhero turtleneck? To my knowledge, only one person has ever pulled off the tactical turtleneck.

archer

Don’t know who this is? Watch Archer. Now.

Anyways, the one piece leotard is hard to pull off, but it can be done.

catwoman1

Ignore the high heeled boots for two seconds and realize that this outfit is actually incredibly functional for a cat burglar. Much better than that Halle Barry nonsense earlier.

But you got to tread cautiously ’cause one misstep and you end up looking like this guy.

phantom on a horse

Is that Barney riding a horse through the jungle? No, but it might as well be. Oi, I don’t even know where to start with this one.

Ack, well… this is as good a time as any to call it quits. End on a high note so to speak. Now, forget everything I just said and get down to the comments and tell me what you think. What are some of your favorite superhero costumes? What are your least favorite? Did any of them make my list? I’m dying to know, don’t leave me hanging!

Girls Rule and Boys Drool…for now!

Whew, the last couple days have been busy, busy, busy. I finished up the first draft of the novella I’m tentatively calling Nemesis and now I’m about elbows deep in the second draft. Coupled on top of that are the ongoing edits and redrafts of Infinity Lost and Mind Breach (books 1.5 and 2 in the Firstborn Saga respectively), so needless to say, this and last week have been very busy. By the way, that’s not a bad thing, and should by no means be taken as a complaint. I just wanted to lay the groundwork for why this post is technically a day behind schedule.

So for those of you with short term memory problems I’ll remind you that the other day I wrote about gender norms in the toy aisle, and since you have memory problems I’ll also remind you that you absolutely loved everything I said and agreed to give me a hundred dollar. Not sure why, precisely, but hey, they were your words not mine, so pay up already!

*quickly stuffs your money into my g-string* No take-backsies! Muahaha.

Oh, god… I tried finding a funny gstring picture for you all. Oh, jesus, I should of defined my search parameters more specifically than “guy in g-string”.

seen shit

Anyways, that post brought up some really good discussion points that I wanted to fondle a bit before moving onto the main topic.

– Boys had to sit in the backseat on the last post, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering from advertising/toy companies shoddy gender stereotypes. As pointed out by a very astute commentator, we still live in a culture that perceives “masculine” as good and “feminine” as bad. Case in point, it’s okay for girls to dress as “boys” and play with “boy” toys, but the reverse is not true. Boys are ostracized for liking the color pink, or wanting to play with dolls, or glitter, or anything that has become part of our cultural lexicon as “feminine”.

Regardless, these terms are outdated in their scope and need to die quick, horrible deaths at the hands of a wood-chipper ala Fargo.

– My friend Zach pointed out that it’s lame the only two modalities seem to be either “pink princess” or “squinty eyed, scowling tomboy”. I think in particular he was calling me out for using the phrase “she kicks ass on her own terms and doesn’t take shit from noone.”

And rightly so. But I want to clarify what I meant.

There are a ton of ways to write your character whether it be male or female. The ones we typically get behind, however, are the ones that have strong agency. That is, they exert their will on the story rather than letting the story act on them. When I say, “she kicks ass”, I didn’t necessarily mean that literally (though in the case of this particular character–Black Widow–it was in reference to her beating some people up.

More so what I meant was simply that she has agency. She is doing stuff and making decisions that alter the course of the story. I use the phrase “kicks ass” because I’m lazy and rely on cliches to do a lot of my literary heavy lifting, so sue me.

Okay, moving on from that, as I promised in that last post, here are a couple of my favorite strong female leads. Not all of them physically kick ass, but for one reason or another, they all kick “figurative ass” much like little Riley in those videos I posted.

So here’s my top ten list in no particular order:

Lagartha Lothbrok – Vikings

lagertha

Vikings is pretty much the only show that the History channel has ever gotten right. Seasons one and two were amazing. Season three has been a bit of a let down for me, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right Meatloaf? (Any 80’s children out there?)

vikings

Lagertha exerts her will constantly in one of the most patriarchal societies imaginable. She’s not afraid to mix it up with the boys, but she doesn’t act like one of the boys. And that’s amazing. With a character like this, it would be so easy to simply make her into a male with boobs. Thankfully the show creators haven’t done that and the end result is my second favorite character in the entire show.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series

hermione granger

Hermoine kept popping into my head as I thought about this topic because she is the quintessential strong female character. Harry and Ron, like a couple nimkapoops, keep getting their heads stuck places they don’t belong (ya know, like between a railing or something).

If not for Hermione the Harry Potter franchise would’ve been one book long and a dud–mostly on account of the fact that Harry would’ve died within the first half of the first book. What I love about Hermione is the fact that she isn’t simply a scowly faced tomboy. She has her own lists of wants and desires and she enacts her will throughout the story to achieve those wants. Even more amazing is the fact that she does all this while effectively being a support character for the first five or so books.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Harry, our main character, is really lame when it comes to agency and having wants/wishes. He does very little throughout the story, it seems. Rather, a lot is happening to him, to which he reacts, but he’s not initiating much.

Shai – The Emperor’s Soul – Brandon Sanderson

shai

Brandon Sanderson takes a step away from writing the epic fantasy with this novella, for which he won a Hugo no less. If you haven’t read anything from Sanderson this might be a good starting point. It’s short and very accessible. Though, I’d argue all his stuff is accessible, they are rarely short. So there ya go.

Shai is an amazing character. Deep and insightful with twisted motivations that constantly keep you guessing. Whenever it seems as though she’s falling into a single category, she defies your expectations and changes in a subtle way.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Emperor’s Soul, Shai is a Forger who goes around using a complex magic system to create forgeries of priceless masterpieces. We pick up with her after she gets nipped by the boys in blue and we spend the rest of the story with her as she is given an impossible task to achieve, otherwise they’re gonna kill her. The way she works through her situation, and ultimately saves herself, are fantastic.

Miriam Black – Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig

blackbirds

Miriam Black is such an awesome character, but you don’t have to take my word for it, she’ll soon be coming to a television. I love this character because she is dark and gritty. Her past is troubling to say the least, but she doesn’t let that keep her down. She’s by no means an optimist, but she’s also not a fatalist. At no point does Miriam ever lay down and give up. The story tries to push her in one direction, and she shoves it right back, kicks it in the shin, and spits in its eye for good measure.

She kicks literal ass, but only ’cause she’s a scrapper. There is no high end special op’s training that allows her to twirly-bird her way through the bad guys. Instead, she gets in the muck and gets dirty, when she has too. Which is kind of a lot because she runs her mouth at a prodigious clip. But that’s who she is and she’s unapologetic about that to the extreme.

Miriam Black is a polarizing character, for sure, but nobody can ever accuse her of being weak-willed.

Alright Kiddos, that’s enough from me. Now it’s your turn. Get down to the comments and share your favorite female leads, or hey, if you want to be contrarian, tell us your least favorite female leads. That could be just as, if not more, entertaining!

Little Girl Ass Kicking Incoming!!!

Listen, I got a confession to make. Better come in close for this one. As some of you may know, I am a thirty-something middle-class white male. So I’m in like the 90th percentile when it comes to entitlement and privilege. I point this out because my demographic sort of shields me from a lot of the bull-shit the rest of the world has to deal with.

I try and be mindful of this, but the deck has been stacked, and I am the demographic companies and big budget advertisers aim to please (truthfully they shouldn’t try so hard ’cause I only got like $50 and some bread crumbs in the bank account). This is a poor excuse for my lack of mindfulness, but often times I’m oblivious to the royal shafting other people are getting because as I walk the aisles of Target, everything is designed to please people just like me.

I don’t see the problem. Until somebody points it out to me. And then I step back all bewildered, the blinders have dropped, and I’m staring straight in the face of an ugly truth.

This weeks ugly truth has to do with girls and the way companies market toys to them.

“Wait… this is about toys?” you say confusedly.

“Yes, yes it is,” I retort with ample sass.

“Um… alright.. keep going,” you say, keeping a wary eye on me.

“Fine I will.”

So earlier this week Marvel released their new Avenger lineup of toys and it has the world all up in a kurfuffle. Why? Well, because Black Widow and Scarlet Witch are pretty much nowhere to be seen. To be specific, Scarlet Witch has literally zero face-time, whether that be on the packaging or as a little siliconized plaything for children the world over. Black Widow faired a bit better, she’s on a shirt, on a video game starter pack, and on a shopping bag.

I admit, I spend less time in the toy aisle these days than I should. The fact that this was completely off my radar is therefore forgivable, or so I tell myself.

But this is some screwed up shit, and it’s not the first time. Gamora, the green skin bad-ass from Guardians of the Galaxy, didn’t get action figurized either!

When somebody pointed this out to me I had to sit back and scratch my head for awhile. I mean, come on people, what year is this? We’re possibly two years away from having a woman president and still we have to fight these sorts of lame gender battles.

You know what, I can’t put it more succinctly than this little girl, so give this video a little eyeball love real quick.

Holy balls. I want to point out two things real quick. First, little Riley is one articulate little girl. Yes, it’s likely she received a bit of coaching from her parents, but so what? This brings me to my second points, she’s absolutely right.

Black Widow is an awesome character in the Avenger’s movie. She’s not some token harlot, tramping around for the sake of showing some cleavage. She kicks legitimate ass, on her own terms, and don’t take no shit from nobody.

I want to be her when I grow up.

So, why is it then, that when it comes time to make the toys, the bad ass girl character gets zero love? Is it because superheros are for boys and princesses are for girls? If that’s what you think then you’re a shortsighted, small minded fool.

It’s still rare, but thankfully it’s becoming less so, that woman get represented in movies/books/comics in a way that accurately reflects their inherit badassery. As a society we’re carting around generations worth of gender baggage, and unfortunately, it’s not something we can just shrug off and be done with. We have to be intentional about the messages we send, and when Disney–one of the largest toy and media producers in the world–is still pushing these outdated stereotypical modalities, well, we’ve got ourselves a problem.

Girls are interested in more than pink dresses and princesses. Boys are interested in more than just superheros. Boys want to play with dolls, go for it. Girls want to play with action figures? Hell yeah, more power to you. But those decisions begin with a choice. A choice that, at this moment, is being made by big companies when they decide to do dumb-ass shit like not making Black Widow toys.

Here, to drive the point home, is another Riley video:

What are your thoughts? Tomorrow I’m gonna do another blog post outlining some of my favorite female characters on television, movies, and books, but why not get a jump-start on the conversation and tell me who some of your favorite female characters are? Hell, I might even use some of them in tomorrows post.

The Future of the Mind

Hello, hello, hello, and welcome! Ok, settle down, you yahoos.

Before we hop into today’s review of Michio Kaku’s new book, The Future of the Mind, I want to let you guys know that next month I’ll be opening up the One Lazy Robot Blog space to… you.

Yes, you read that correctly. For those of you wily bloggers out there interested in trying your hand at this, I’m going to be accepting some guest posts. Think you’ve got what it takes to woman the controls of the One Lazy Robot? Well, give it a shot. Write up a blog post, length is optional, though I’d try and keep it under 3,000 words. As for topics, you know, let the winds of destiny carry you where they may.

Want to write about robots in sci-fi? Word.

Want to write about the best book you’ve read this week, month, year? Double word.

Want to write about unicorns and how they’re better than minotaurs? Triple word.

You do you.

Seriously, the sky’s the limit, so put on those creativity helmets and get to work. I’ll be accepting submission’s until the end of April, so you’ve got a few weeks to get something down.

Now, quick obligatory disclaimer that should go without saying, don’t write anything overtly hateful. If you do, just remember that I retain the right not to publish whatever it is you decide to submit.

Alright, enough of that, now let’s chat about Michio Kaku’s new book, The Future of the Mind.

Kaku is hands down my favorite theoretical physicists, which, really, isn’t all that impressive, but it’s something. Who else is on my top 3 list? Funny you should ask…

kaku

Yeah, you’re number one, stop showing off.

hawking

Keep it up Kaku, Hawking’s right on your tail

sheldon-cooper

Bazinga!

But no, really, I hate the Big Bang Theory. OR do I? Dun dun dun… I’m mysterious!

He’s most well-known for his work on super-string theory and his litany of books that makes physics (and science in general) accessible to the masses.

He’s written a bunch of other books ranging from the Physics of the Future, Physics of the Impossible, and Hyperdrive, just to name a few. I’ve read them all and more or less enjoy all of them equally.

creativity engine

400 Horse Power of VROOM!

The Future of the Mind tills some interesting soil for me.The brain is extraordinarily complex. The technologies developed to study it, and harness its powers, are no less humbling. Kaku takes us on a tour-de-force of possibilities where cognitive science is concerned. If nothing else this book provided me with hours of daydreaming fodder. So many concepts to turn over in the old creativity engine.

Kaku covers a lot of ground but my two favorite sections dealt with telepathy/telekinesis, and surrogates. On the telepathy/telekinesis front, I think what’s most interesting is that the technology for these concepts already exists and is being used by patients who’ve suffered massive trauma in one form or another and no longer have full functionality of their bodies.

People who are bed-ridden, paralyzed from the neck down, are able to control computers remotely with just their thoughts. Sure, I’ve effectively distilled an incredibly complex process into only a few words, but that’s what I do. I’m like the Reverse Hyperbolist (a really peculiar super-villain if ever there were one).

These technologies are fascinating because as research advances and cost of production drops, we will soon see many of these gadgets in the homestead.

Introducing Muse: Changing The Way The World Thinks from InteraXon on Vimeo.

As you can probably tell from the video (which came out last year) we’re still a ways off from having this tech readily available at the consumer level, but not sooo far off. I think within the next decade or so we’re going to see this tech implemented on a day to day level in the same way smart phones have stormed into our lives like a hungry yeti.

There is no fighting it, just let the yeti have its way with you.

Oh, you poor, poor Yeti snack.

Anyways, surrogates were the other section of the book I found fascinating. The general idea is that in the future we’ll be able to control surrogate robotic bodies with just our thoughts. The possibilities this opens up are truly staggering. This single idea has been a sci-fi trope for decades, but most recently it was probably handled best by John Scaliz in Lock In.

Whether we’re talking about surrogates aiding in military operations, assisted living scenarios, or just handling the jobs too dangerous to send humans to do (shutting down post-critical nuclear reactors *cough cough Fukishima cough cough*), this single technological advancement has huge implications.

Okay, now the negatives. Often times Kaku talks about technologies which are “theoretically” possible, and in his enthusiasm forgets that all sorts of things are theoretically possible while still remaining for all practical purposes, impossible.

data

Often times he says that we have the math and technology for such and such, but now it’s simply a matter of engineering. Sure, that might be true, but that doesn’t really get us any closer to possible. In the end, Kaku glosses over very crippling engineering hurdles as though they were merely a speed bump. In some instances I think he is correct, given enough time and funding, we will unlock some of the technologies he references in the book. Others, however, I’m afraid will forever remain outside of our grasp.

But hey, that could just be me being cynical and short-sighted. I wouldn’t be the first person accused of such a crime. Then again, I’m a science fiction writer, so that pesky nuance of “engineering” doesn’t really matter to me. As long as the science is sound, I can run circles around those engineering fools, creating all sorts of new materials that allow my stories nearly magical abilities. Right? Right?!

Ok, fine. Nevermind. *grumble grumble.*

Who Doesn’t Like A Good Anthology?

Here’s the dirty: I’m sprinting towards the finish line of this Novella I’ve been working on the past week tentatively named Nemesis. It’s something shy of 30,000 words and I can see the finish line in sight. So, no long, well thought-out blog posts (ha, as if any of my posts are well-thought out) today.

Writing shorter fiction this past week has gotten me in the mood for some anthologies, and what do you know? There’ve been a couple really cool ones dropping this month. Without any further adieu, I present to you The Anthologies You Should Most Definitely Check Out Because I Say So!

The Dragon Chronicles

the dragon chronicles

Dragons. They are more than a memory from an age of wizards and heroes. These winged, fire-breathing beasts soar through the traditions of many lands, and through our dreams. In their many guises – Western or Eastern, reptile or lizard or serpent, wyvern, hydra, basilisk – dragons embody everything that we humans call magic.

In this volume of the acclaimed ‘Future Chronicles’ anthology series, twelve authors invite you to journey to very different worlds – lands of fire and fury, of legend and lore – but all worlds where dragons roam unshackled from myth, freed from the imagination, and real.

Well, actually, you’re gonna have to wait for this one ’cause it doesn’t drop until the end of the month, but the list of authors on this anthology is outstanding. You’ve got some big hitters like Daniel Arenson, Elle Casey, and Samuel Peralta, plus a story from a friend of mine, Ted Cross. Woot!

If you like Dragons, then do yourself a favor and get this, ’cause I’m guaranteeing it’s gonna be good.

Tales of Tinfoil: Stories of Paranoia and Conspiracy

tales of tinfoil

It is a dark and fictional reimagining of every conspiracy theory that ever lived. It is the JFK assassination, Area 51, the moon landing, the surveillance state. It is a French spy posing as Abraham Lincoln, it is a video game designed by the CIA, it is “Suicide Mickey.” It is Adolf Hitler and it is Elvis Presley.

In this bizarre and wonderful short story collection, today’s top fiction authors pull back the curtain on the biggest conspiracies of all time. Who really killed JFK? What happened in Roswell, New Mexico? Is Elvis still alive? With stories that run the gamut from touching to thrilling to utterly deranged, Tinfoil will take you on a tour of paranoia you won’t soon forget.

Twelve short stories, twelve conspiracy theories, twelve twisted rabbit holes.

I got a review copy of this a few weeks back from one of the authors Lucas Bale and I’m slowly working my way through the stories. So far they are excellent, which is no surprise, with contributions from big names like Nick Cole and Michael Bunker. Also, this anthology has the best “Book Trailer” I’ve ever seen. Watch it below.

Alrighty, time to squeeze some more words onto the page. Have a lovely end of the weekend everybody!

Perdido Street Station Review

I’m like the Grinch when it comes to giving out five star reviews. I’m stingy, but it’s for a reason. I reserve those magical five stars for books that are truly transcendent (whatever the hell that means). Typically this means the story has got to be on point, no dragging, no off-putting tangents that ultimately feel like literary weed-whacking.

weed whacker

Not to mention the prose has to be fresh.

Perdido Street Station is a highly acclaimed piece of speculative literature from China Mieville. Mieville, for those unfamiliar with his work, writes what he calls Weird Fic, and it shows in PSS. It defies categorization, what with its seamless blending of fantasy, steampunk, and straight sci-fi. PSS was my first experience with Mieville and (as I suspected from a guy who is consistently nominated for every award being thrown around these days) I wasn’t disappointed.

Well, let me amend that: I was only slightly disappointed.

This might very well be the first book I’ve ever given five stars to where I believed the story could have been improved. Usually when I give five stars, it’s to a book which is more or less perfect. Unfortunately, PSS isn’t perfect, but damn if it isn’t really good.

Let’s do a pro/con list lightning round style.

Pro: The language is beautiful and descriptive. China reminds me of Patrick Rothfuss with his haunting prose. He paints such vivid scenes that it’ll make your head spin.

Con: The prose is dense, with a weight that makes you feel sleepy and mentally exhausted after only a few pages. Over the course of a 600+ page book this becomes overwhelming. You might very well get crushed beneath those hefty prose. Read at your own risk.

i got this

Alright. If you say so.

no i dont

Yeah, that’s what I figured.

Pro: The worldbuilding is second to none. Seriously, I haven’t experienced such robust world building since the likes of Brandon Sanderson. That’s high praise in my book. China creates an interesting, weird world that is unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced, while grounding it in this earthiness/grunginess that ultimately makes it entirely relatable.

Con: There is such a thing as too much worldbuilding. That particular line in the sand is drawn somewhere near the end of Act 2 where the reader no longer needs in-depth, multi-page historical lectures. What they need is action. This is one of PSS greatest faults, in my eyes. China frequently drops the rising action he’s worked so hard to build by taking a sideways step every so often and launching into descriptive worldbuilding. PSS could easily have been 150 pages shorter, with a tighter story, had he removed the unnecessary details.

Pro: The story line isn’t half bad.

Con: Then again, the story line isn’t entirely good either. Well, no, wait. That’s not really fair. What I mean to say is the story line often gets lost beneath the crushing weight of heavy words and dense worldbuilding.

Pro: This book is straight up creative in a way I haven’t experienced recently. China really doesn’t pull out any of the stops!

Con: With that said, China might have benefited from pulling out maybe one, or even two, stops. Sometimes too much is…too much. <– Anthony’s crunchy wisdom nugget for the day.

too much

Overall, PSS is amazing. I loved it. And yet, I hated certain things about it. I think that’s the sign of a good book, though. That dichotomy of emotions pulls you deeper. At least it does for masochists like myself.

Sure, there are some things I would have changed about this book, but then you have to wonder if it would be the same story at all. *shrug* Hard to say. Regardless, this book is on my top 5 list for the year so far. If you’ve never read a Mieville story, I would highly recommend this story. Be prepared for a heavy, long read, however. You’re unlikely to fly through this book.

Also, as a public service announcement I’ll say this: China Mieville is one of those authors who will polarize readers based on his style. If you like the pros I’ve listed above, then you might really love China. If you lean more towards my views on the cons, then you might be in for a rough slog. Be warned, not everybody will like PSS.

But hey, risk not, win not. Or something. Pick up a copy and let me know what you think. Or, if you’ve already read it, get down to the comments and share your thoughts on Perdido Street Station. Love it or hate it, I want to hear from you!

Trailer Park (Updated)

The recent Star Wars teaser trailer took the internuts by storm. People are going absolutely Lady Gaga over all the tiny little details. Ooh, new stormtrooper armor. Ahh, a black stormtrooper! Eeeeeh, a claymore lightsaber!! BWAAAAAAH!!! Harrison Ford isn’t dead!

Okay, okay, that last one is pretty cool, I admit. Despite the way George Lucas broke all our hearts when he put out the Star Wars prequels, people are getting their feathers ruffled and pruned in anticipation of this flick as it looks like a semi-decent return to the world of Star Wars we all grew to love during the originals.

Please, please, please, Capricious Movie Gods, don’t let this movie suck. I’ll be sacrificing some lesser movies on the silver screen altar I’ve erected in the back alley later this afternoon to appease those vengeful deities. Feel free to join me, there will be plenty of popcorn to go around.

But you know what? Star Wars isn’t the only thing to drop like a hot potato recently. So what I present for your viewing pleasure are some radical looking trailers. (I’m trying to bring back the word radical, by the way. Please help me by A) not making fun of me and B) using radical in daily parlance. Find unexpected ways to slide it into your conversations and you’ll notice it’s the adjectival spice of life!)

First up!! Ant MAN!

Ant Man is sort of a silly superhero, a fact the movie-makers point out in this trailer. But you know what? Silliness aside, this looks amazing. Paul Rudd is pretty much the perfect pick to play Ant Man in my mind. His humor and delivery are ideal for a character who, going by the name Ant Man, has to be at least a little self-deprecating.

The story line isn’t terribly clear, or compelling, but this could be one of those movies that’s simply great fun to watch. The screenplay, from what we’ve seen, is fantastic. Snappy dialogue everywhere.

Also, that train scene at the end of the trailer made me snort. Very funny stuff.

NEXT UP! Batman v Superman!!

Let’s be honest, this really doesn’t give us much to work with. Then again, this movie isn’t slated for release until April of NEXT year. Holy buckets, Batman, that’s a long time out.

Quick tangent: is it just me or are “teaser trailers” kind of stupid. They tell us nothing and leave us wanting more for a really long time. Case in point, I keep seeing stuff for The Avengers 2 and all I can think is, “Wait, is that not out yet? Seems like it should be out by now. Been seeing trailers for the better part of forever.” This is all a personal preference, I realize, but hey, I want the movies now! Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Back to Superman v Batman. I’ve had serious reservations about this movie since it was announced Ben Affleck would be our caped crusader in black. Ugh, again I say, didn’t anybody see Daredevil? Probably not, which is good, ’cause it sucked.

Second tangent: Daredevil, the new television series, is fantastic. Ermagherd! Go watch it. Gritty and intense from beginning ’til end.

I’ll try and give old Ben “I get my insurance through” Affleck a chance, but I’m not optimistic. I leave the door open to be proven wrong.

Besides some intense background noise, heated bass, and that electronic siren thing that everybody and their grandmother have been using since the first Transformers movie came out, there isn’t much to this trailer. We get to see Batman’s costume which looks dark and mean and scary and grouchy. This isn’t going to be your George Clooney Batman, that’s for certain.

I continue to find it interesting the fundamentally opposite directions that Marvel and DC keep going with their movie releases. Marvel (AntMan, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Avengers) has taken a more light hearted, humerous, open to all ages approach. DC (Batman, Superman, the new WonderWoman) are dark and gritty and scary and sort of depressing. Neither approach is bad, but I’m guessing Marvel is making substantially more money off each of their flicks, so neither are the two approaches equal, either.

(EDIT) Not ten minutes after I posted this review, DC got in touch with my people and expressed deep regret for having disappointed me with the above teaser trailer. As a result, they decided to let drop the full-length trailer which can be seen below. Just a couple quick take away thoughts: for those who don’t know, this looks like it might be a mashup of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns series of graphic novels. There’s a bit of a twist as it seems Superman is now the “evil one” instead of Batman, but whatevs.

I’ll admit, I am interested to see how this movie pans out. If nothing else, the effects look top notch!

NEXT!!!! Terminator Genisys!

This, in a nutshell, is why I don’t like time travel stories. Their more convoluted than a Gordian knot. Every action has a ripple down consequence that changes the entire sequence of events to follow. Sure, that can be cool, but more than likely, it’s just annoying.

Now, that’s perhaps misplaced criticism for a movie like Termination which, at its core, is just good old action packed fun. So I’ll give it a pass and reserve judgement day until I see it. <– see what I did there? eh?

Couple things though: Old Arnold fighting Young Arnold? Meh, feels gimmicky.

Bringing Old Arnold back, after killing him off so beautifully back in Terminator 2 when he goes into the magma with a thumbs up, can only be bad. He left us on a high note in that story. Should’ve stayed dead.

I’m psyched to see they bring back that liquid Terminator, but they creators will be faced with the problem of how to use him effectively without just copping out and reproducing everything they did in the first films. Hard to do, and from the looks of the trailer, they failed. But it’s still early, who’s to say for sure.

The, John Connor is a new sort of robot, doesn’t make sense to me in context of what we’ve seen, but I’ll try and stay open-minded. I want to like this movie–if for no other reason than nostalgic purposes–but sometimes a franchise should *clears throat and does best Arnold impersonation* “Stop coming Back.”

Alright, that’s all Folks. Let me know your thoughts. Which films are you excited for in the next year? Any of the above mentioned? Some other ones I didn’t even mention? How do you feel about the upcoming Star Wars? These are important questions I need answered!