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

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

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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New Pulp Sub-Genre

Four diverse book covers, each showcasing a different type of New Pulp hero: A Detective and fantasy cover are display prominently
Image Source: https://thepulp.net/the-hunt/new-pulp/

I just submitted an entry to a new directory that will be coming out that lists creators (writers, artists, editors, reviews, and publishers) of New Pulp stories. I didn’t really know that I was one until I published in Storyhack, but after researching more into this fairly new sub-genre, I think that many of my stories have, at least at their core, a New Pulp aesthetic that I may try to emphasize more.

So, What is New Pulp?

Great question that–to be honest, I had to do some digging on the web to really figure it out myself. I guess the easiest way to define it would be to give you a definition of “Old” Pulp and then tell how “New” Pulp is different.

Basically, these are the stories from the 1930s – 1950s that you hear so much about. These are sci-fi and adventure stories that cared far more for the flavor and zest of the story than actual realism or verisimilitude. These are the stories in which rocket-ships have fins, aliens live on Mars without vacuum suits, and hidden civilizations hide under the earth or in deep forests. Pulp was no so much interested in the “real world” effects of science, so long as the authors could use their imaginations and create stories that illustrated conflict.

New Pulp are stories that take the same action and adventure element, but which do not necessarily throw away realism or verisimilitude to achieve that adventure aesthetic. These are stories that have the adventure/action element at their core. Essentially, this is the “Action Movie” genre for fiction.

This is What I Like To Read

One of the reasons that I’m not as invested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy (in fiction) as much as I used to be is that the concept of a “hero” has pretty been dumped and the new concept is either “morally ambiguous” (aka “gray” characters) which basically just means the protagonist is either a “badass” that does things for his/her own self-interest (Pitch Black) or “mean people doing mean things to each other (Game of Thrones) or the idea of “literary” sci-fi (which is “character-driven”) which means little-to-no action. It’s all about the dialogue and the internal conflict.

I love characters and characterization, but I love characters doing something meaningful. That’s the type of fiction I like to read and write: characters who are engaged in an action or problem and seeing how that character will succeed or fail based on his/her personality traits or flaws. What happens when you’re an “ace” pilot, but the ship you’re piloting is a piece of junk? How do you survive on an alien world with just an umbrella when it’s raining lava, but you’ve seen Fred Astaire’s Singing in the Rain since you were two years old and know it by heart? New Pulp (or at least what I understand it to be) comes closest to this, and while I won’t always be writing/publishing in the New Pulp sub-genre, I can tell you that the aesthetic will always be there–I want my stories to be fun, adventurous, and exciting, which are (as I understand it) the very hallmarks of the New Pulp sub-genre.

Now, when I write, am I thinking about writing a “New Pulp” story? No, I’m thinking about writing a Science Fiction story or a Fantasy story, but I do so with a lot of action, and knowing about the New Pulp sub-genre gives me more places and opportunities to market my work. Hopefully, there will be fewer rejections than from tradition/literary markets who (by and large) don’t give a flip about the things that I like about the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, rich characterization AND really cool plot/action.

How Can I Find Out More About New Pulp?

Well here are a couple of websites that can help you out:

https://thepulp.net/the-hunt/new-pulp/

https://www.writermag.com/get-published/the-publishing-industry/pulp-fiction/

Also, here is a good publisher of Pulp/New Pulp (and full disclosure: the place where I sent my entry to be included in a directory of New Pulp creators that I mentioned in my introduction.)

Airship 27: http://www.airship27.com/

Well, that’s all I have time for today. Sorry this post is late, but between work and watching the Playstation 5 Reveal event, I’m behind in getting this one out. See you the next blog post.

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)–
    Editing: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Movie Mini-Review: Jurassic World: The Fallen World

Picture of a T-Rex standing over the male protagonist with a volcano erupting in the background.
Image Source: https://www.cinemablend.com/news/2423581/jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-has-screened-here-are-the-early-reactions

Over Memorial Day weekend, I watched this movie as I missed it during the original theatrical release. My mother and stepfather loved–they loved it better than the first Jurassic World movie. While I also liked it, I found that I didn’t like it as much as the original movie.

A Tale of Two Movies

I think one of the reasons why I didn’t like it as much as my parents is that the movie actually seems to be two different stories broken into two discrete parts. The first part of the movie is a more traditional Jurassic Park type movie, where the protagonists go to an exotic island, interact with dinosaurs, and do their best to survive. Jurassic Park, in my opinion, is at its best when it is operating at this level. I think that I really enjoyed this first part of the movie.

However, there is a second part of the movie where they move the dinosaurs back to the mainland. It makes up a significant chunk of the 3rd act of the film, and while I understand the reason (plot-wise) for why they did it this way, I really think that it lost some intangible magic of the movie when it did so. They did interact with dinosaurs better in this movie than in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, but still, the modern setting, while having several good set pieces in this section, just loses something when it isn’t an isolated story.

The Problem with Dr. Henry Wu & Owen Grady

So, this includes a slight spoiler that you might want to skip if you want to go into movie completely “fresh.”

Skip in 3, 2, 1 . . .

SKIP

Okay, if you’re still here, then you don’t care about spoilers or have seen the movie. So here goes: the characterization of Dr. Henry Wu is a problem here. Now, I really like the actor B. D. Wong, and I’m glad he’s in the movie, but the way in which his character is articulated in this movie is a problem. His character has morphed into a villain and I just can’t see his character making that change. As articulated in the original movie, Henry Wu is a very smart, very interested researcher that has, over time, morphed into a Dennis Nedry type character (greedy and amoral) that I just can’t believe and it always brings me out of the movie when it is called for by the script.

In addition, Owen Grady as a protagonist to me is just a blank slate. Unlike Grant, Ellie, or Ian Malcolm from the first movie (Jurassic Park), I don’t get a sense of personality from this character. He doesn’t really stand out for me and is just another generic “hero,” which (I can’t believe I’m calling out) just isn’t very interesting in this case. There are so many wonderful characters in the first movie, and the characters in the sequels and rebooted franchise always seem to take a backseat to the dinosaurs. The first movie had its focus squarely on the humans, but here the characters seem “flat” in a way–their arc isn’t nearly as pronounced as Jurassic Park.

Overall Grade: B (85)

This isn’t a bad movie–it just doesn’t (in my opinion) achieve the same heights as its originator movie of Jurassic Park. While the 2nd half of the movie isn’t nearly as strong as the first, it is still a good, action-packed movie, that still has characterization issues that keep me at a distance. It is a fun movie that just doesn’t hit in all areas for me. The action is strong, the setting is hit or miss, but the characterization seems a bit weak (bland/generic) for my tastes.

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)–
    Editing: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Storytelling the Expanse Way

Cast of The Expanse in futuristic space suits against a dark futuristic interior
Image Source: https://www.space.com/the-expanse-season-4-and-5-on-amazon.html

I have to admit this upfront: I originally didn’t like The Expanse. There, I said it. This isn’t news to long-time blog readers as I made no secret about how much I disliked the first season of the show. I “peaced out” after the first episode of the 2nd season. However, last January, when my car died and I was stuck in the apartment for the whole weekend (heh, a pandemic and quarantine gives a whole new meaning to being “stuck”), I watched the entire series of the show in a weekend and I was amazed that I dismissed it so thoroughly as it was really good.

I’ve watched it quite often since, trying to figure out how I could have gotten it so wrong. I think I understand what The Expanse does that makes it so compelling, but why it initially turned me off.

History First

So, I believe that Tolkien would have loved this particular series as well. What the creators of the show (and I assume the book) do very well is focus on the history and then set the characters loose with events. History is paramount to the series and most of the first season sets up the interplay between Mars, Earth, and the Belt. Then (no spoilers), they throw a wrinkle in the midst and then go from there. Tolkien was a huge advocate for setting up the history of a place–that’s why Middle Earth feels like a lived in world. As I’m reading The Lord of the Rings again, I notice how Tolkien is discussing people, events, and places that aren’t really relevant to the story at hand, but give much more context for what is happening and why it is happening.

Mystery Second

The second thing that the creators do is that they present story arcs in the form of mini-mysteries. Yes, that’s right, much of the “binge-watchability” (like the new formation of the word I created there?) of the show comes from the fact that they show you (Colombo-style) what happens at the end of the arc in the very beginning of the arc and then slowly the narrative unfolds until you have all the pieces. Once you reach the end, you see how that piece that they gave you at the very beginning then fits into the larger story. Colombo did this very well, but it gave away the entire ending as you knew who the murderer was and then it was just watching Colombo put together the lies, half-truths, and mistakes of the criminal and watching their ever increasing desperation as the detective got ever closer to the truth. In The Expanse, it is more like a puzzle, in which they give you a “glimpse” of a puzzle filled in and then before you can make complete sense of what you’re seeing, they scatter ALL the pieces and begin reforming the puzzle again. You still have your “clue,” but it isn’t relevant for 4-5 episodes until you have enough of the overall puzzle filled in again to start making connections to what you saw at the beginning.

Warm Up/Cool Down Third

And finally, well not finally, but it is the last one I want to talk about today, they do this interesting technique that I’ve not seen in other long form narrative shows (shows whose episodes follow a story arc and aren’t “episodic” in nature) in that it follows (for the most part) this scenerio: Warm-up episode, 1-3 action focused episodes, Cool down episode. Now, there are exceptions to this, but having watched the series well over 10 times now (and individual episodes to coincide with various reactors–I’m following 5 Expanse reactors at the moment), there is a pattern that you can see developing in those episodes. The Warm-up episode usually establishes some strange situation or occurrence or sets up a problem that needs to be solved/resolved. The Action episodes are usually ones that are “cooking” episodes where the action is happening and everything comes to a “boiling point” (which is usually some unexpected revelation–either plot or character, rarely both at the same time, but it has happened). The Cool-down episode is usually character focused and spends time relating how the characters have been changed or how they are relating to the new status quo.

The cycle usually repeats (although in Seasons 1 & 4, this is elongated and it makes it seem slow at times.) Season 2 and 3 are so hyper-focused on this pattern that it makes the show so intense.

To Watch The Expanse You Have to Embrace the Mystery

Although The Expanse is a science fiction show that features combat, space ship scenes, and a realistic depiction of a science fiction world, one must embrace the mystery genre in order to truly appreciate it. It isn’t so much a “puzzlebox” that is the hot buzzword term in the film industry right now as it is a throwback to a genre that has fallen out of favor. This show leans heavily on the mystery of what has happened/is happening in order to drive its narrative. By showing you a piece of the “endgame” and then going back and filling in those pieces one plot point and character moment at a time, it is inviting you to help construct the narrative along with it and entices you to come along with it to “enjoy the ride.”

Sidney


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




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

Writing Log: May 15, 2020

A hand holding a pen and writing in blue ink in a journal.
Image Source: https://www.grandforksherald.com/lifestyle/2199089-share-your-story-logging-exercise-food-and-life-journals

So, I’m still in the process of figuring out what I want for these “logs” in terms of content. Ideally, I’d like them to appear about 1 every four weeks (about a month apart) to give you (and myself) a monthly look at what I’ve been able to accomplish in terms of the major areas in my life that I feel are important: Reading, Writing, and Video Games. However, as you can see, I’m missing a fourth category. I could do media such as TV/Movies, but I already discuss them at length with mini-reviews and rewatch posts. I guess the point is that, for the time-being, these will probably be every three weeks until I can find a strong “fourth” category that would make a good “log” topic in order to appear on Fridays. And now without further ado, on to the writing:

Creative: “Project Arizona”

This is the project that I’ve been working on so far this month. I’ve finished the rough draft of the story. I’m working on the first draft now. I’ve decided to try to work in “stages” with this story. Basically, I’m trying to build my story from ideas into execution into a “story” in stages (drafts). We’ll see how well it works. So far, I’ve liked the fact that the story seems to be coming together fairly well. I’m consistently writing it out in long hand in my “notebook.” I’ve been less successful in transferring what I’ve written into my notebook on to the computer where the “magic” happens. I think I’m trying to “dramatize” what I’m writing too soon, and that I’m trying to put in character moments when I should be focused (in this draft) of just establishing and interesting and believable plot that makes sense and doesn’t have any “huh?” moments for the reader.

Creative: The Independent

I’ve been working on editing this story. I’ve managed, with the help of the MTSU Writing Center to edit the story. Max, the husband of my mentor professor, is also a short-story writer and has worked at the Writing Center this semester. We’ve gone through about two-thirds of the story. One of the things that I’ve realized by doing this is that I’m rushing through the editing process. Like writing, good editing takes time, so I’m slowing down and trying to spend a month on editing, just as I would on writing. Another thing that I’ve learned is that I’m getting stronger at characterization, but at the expense of world-building. The plot is there, the characters are (getting) there, but the world is suffering because I’m putting a lot of my focus on what’s happening and the character–and that’s something that I’m going to want to address going forward.

Academic: Prospectus “Outline”

One of the things that I was supposed to produce this semester was the prospectus that I would “defend.” Basically, the prospectus is a tentative outline of what you propose to write your dissertation about. It used to be very informal, and as long as your director signed off on it, you could begin writing your dissertation. However, a couple of semester ago, they put in a new rule at my school that the dissertation committee had to sign off on it and that you had to “defend” it in public (like a dissertation). So, in essence, the prospectus has become a “mock” dissertation — same basic accouterments (full committee, defense of it, etc.) of a dissertation, but not nearly as long or detailed.

Well, Covid-19 put this on hold, so my director suggested working on the prospectus in the summer and defending it in early Fall. So, I slowed down on trying to get one written. However, over the past few weeks I was able to get an outline down that I really liked. My mentor this semester, Dr. Meyers, helped me integrate the idea of “empathy” into the outline as well, and this is what I’m currently working towards now. I have a written a (very) crappy introduction that I intend to redo.. I think I’m going to start working first on the video game section as the two major video game projects this week discussed ways in which they were bringing in filmic techniques to gaming, which is a central thesis as to why I’m discussing them in relation to Afrofuturism.

Writing Time: Waking Up to Write

As I mentioned above, I’ve found great success over the past three weeks with writing consistently. I tend to wake up early, but my body doesn’t actually want to get up (not a coffee drinker–so even though I’m awake, I’m not really awake, if that makes sense–so now, I’ve taken to grabbing the notebook and either drafting the next section of the story or jotting down dreams/story “seeds”/character ideas that I’ve thought of over night. This has helped me really me move along on “Project Arizona.” I’ve been less successful, as I’ve noted, actually getting what’s in the notebook translated to the computer. The ideas just seem to flow easier and better writing in the notebook than on the computer. However, I really need to do this daily. I caught an interview with Stephen King on NPR and he writes for four (4) hours daily. In essence, King has made writing his “part-time” job (20 hours a week in America is considered part-time while 40 hours is considered a full time job). And I have to say, as much as I might fault some of his works individually, he is still one of the most consistent and successful authors out there (mainly because he puts in the work). Outside of these blog posts, I struggle with putting in more than an hour (1) daily at the keyboard daily. So while I’m finding a fair amount of success writing daily in my notebook, I still need to work on finding “keyboard” time as well (as NO ONE is going to pay for handwritten copy, no matter how good it is).

Well, that’s all I have time for today–hopefully, I will find that 4th category so that I can give you a proper update in about a month or so. Next week should be the return of the Reading Log, so until next moth, Happy Writing!

Sidney


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

Reading Log: Frankenstein and The Hunger Games

A journal with a stylized pen drawn banner with the words "Reading Log" on the left side and pen drawn books with titles written on the spine.
Image Source: https://allthehippieshit.com/bullet-journal-collection-2-reading-log/

So, I liked the way the blog post came together for my Writing Log post a couple of weeks back, so I think I”ll expand it so that I cover 4 or 5 different elements of my life in a “log” format and publish them (potentially) on Fridays–the day when I find it hardest to get blog posts done and out. I’m thinking it will follow writing, reading, video games, and some other fourth thing (not sure what that will be at the moment). Still, I really like the format, so look out for these on Fridays.

Now on to the log!

Frankenstein

This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I started it once before as I wanted to read it before watching Kenneth Branaugh’s movie adaptation of it. As I think I may have mentioned before on the blog at some point, I never got past the introduction/prologue of the tale and never watched the movie. However, my mentor professor, who is teaching a sci-fi literature course this semester, made it the beginning literary work to examine, so I read it along with the class and I enjoyed it. What I took most from it was how changed it is from the Boris Karloff movie. Now, I’ve not seen that one either, so one of these days, I really need to just go on a Frankenstein binge-fest, but I think I like the book’s quiet menace and contemplation on what it means to be different and hated. One could almost make a parallel between Frankenstein’s monster and racism based on the fact that the prejudice comes from the way the monster looks, not (initially) the way he acts. There is also something to be said about the nature vs nurture debate, in that things that happen later in the book are a direct result of how the creature was (not) nurtured rather than an product of its creation (birth). There is a lot to unpack in this novel, and one of the reasons that it is still such a classic even today. It makes me wonder why Branagh’s interpretation was so roundly disliked since it seemed to move back towards the book and be a much more faithful interpretation than than the Karloff story.

The Hunger Games

Like The Expanse, this is a book that I read at first and did NOT enjoy. While I liked the concept, I didn’t like (at the time) the way the characters were presented. It has been quite a few years since it first came out, and I think I read it–if not at the height of its popularity–quite close to it and I believe that it was probably “overhyped” in my mind and that helped to predispose me against it. I gave it 3 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads.

Rereading it, I’m able to appreciate it more. and I feel that it is a better book than I originally gave it credit for all those years ago. Another thing that I think helped is that understanding that I’m NOT the target audience for this book. No, I’m not talking about gender here or even YA, but rather, I’m not interested in the slightest in “Reality TV,” and that’s almost a requirement here. You have to be interested in the inside/outside machinations of that type of entertainment structure to really get into this book. In the intervening years, the “Battle Royal” subgenre has become a thing in video games, and while I’m not really big into that type of game, it is a reference point/touch point through which I can get into the story now–a book version of the “battle royal” genre.

I also liked the “Rue” subplot better this time around and the reaction to it really had the “weight” that I think it was supposed to have. As an African American, I may have been a bit miffed at the time at the outcry against Rue’s casting for the movie (and there was an outcry–I remember the news stories), and probably held that against the book–even though Rue is written in the book as a dark-skinned character. However, now that this controversy has faded, I was able to read the interaction as the author intended and found that it was a really captivating moment. Enough that I actually want to watch the movie. I even went back to Goodreads and gave it 4 stars (out 5).

Sidney


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




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

ReWatch: Wall-E and Crazies

Animated character Wall-E (yellow and brown) raising his hand with a pristine EVE beside him.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Cartoon-Movie-Figure-Figures-Supertoys/dp/B012K3O8EI

Over the weekend, rather than watching a new film, I chose to re-watch two films that I’d already seen before, Wall-E and Crazies. Wall-E is an animated film from Pixar that is fairly well regarded (95% critics/ 90% audiences). Crazies (2010) is much less so, garnering a Rotten Tomatoes score of 71% from critics, but only a 52% from audiences. I happen to like them both, but watched them both for very different reasons.

Science Fiction Literature Class and Wall-E

While I’ve multiple English Literature classes, I’ve never had the opportunity to teach one. I’ve always taught introductory Rhetoric classes. This year, my school came up with a “mentorship” program to help those, like me, get more experience in teaching literature who normally teach just rhetoric course. My mentor happened to be teaching a Science Fiction Literature course this semester. One of the movies that she had on the syllabus was Wall-E as an example of ecological Science Fiction.

I really enjoy both the story and the message of Wall-E and I was reminded of it when I rewatched it a couple of days ago. One of the things that struck me was the way gender was handled with EVE. While very progressive in some respects, there are some more stereotypical ways in her characterization. I’m noticing this, by the way, because there is a Conference that will be issuing a “Call for Papers” about women’s issues, and I guess I’m noticing these things more.

Crazies (2010)

An infected man (zombie-like) in a blue shirt reaching through jail bars.
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7w9uWFIMBs

Crazies (2010) is an “infection” movie that, while not technically a “zombie” movie, acts like one functionally. I was in the mood to see it again since it has come back on to streaming. While not nearly as intense as World War Z, it has a similar set up, with a local sheriff tasked with figuring out and surviving an outbreak that is happening in his town.

Again, while not perfect–sometimes the “zombies” kill immediately and indiscriminately, while other times they hold off–to increase the tension (demanded by the plot usually), it still is a good movie that isn’t “just” the same old story retread as every other “zombie” movie.

Like Wall-E, however, it has some interesting things to say about its female characters. Like EVE, the main female character has elements that are progressive and stereotypical at the same time. Motherhood and life-nurturing character traits seem to be consistent in both of them, yet both are portrayed as career women and women who will take no guff from their male counterparts. Again, just something that I noticed that might become a paper in the future.

Still, that is such an interesting idea that has sparked that I may do that a little more often in the future–rewatch older films together and see what ideas spark from them and where I can put them into conversation with each other–who knows, I might even find a video game or two that also helps to round out the idea and see what emerges from there.

Have a great day!

Sidney


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




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

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