Rewatching: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Image of Sokka, Katara, Aang , and Momo.
Image Source: https://www.indiewire.com/2020/04/avatar-the-last-airbender-netflix-1202227257/

Netflix is currently showing Avatar: The Last Airbender (as of July 2020). I’ve seen many episodes of the show, but I’ve never seen all of the episodes that have aired, so I’m hoping to rewatch this series with an eye to seeing the complete series.

The Ending

So, there won’t be any spoilers here. I just want to talk this in general. I’m watching it again, and I’ve seen (at least part) of the ending episode. Crucially, I don’t remember the outcome of the episode (please, don’t tell me). I’m usually really good about retaining stories and I know that I’ve seen at least some of the episode, so I don’t really know why I can’t remember the ultimate resolution of the story. So, at this point, I think this is why I’m interested in it–not just for completion’s sake, but because I’d also like to know the ending.

Season 1

I’m currently on season 1, about half-way through (episode 15 or 16 or so). I will hopefully do a season review when I finish it. I really like the characters and the humor of this season. While I hate the couple of episodes which focused on “love” (you know the ones), I still think that the seasons has very good mix of humor and seriousness. One thing that I think I’m noticing this time around is how episodic the series is at this point. I guess because it is still introducing characters–I think where I am, Toph (a major character in the show, and one of my personal favorites)–hasn’t yet been introduced, making the team feel incomplete. Again, I’ve not seen every episode, so please don’t tell me if Toth goes away from the team before the ending episode.

Why Have You Not Seen These Episodes?

In a word: work. Yes, that most mundane of human activities. I’m older than I look and when this aired on Nickelodeon originally, I was already an adult and member of the workforce. As I recall, these came on originally at night and I was probably reading or playing video games after a hard day’s work (2005-2008). I worked at the Reference Desk from 1996-2013. Later, probably around 2010 or 2011, Nickelodeon started putting this show on in the afternoons–you know, long multi-episode blocks to fill time. My off days were normally Wednesdays, so if it happened to be on on Wednesdays, I generally watched TV in the afternoon, before dinner and then went off to play games and/or read.

I just remembered another reason for me not seeing these during the first run–school. Starting in 2005 or 2006,, I was working on my 2nd Master’s Degree (in Education) for teaching certification. So, both work and school kept me from getting a chance to see this show as I tended to take night courses on my off days whenever possible (Wednesdays, 5:30 – 8:30) and use 1 hour of vacation time during the semester per week to leave work early to be on time for class (I usually worked an 8:45am-5:45pm schedule)–and I would have taken just 30 mins of vacation time, but the rule was that you had to take them in 1 hour increments. So, all that to say, that both work and school kept me from seeing the entire run of this show, so I’m really glad to see that it is back on streaming, and maybe this time I can finish it before it leaves again!

Hope you have a good day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
    
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
    
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

Weekly Log: July 2020 Gaming

Playstation controller surrounded by video game boxes from all systems.
Image Source: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g30910862/best-video-games/

So, yesterday’s post should give a bit of context for why this is going to be a fairly short post for this week. I’ve played a lot of games, but I’ve not gotten very far in them in the short-term.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This game came out in 2017. I put in quite a bit of time with it, but moved on to other games. I came back earlier this year (in April), and made significant progress in the game, but now I’m stuck again. I’ve done all that I can do without having to do “circle arenas.” Both of the next missions, have me squaring off against two super creatures (one is spoiler related, but the other is a Thunder Jaw, one of the most powerful creatures in the game). As I described in yesterday’s post, I really hate circle arenas–it is an old, tired video game trope.

One of the problems (for me) is that the game was marketed as an action game, but it really is more of a stealth game. The systems really favor a more stealthy approach. Taking on more than 1 or 2 enemies becomes problematic, especially if there is a tougher enemy mixed in with them. Now, I love this game and the concept, but the game, itself, isn’t an easy one to get through (for me). I do want to finish the game this summer as the sequel is (pardon the pun) “on the horizon.”

Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019)

Like Horizon above, this is a game that I’ve had for a while. Usually, the very first thing I do is play the campaign, finish it, and then move on to the online portion. However, this time I got to a point in the game which is essentially a “stealth” section (in an action game) and stopped playing, and went almost exclusively to online multiplayer play.

While I like variety in Call of Duty games, the designers have to understand that the campaign is “virtual shooting gallery.” That’s what players play it for — not to run around and hide from an enemy while trying to whittle away at its health. I’ve not looked at the trophy completion percentages, but I would guess that there is a steep decline on the section where I am. Like Horizon, I’m trying to push past this section, but it is so annoying that after one or two tries, I just move on to multiplayer again.

Borderlands 3

This has been the only really gaming success since the last gaming log post. I have been able to make significant progress–finishing missions, gaining levels and experience, getting a ship and moving to the 2nd planet in the game. The driving mechanics leave a lot to be desired, but I’m able to get my “virtual shooting gallery” fix in this game instead of CoD where I’m stuck on a (non-shooting) segment. There’s a very “YouTuber/Influencer” vibe happening in the game that is pretty humorous as well, especially because I watch a lot of YouTube and see many of the traits/behaviors that the game is satirizing. While the game is not always puppies and unicorns (there are some mini-bosses that are way too tough for your level), but, for the most part, I’ve been able to make progress in the game–which is what I want from my gaming experience.

In conclusion, ideally I would like to alternate between two games, and maybe a third one on the weekends. However, until I break through the arbitrary roadblocks on either Horizon or Call of Duty, that’s not going to happen–at least, not unless I switch to a different game, but that’s part of the problem, it takes time for me to get back to the game (risking spoilers all the while–I already know far more than I want about Horizon due to the voice over in the first 10 seconds of the new game’s trailer), so I’d like to power through if at all possible to get these games finished.

Anyway, that’s what I have for today. Have a great weekend!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
    
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
    
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

Video Game Tropes that Need to Go Away

Bayek squares off against a boss with a mallet inside an arena.
Image Source: http://www.gamersheroes.com/game-guides/unlock-krokodilopolis-arena-assassins-creed-origins/
  1. In thinking about tomorrow’s “Log” post on gaming, I started brainstorming about all the reasons why I’ve been majorly un-enthused about gaming for the past 2-3 weeks. I’m in a Pandemic and I’m not going out, so gaming should be the major activity right now for me. However, streaming is probably what I’m doing most, as well as reading and writing, be it for school or creatively. Gaming is far behind these activities.
  2. The original title of this post was going to be “Video Game Tropes that NEED to DIE!” However, I felt that was way TOO over the top and sensationalist, and we really need to stop saying things “should die” on the internet (too many imbeciles use “death threats” as a way of intimidation and fear against ideologies that they don’t believe, so I don’t want to encourage that way of thinking, no matter how tangentially.)

“Circle Arenas”

So, this one is a “biggie” for me. Circle Arenas are my name for a whole class of enemy encounters in which you, the protagonist character, are forced into an “arena” of some sort (usually a circle) and are forced to square off against a vastly overpowered opponent (or multiple opponents) in some way. Sometimes you are fight the opponent/opponents by themselves, but more often you either have to fight numerous other smaller/weaker enemies (current gamer slang = “adds” or “minions” or “mobs”) alongside the overpowered opponent.

The arena is designed in such a way that there are basically two moves that the player has: dodge and attack. The player must dodge the enemy’s attack, waiting for the right time to strike. Then the player attacks and whittles away at the (usually) massive life of the boss character. Rinse and repeat until either the enemy is defeated (or moves on to another “form”) or the protagonist character is dead.

This game design tactic needs to go away because it shuts off avenues for learning. It is basically tied to reflexes and timing. You need the reflexes to consistently avoid the attack and you need the timing to line up your attacks while avoiding being hit yourself. If you’ve discovered a successful strategy for taking out the enemy in the game world, chances are good that you aren’t going to be able to use it here in the “circle arena.

This an overused game design mechanic–I can’t tell you the number of games that it is in. Assassin’s Creed Origins has it (of course, it has actual arenas, but this mechanic features into some non-arena encounters as well). Two games I’m currently playing–Horizon Zero Dawn and Strange Brigade–both have these and that’s where I’m currently “stuck” (well, not really stuck, but have little interest in continuing the narrative because of my annoyance and lack of motivation to continue playing because of these “circle arenas“). I even quit a game that I was playing a while back, not because I couldn’t finish it, but because of the lazy over-reliance on “circle arenas.” It was Inversion on the Playstation 3 and I just stopped playing because of the “circle arenas” in this game.

Boss Fights

Okay, so I’m not opposed to Boss Fights in theory, but I don’t like the way most are executed. Most boss fights stop progress, acting as a sort of “test” of your gaming abilities in that game and not allowing you to progress until you defeat it. There are usually bespoke mechanics that you’ve either been taught earlier in the game that you are required to use here, or they teach you the mechanics inside the boss fight itself.

Now, it isn’t that I don’t like boss fights per se, but game designers seem to love combining them with “circle arenas” listed above–especially in open world games. Bespoke mechanics not withstanding, you much usually hide/take cover/dodge as the boss attacks, and then wait for the opportunity to attack, taking small chunks off the enemy’s health. And woe be it unto you if you make your character not combat related–such as taking a stealth approach to the game–as this will often make the boss encounter much more difficult, if not impossible. Don’t believe me? Here is a game journalist discussing his experience with the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution and its boss battles using stealth.

Going Away From Core Game Mechanics

Now this one sounds like it shouldn’t be on this list–you want there to be variety in a game. Without it, the game gets boring. Except that designers are going away from what their game is actually about. Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019) is an example of what I mean. There’s a section where you guide someone in the embassy away from terrorists using video cameras. Okay, not the arcade shooting gallery that I bought the game for, but I see what you’re trying to do.

However, I’m stuck on the section where (minor spoilers) you play as a little girl hiding from a terrorist. It is a boss fight encounter inside a “circle arena” and you have to stab the terrorist and then hide, repeating this multiple time before the game will let you continue. This is NOT the Call of Duty experience I signed up for! I want a “virtual gun” and I want my skill at “virtually shooting” foes to determine my progression, not my ability to “hide” from foes and stealthily stab a “virtual knife” into the enemy’s leg and run away. There’s a game for that already, Little Nightmares, and it does a far better job than a CoD campaign ever could. In fact, you be the judge:

versus

In trying to be controversial and “edgy,” CoD moved too far away from its core mechanic of “virtual shooting gallery” and created a “circle arena” boss fight that completely robbed the narrative of any punch and took me out of the game–so much so, that I’ve still not gone back to it to finish it.

In Conclusion

While no game developer will probably ever read this blog, I write it in hopes that someone will, if not now, then in the future, and eliminate some (or praise be, ALL) of these tropes from his or her game. I think these are old, tired tropes, that need to go away from gaming (if not forever, definitely for a while).

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
    
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
    
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

Streaming Services that Work (for Me)

A rectangle listing some of the major streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Sling, Showtime, CBS All Access, HBO Now, Acorn TV and Disney+
Image Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/explore/shop-northwest/how-many-streaming-services-are-too-many/

As a Science Fiction and Fantasy reader and writer (and a lover of most things of a speculative nature), I find myself (Pre-Corona virus) browsing bookshelves in libraries and bookstores for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy offerings. Not surprisingly (I guess), is that I end up doing the same things for various streaming services. The first thing that I do when I look at a service or assess as to whether I’m going to sign up, is to take a look at the offerings for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. While not the only criteria (price plays a role as well), I often decide on what streaming services to subscribe to, in large part, based on what offerings they have that appeal to my as a speculative fiction afficianado.

Netflix

I subscribe to Netflix because (initially) because, originally, it was an innovative way to rent movies affordably. While I didn’t always love the “DVD/Blu Ray” by mail system, even then I thought the movie companies should have had an online streaming licensing clause available to Netflix — similar to what Hoopla has for libraries now–even back then I found Netflix to have a strong back catalog in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Even now, with their original programming, I find that, in many cases, Netflix has more Sci-Fi/Fantasy shows and movies than I can reliably watch. While I wish Netflix would work on beefing up their licensing deals with Hollywood content–there’s rarely a a movie in the speculative genre that I haven’t seen on their service, I still find they do a pretty good job with content for a reasonable price.

Amazon Prime Video

So, Amazon Prime Video is a mixed bag for me. They have some really good content and my current favorite spaceship show–after a rocky start as I didn’t like it at first, The Expanse–is exclusive to the service. However, while not as expensive as Netflix, it does come out of my out in a large one-time sum. Now, Amazon Prime Video has other services that make this a fairly compelling value (2 day shipping on orders, a watered down “free” music service–there’s a paid version of the service as well, and other benefits at the time of this writing), but their movie offerings leave much to be desired. Amazon Prime Video has a few big name Hollywood movies, but they’re ones that I’ve seen before–rarely do they have new ones that I want to see (they currently have Knives Out, which, while not speculative, still is a pretty high profile “get”) and one that I hope to see soon.

Disney + and AppleTV+

I almost forgot these two, and since I got them from the same source, I’ll talk about them together. These are two that I got as a part of my needing to get a new iPhone after the old one broke–with a free 1 year trial. While I use both services, I find that I use Disney+ the most as I’m catching up on the Star Wars animated shows that I wasn’t able to watch before they left Netflix. I’m also catching up on the Disney live action movies, such as Aladdin which I enjoy. I own pretty much all of the Marvel content, so while a big draw for some, it isn’t really as much a draw for me. Apple TV+ has been mostly a “wash” for me as I’ve not yet seen any of the shows. I keep marking shows to watch, but I never seem to get around to them–and because of the way the interface works, I only notice AppleTV+ when I actually go looking for it (I may need to move the icon around and put it next to Amazon Prime and Netflix on my screen to “remind” me that there are shows that I’d like to watch before the free trial period is over. While I’m not sure I’ll keep either after the 1 year trial–although Disney+ does have my attention, Foundation for AppleTV+ is looking awesome, but that doesn’t come until 2021 after my trial is over, so we’ll see.

Hulu

This is one that I get because I’m a student and I get it through the student offer for Spotify. Technically, I also get Showtime through this as well, but since I rarely log on to Hulu, I’ve not taken the time to really set up the Showtime account (yes, I know I’d find a lot more Hollywood movies there, but as a student, there’s already way too many distractions for my time–the last thing I need is another streaming service competing for it). Hulu is the service I use the least and currently has the least amount of speculative content (that I’ve not yet seen, especially for movies). For television shows, they do have a fair amount of speculative fiction (for me) that I’m interested in, but they don’t have an original series that has really set me on fire the way Netflix and Amazon Prime does. Once I’m no longer a student and have to pay full price for the service, I’m sure how long I’ll keep it as it is justified at the current price point along with (Spotify and Showtime), but not by itself.

Tubi

This one is free and I actually like it quite a bit. It is on par with Hulu for me, but instead of a subscription fee, it requires you to view ads during the movie. For that reason alone, it is my least watched service. But, I thought you said you liked it, I can hear you ask. I do, because it has a fair amount of Speculative fiction on it in terms of Hollywood movies that I’ve not yet seen. Appleseed Alpha and The Last Witch Hunter were both movies that seemed to be made for streaming, and yet, none of the other services picked them up–not even for a 6 month licensing deal. There are tons of Hollywood movies released every year (well, maybe not this year), that would do so well on a streaming service just to recoup some of their investment, yet they end up only releasing for sale or stuck on some cynical corporate streaming service (CBS All Access, anyone?) which makes no sense. Tubi has a surprising number of speculative works. Now, it doesn’t look like they refresh their content as often as the others, so once I go through that content, I may find it all a bit stale in 6 months to a year from now, but as of now, if not for the ads, this service would probably be used more than Hulu for movies (ad and all)–although Hulu would still win out for TV content.

Well, that’s all for now. These are just my experiences with the various services, looking in general at what they offer in terms of speculative content, for me personally. I’ll be sure to let you know of any major changes (like, if I get Showtime up and running–probably won’t happen, though) and I see they have a major speculative presence or the like. Anyway, have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Unhallowed (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)
  • I, Mage (Urban Fantasy Story)
    Drafting: 1st Revision

To Travel or Not to Travel: That is the Question

Car Driver with a Mask
Image Source: https://www.good-sam.com/resources/how-to-travel-safely-during-covid-19

So, today’s blog is late because I’m working remotely from home for the University Writing Center (UWC) for MTSU for the summer. Today is actually my off day and I’d planned to travel from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro to visit my apartment and to start the process of bringing some of my stuff home from my apartment.

In case you’re new to the blog, I would routinely commute to an apartment at school on a weekly basis, working and going to school and then traveling home on the weekends (again, all generally speaking–sometimes I stayed in Chattanooga or Murfreesboro, depending on the situation). Well, due to Covid-19, I’ve not been back to my apartment since March 3–the day before my trip to Boston, Massachusetts for my conference. Luckily, I knew I would be on Spring Break after that so it would be two weeks before I came back up, so I brought back all my food, took out my trash, and turned down the heat to avoid wasting electricity.

What I didn’t foresee was the way in which Covid-19 forced everyone into “lockdown” which meant that travel was, if not prohibited, actively and extremely discouraged.

Spike in Tennessee Cases

Now, as of July 7th, when I write this, I’m fairly sure that at least part, if not all, of the semester will be done remotely by many of the GTAs such as myself (heck, at this point, even our yearly “orientation” for returning and new GTAs is planned to be remote), so I decided to end my lease for my apartment (one less drain on the limited pool of money), preferring to just drive up there on the days I’ll need to actually be there (whenever we go back to in-person classes). This is aided by the fact I’m no longer taking classes myself, but have moved into the Prospectus/Dissertation writing phase of my study.

Having made this decision, however, now all I really want to do is go up there and get my stuff and start bringing it all back home. That’s what today was supposed to be.

Until I looked at the (still) rising rates of Covid-19 infection in Tennessee. Until I heard about the new potential for the “airborne” nature of the virus in certain situations. Until I heard that the risk increases based on moving into spaces where you don’t know the people you’re interacting with. Until I heard that Murfreesboro has no mandated mask order at the moment. Until I remembered that my apartment is in a “cluster” of 4 other apartments and my neighboring apartment, while empty at the time, was already being shown to various potential tenants as late as that last week of February before my trip and has probably been rented out in the interim with “new” neighbors who I don’t know and don’t know if they’ve been sick or not.

So I decided against going up there today. Next Tuesday will also be a “wash” as I have something planned for that day. So, I’ll check back in two weeks to see where we are now, and then I’ll make a decision.

Staying Safe

Ideally, I would stay here and not travel at all until the Governor’s “State of Emergency” order expires on Aug. 29th. However, since my lease is up Aug. 31st, that would only give me two days to clear out my things from the apartment–not ideal.

However, as August has 5 Saturdays (& Sundays) in the month–a rare occurrence indeed–so, thinking about it, I may just go up there on each Saturday in August (assuming infection rates are not still rising) and bring my things back then. My goal is to follow what I’ve learned during this pandemic: take small bites out a large goal and spread it out over time. I’ve learned the more that I do this, the better and more successful I am at whatever I’m doing, so this is what I’m going to do try to balance the need to clear out my apartment and to stay safe while doing it.

Have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Up Next: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
    
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)

Mini-Movie Review: Gemini Man

Will Smith with a "face capture" rig performing "Junior."
Image Source: https://www.fxguide.com/fxfeatured/face-it-will-gemini-man/

Over the Fourth of July Holiday weekend here in America, my family (my mother and my step-father) and I watched Gemini Man. I was leery at first as it didn’t get very good reviews, from professional reviewers (26% Critical; 83% Audience). Now, going in, I’d seen the trailers, but I didn’t really know anything about the script (apparently, a 1997 script that had been bought, shelved because the technology wasn’t good enough at the time, and then attached to many different stars), nor did I now anything about the preferred way it was shown (4K, 120 frames per second, and 3D).

The Script

Okay, so I should be clear–my mother and step-father liked the movie; me–not so much. Most of my issues stem from the script. While I liked the action scenes, I felt there were too few of them based on the movie’s concept/trailer, but really I had two major problems: the dialogue and the pacing. The dialogue actually factors into the pacing–there’s too much dialogue. In most movies, dialogue reveals character. Here, however, the dialogue is mostly exposition. For instance, there was a great scene where Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character and Will Smith’s character are discussing a “wire” that Smith’s character just found. Very witty and very real–and then, (minor spoiler). it is revealed that she really is spying on him, which just undercut all emotion, characterization, and wasted 3-5 minutes of screen-time setting up something just to throw it away on the very next scene. Maybe have some doubt for a while until it matters, and then reveal it when she has to make a choice–save Smith’s character and reveal her identity or keep her identity secret? How about that, script? No? Okay–your call. 26% Rotten Tomatoes score–just saying.

Also, I think that it really feels its age as it seems to make more of “cloning” without actually getting into the science behind it. It’s almost a “cloning = bad” situation going on without actually taking into account some of the real-life “horrors” that have happened as recently as the Chinese doctor (Dr. He Jiankui) who “gene-edited” babies. There’s none of that “real world” world-building going on.

Young Will Smith (aka “Junior”)

So, most of my problems with the movie come from the script. Some of it comes from the CGI in the movie. I liked the performances and the look of “Junior” in the night scenes, but in the day scenes, it was clear that it was CGI and dipped (for me) into “Uncanny Valley.”

I thought that the beginning scenes almost worked at times, but the ending scenes, while I liked the dialogue, didn’t quite work for me.

Another thing, I also thought that it took too long to get “Junior” into the action. The first 30 minutes are mostly set-up and, as I mentioned above, it wastes scenes and time when it could get right into the action–there’s not enough action for it to waste so much time, nor is there enough complexity for the amount of time it takes–to me, it all feels like wasted time.

Overall Rating: (C 75)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I don’t have the option to give half stars because really, this would be a (2.5 stars otherwise). I think this is movie is one that needed to be held and it needed reshoots–a “revision” of sorts). It needed less dialogue and more action–probably one or two more action scenes and less dialogue, or at least, dialogue that was more relevant to the idea/horror of cloning. It also, in my opinion, needed another pass at the daytime scenes for “Junior.” I really had high hopes for this one, but it was the actual script that (mostly) let me down.

Sidney


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Writing Log: July 2020 (7/2020)

A Bullet Journal that shows a bar graph and a smaller set of boxes that indicate days/acts written with the boxes colored in when done.
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/365776800984668476/

Wrap-up for June 2020 (6/2020)

Before I move into new projects for July 2020, I wanted to take a moment to wrap-up what I’ve done for June 2020 to both tell you, the reader, what I’ve accomplished on a monthly basis, but also to hold myself accountable for the goals that I’ve set for myself during this time-period with the hope of becoming more professional over time and finishing more (and longer) projects as time goes on.

The Independent: Finished my revision of the project for a goal of submitting it to a market by June 30th. I originally revised it with help from the MTSU University Writing Center, but then I saw a short segment by Neil Degrasse Tyson in which he explained what a “flatlander” in two dimensions might interpret someone like us who live in three dimensions if they tried to interact with them. I tried to do the same, but with time. We live in space (three dimensional space-height, width, depth), but there is also a time component that we aren’t privy to (except to note its passing). I tried to take that idea a little further–what if there was a race who lived in a “curled” up region that we can’t interact with because it is mostly a region of time–what would that look like, how would that act, etc.? The I tried to have my “space truckers interact with this “dimension” in the story briefly. I think it came off moderately well. I don’t feel that I necessarily hit it out of the park, but I don’t feel that it is particularly bad or without merit. I feel that if I had more time, I might have been able to handle it better, but the story (from seed to this revision) is already 3+ years in the making, so I really need to get it out there. Maybe feedback (if I get any) will help me push the story into a stronger position if it doesn’t sell.

Project Arizona: Although I started on this one late (well into the month of June), I still have almost finished the 1st Draft of the story. This is where the power of working on the story consistently has helped. This is the story I will be working on for July.

Project Wall: This is the one next story will be working on. While I won’t draft it until next month, I will be working on character sketches, world history, politics, and other “Bible” documents for it all through July.

Prospectus (School): Finished my prospectus (hurray!). Even though I need to get “official” approval from my graduate director and my graduate committee, I’m going to start putting together a tentative dissertation outline and begin preliminary work on the dissertation with the books that I have available to me. I probably won’t get to work on it “formally”/”officially” until September at the earliest, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still put together a draft so that it isn’t a burdensome to do in the Fall and Spring of next year.


What’s on tap for July 2020?

Well, there are several goals that I’m hoping to do, however I only want to talk about a couple of them in-depth here:

  • Work on 2nd Draft (and officially unveil the title) for Project Arizona. I don’t think I will dive right into a 2nd draft of this story immediately as I think I will do another project in the interim. Hopefully, though by the 2nd week of July I will be ready to start drafting a second draft. I actually like the way much of the 1st draft turned out, so I will try to begin turning those places where I’m “telling” the story into places where I’m “showing” the story (dramatizing). It will be a beginning to end look at the draft, where I rewrite as necessary. I also have a title in mind for the story and I intend to start using it once I unveil it officially.
  • Plan Project Wall: Now that I have a “rough draft” down on paper, I’m going to do what Hollywood would call “pre-production.” I’m going to try to nail down the elements of the story that may not necessarily appear in the story, but are crucial to the reason the story exists. Basically, answering a lot of What, Why, Where, When, and How questions that I still have about the story. It also has a title, but I’ll wait to unveil it.
  • Lastly, I really want to get back into the “graphic novel”/comic book writer mode. That’s a place where I feel I can grow. Eagle-eyed blog readers will notice that the “Ship of Shadows” line under What I’m Working On” hasn’t changed in a while. Now, whether the graphic novel actually is me working on that or another project altogether, I want to put together a script that I can try to market by the end of the year at the latest, so I’m planning on working on it starting this month.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope that this month will be a productive one as last month was. Have a great weekend, and if you’re in the U.S., have a safe and fun July 4th Holiday weekend!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Finished: Revision 1

Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Rating: 1 out of 5.
  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Weird West Story Project Arizona = Unhallowed

Female Gunslinger in wide-brimmed hat and long flowing duster with a gun in a holster and knives on her belt looking out towards the audience with a orange sky and yellow sun at her back.
Image Source: https://www.wattpad.com/296700758-fantasy-sub-genre-guide-weird-west

On Monday, June 29th, I finished the first draft of Project Arizona. I’m sure it needs a lot of work, but I like the way it turned out (except for the end, but I’ll talk more about that later in the post). It’s official title is Unhallowed, and it is a Weird West story (a fantasy story with magic and the like mixed with tropes from the Old West — American West). The main character’s name is Arizona and she is an African American woman who becomes a “gunslinger” (one who is Hallowed) in the parlance of the world to fight the evil of the Unhallowed.

Why This Story and Why Now?

Much of the theme around this story has to do with the idea of Justice vs Vengeance. Justice means literally means “just behavior or treatment” and/or the “impartial adjudication of laws” (google it to fact-check me). Vengeance means “punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong” (again, fact-check me). As we have visual evidence from the past two months (May and June 2020), the American Justice System says that it stands for justice, but what many people involved with it actually try to dispense is vengeance. Now, people may see this as political, but I recognized this much earlier based on the way in which America has conducted its wars in the 20th and 21st centuries (remember, I minored in History). I noticed a discrepancy in which the way America articulates its values and the ways those values actually get realized when we go to war–in my mind, they are two different things, and I wrote this story to explore that idea. The fact that there were multiple high profile cases of social injustice as I was writing this story, just galvanized my desire and need to write it. America (and Americans) say one thing, but do another, and to me, that’s a problem that I’ve been seeing for a while now and major failing that we need to solve.

Why a Weird West Story?

Well, let’s not overlook the fact that Weird West stories are cool 🙂

Also, on a more serious note, Weird West stories are enjoying a moment. As noted in an older blog, the Western as a genre is pretty much dead (for now, especially in movies and TV), but with rise in popularity of the Red Dead Redemption video games by Rockstar, the Western is actually seeing a bit of a resurgence. As such, more inventive stories in the Old West/Wild West are seeing a spike in interest. I think there are at least 3 different Wild West/Weird West games in development (and one of them is actually called Weird West). Not to mention there is at least one RPG that is devoted to the setting (Deadlands). I think that if there is a resurgence in popularity for the Old West/Wild West, it will come from the Weird West genre.

Also, Weird West stories don’t always have to involve Fantasy and Magic. They can be Science Fiction stories as well. Cowboys and Aliens was attempt at such a fusion that didn’t quite work–the title, in typical Hollywood misguided fashion gives an indication why. Still, as one can see, the fusion of different genres can, if done right, infuse the Old West/Wild West with some much needed originality in the storytelling and setting (which is what I hope to accomplish with Unhallowed).

What’s Next For Unhallowed?

I’m working on the 1st Draft for another project now. When I finish it, I will return to Unhallowed for the 2nd Draft. I think I did well on the character, but I want to add in more sensory details, more setting, and fix the ending.

The ending was supposed to feature an elaborate fight scene and “will she/won’t she” choice. The fight scene was massively cut down and the choice was effectively taken from the main character by a discussion in an earlier scene–if she does it, then she loses all support from her team. These are two places that I most definitely need to revisit as they rob the ending of much of the suspense that I envisioned for the end of the story.

Hopefully, during my second pass, I can make the ending as suspenseful as I envisioned it being in my mind’s eye when I had the original idea and wrote out the Rough Draft for the story. But at least it is finished (and done within a month and not the 2+ years that I normally do things, so hurray for small victories!

Have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Up Next: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)

Mini-Review: The Last Witch-Hunter

Vin Diesel walking at night in dark clothes and long black trench coat on a wet city street full of puddles with a car behind him that has its headlights on full beam.  He is walking in front of the car, towards the camera.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1618442/

Sorry this blog post is a little late, but I didn’t really have time yesterday to work on it. It will be a little shorter than normal today as I have a couple of deadlines that are today (6/30) and one tomorrow that I need to be sure and meet. However, I did see a movie over the weekend–The Last Witch-Hunter–that I’ve been wanting to see for a while. It is currently streaming on Tubi–a free streaming site supported by ads that play during the movie (more on that later).

Vin Diesel “Vehicle”

This movie is primarily geared around Vin Diesel as the star of the movie. It focuses and spends quite a bit of time with Vin’s character. In many ways this is a good thing, as Vin is always likable in this role. However, the focus on his character means that we see little-to no character development or motivation for the other characters. The “twist” is poorly set up, coming through expositional dialogue rather than being organically revealed via the plot and the villains have almost no motivation, especially the Witch Queen who serves as the movie’s “Big Bad.”

While there are other named actors in this movie, such as Michael Caine and Elijah Wood, they aren’t really used to great effect in the roles they play and their screen-time is greatly diminished do to the almost relentless focus on Kaulder, Vin Diesel’s character. For me, the highlight of the movie was actually the performance of the female lead, Rose Leslie, who played Chloe. I enjoyed the “pluckiness” of the character and thought that it turned something that was fairly familiar into something that was enjoyable.

Highlander By Way of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

When I say familiar, I mean it. Essentially, this movie is a compilation of many of the scenes/ideas from both Highlander and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. There are even flashback scenes evoking the lost “love” of Kaulder’s life during his “sword and sorcery” days just like in Highlander. The modern day elements play out more along the lines of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but there still shades of Highlander even there.

While I’m sure the movie nodes to other modern day “undying heroes” movies and tropes, these are the two in which I kept seeing the most references for as I watched the movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you happen to like those two movies. If you’re unsure at all, then watch how the history of the hero unfolds and keep track of how the character is introduced and interacts with the love interest, and in both instances, you’ll see similarities within what I’m going to refer to as the “Undying Hero” genre.

Commercial Breaks Really Hurt

This is the second movie that I’ve watched on Tubi, and I have to say that while they have movies that none of the other streaming services have (especially ones that I’m interested in watching for the most part), their model while free, really hurts them in terms of me watching them on a long-term basis. While I don’t agree that every network needs a streaming service–CBS AllAcess, why do you even exist, except for corporate greed as your star show, Star Trek Picard is available on Netflix everywhere else in the world–I would be willing to pay a small fee for Tubi (no more than $2 a month), or have them added on to Netflix, again for a nominal fee. I stopped watching movies on commercial TV a while back because commercial breaks began to become onerous and the networks would edit content. While not quite as egregious as normal network TV (and certainly no editing of content), the ad break would happen in places that broke the tension. I don’t recall an ad break happening in the last half hour of the movie, but I think there were a total of 7 or 8 breaks over the run-time of the movie.

Overall Rating (B- 80-82)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

So, “Your Mileage May Vary” definitely applies here. Your enjoyment of the movie will probably hinge on two very important factors: 1) do you like Vin Diesel and his acting style and 2) do you like the “Undying Hero” genre, or in other words, do you like Highlander and/or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? If the answer is yes to both of those (like me), then this is going to be a fairly enjoyable watch, if your answer is yes to one of the two questions, then you’ll probably find it bog-standard average–nothing special, but totally watchable, but if your answer is no to both of these things, then you’ll probably want to watch something else as there’s no escaping either of these two factors.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Finished: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Finished: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft

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