“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”

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Image Source: Vintages, Antiques, and Collectibles

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” is an old baseball “rallying cry” that has been shortened into this nice, pithy saying.  If you want the full details on this saying, there is a great synopsis of it on billjamesonline.com.  My uncle used to say this to me, not often, but every now and again.  According to Bill James, there are two interpretations of this saying: 1) Lack of pitching depth on the Braves’ roster, so praying for rain to help you get back to your most consistent and valued pitchers, or 2) praying for rain so that you wouldn’t have to face these two reliably dominant pitchers.  My uncle most definitely used it in the 2nd sense: Go out with your best!

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are my favorite genres–be it books, games, movies, television, comics, what have you.  Generally speaking, I’m going to gravitate to those genres before everything else.  So it makes sense that I’d concentrate my writing efforts on those genres as well.  I love the sense of adventure and wonder that Sci-Fi and Fantasy allows me to have in a mundane world of bills, intolerance, rudeness, and a general lack of concern for one’s fellow man.  Now to be sure, you can find those things–and more–inside the wrappers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but at its best you can find true wonder and adventure as warriors fight mythic beasts, starship captains struggle to keep their ships and crews safe, and young boys and girls grow up to be powerful warriors against the struggle of tyranny.

If I’m going to go out, then like Spahn and Sain, I want to go out leaving everything on the field and giving it my best and trying find a way to do so at a consistently high level.  Just as Spahn and Sain were masters at their craft, so too I strive to be a master at mine.

That’s why I continue to both read, watch, play, and write things that are Sci-Fi and Fantasy related.

For the sheer wonder of it all.

No Spoilers, Please!

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Image Source: Larkable.com

Wow. Just wow (but not in a good way).  So the first part of the two part storyline for the Season Finale of Doctor Who released over the weekend and it contained three MASSIVE revelations (i.e., spoilers to the story).  Do you know that I was “spoiled” on 2 of the 3 spoilers by people on YouTube?

Now, you know me, when I “review” something on this blog, I go out of my way to give “impressions” rather than actual “specifics” in order not to ruin the experience for others.  I HATE spoilers, unless I go looking for them.  What makes the spoilers for Doctor Who so  onerous is that I didn’t want to be spoiled.  I avoided looking at the “Coming Next Week” portion of the show (this is the first season I’ve actively avoided it), just so that I would have no clue as to what was coming next.

I’m trying to figure out the reasons (rhetorical) why someone would choose to be a part of the “spoiler” culture.  I understand that there are a group of people who get enjoyment for ruining things for others–but that’s not the sense that I get from the YouTuber who put the “spoiler” in the “thumbnail” for her video.  I had no choice to get spoiled because she put a spoiler not inside her video, but on the outside wrapping (as it were) to get people to click on it and watch her video (no, I do not subscribe to this person’s videos, but YouTube so “helpfully” put her video in my “recommended” feed, not recognizing that her thumbnail gave me way more of the story than I wanted).

I don’t think there was any malice in her video, but a kind of unthinking blindness to the fact that while you may know and want to discuss the story (before it is released), others just want to watch the story and then discuss afterwards.  I don’t want to paint her as just an unthinking fan (she did put the spoiler) in the thumbnail image for the video, so there was some forethought in the matter, but I think it was more of “isn’t this so cool,” rather than “I know more than you,” type of thought.

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Image Source: Radio Times

Either way, however, knowing ahead of time really blunted my enjoyment of this week’s episode (made worse that it wasn’t me who went looking for it).  I knew who the villain was and was able to make the deduction of what was going on about twenty seconds too early and figured out two of the three big reveals too early.  Not sure how I’m going to dodge the season finale’s spoilers, but starting next Thursday I may have to go on media blackout.  It’s pretty bad that it has come to this just to avoid knowing what’s going to happen in a story.

People always talk about the advantages of social media, but they never mention the disadvantages.  I remember when social media (or The Web 2.0 as pundits called back in 2010) was supposed to revolutionize the web.  Well, if this is the revolution, then I want to revolt against the revolution.

A Few Thoughts on Time Travel (in general) and the Star Trek Universe (in specific)

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Image Source: Topgentlemen.com

Time Travel is a favorite concept of Sci-Fi writers as it allows us to explore the possibilities of “What If . . .” and to mull about changes in the time line that did not occur vs. the reality that we see around us.  Popular culture is replete with television shows, movies, and other media that delve into the notion of what might happen if you could go back and change time (in effect, mulligan a decision or choice) to see what effect it would have on the timeline (if any).

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about this is two-fold: 1) Star Trek Enterprise has quite a few instances of Time Travel (in fact, most of the show’s 3rd Season is built around the idea) and 2) as a PhD student, I’m supposed to pick two areas of concentration.  As Creative Writing was off the table, I chose Composition and Rhetoric and Popular Culture.  There was a Call For Papers (CFPs) on the topic of Time Travel and how it affects/manifests itself in popular culture.  I didn’t get a chance to write a paper for it during the last semester (too busy trying to stay afloat!), but now I’d like to write at least a rough draft of some of the things that I’ve noticed in recent Sci-Fi shows/movies/media that I’ve watched recently (Doctor Who, Star Trek Enterprise, Dark Matter, and Mass Effect Andromeda to name a few) about how time travel is used (what effects does it have on the characters’ lives), and what pop. culture currently thinks about it.

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Image Source: Cellcli.com

One thing that I’ve notice that popular culture seems to use time travel for is the idea of Erasure, or righting a wrong and then resetting the timeline (so as to start again–from scratch as it were).  Now, the movie Back to the Future used a “literal” erasure from the timeline itself–and that’s not what I’m talking about.  This erasure is more of a “mulligan,” a do-over, a way to say hey, no that’s not the outcome I desired, let’s start again and try for a better outcome.

I think writers like this technique because it allows them to go into some wildly divergent territory with characters, but it doesn’t mean that they have to commit to changes to the characters (as the characters can be “reset” back to their pre-time travel/time incursion selves or entities).  It means that writers (and actors and directors) can stretch themselves creatively without destroying the likability of the characters.  In other words, characters can act and grow in ways contrary to their original characterization and then be reset.  I think audiences don’t find the this element of time travel as appealing because many times it seems like a “cheat” (much like the “and it was all a dream” cliche’).  Audiences want to characters change and interact in new and novel ways to conflict, but they (we) are fickle . . . change too much and we might lose what we like about a character.

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Image Source: Den of Geek

Star Trek (in general) and Star Trek Enterprise (in specific) seems to be a perfect test-bed for the idea of erasure.  While many of the elements and changes to the characters have “stuck,” most have not and most of the characterizations that have not stuck, or been “erased” through time travel are more radical characterizations/plot lines.  While I won’t know for sure until I finish STE, I’ve noticed that, unlike Doctor Who, for instance where there are often “cusp” events that are fixed and where time is more malleable (“Timey-Whimey, Wibbly-Wobbly”), events in ST’s universe, specifically STE tends to be more recursive (circular, or fractal–like the beginning image above.)

While this is a deeper dive than I normally do in a blog post, I wanted to just get a few thoughts down on the nature of time travel (esp. recent developments in media) down on paper.  I’ve done another post on time travel, Where You End is Not Where You Begin: Time Travel in Movies, and I will probably combine these two posts before the summer is over and develop this idea into a longer academic paper over next school year.  I don’t think that I can use this as my dissertation (I think that has to be Rhetoric or Composition based), but it is an interesting paper idea–and more importantly, seems to be something that I can be VERY LONG-WINDED about! 🙂

E3 New & Notable Games (Day 2): Star Wars Battlefront 2

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Star Wars Battlefront 2

The second of EA’s games to make an impression on me was Star Wars Battlefront 2 (SW:B2).  I’m a massive Star Wars fan and I bought the first game.  However, because there was no story campaign and I was trying to apply for PhD programs when it released, I didn’t get to play it as much as I would have liked.  I dipped into a couple of modes and played a few multiplayer matches, but nothing like what I probably should have for a game of that length and scope.

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Even though they mostly showed extended multiplayer footage of the game, I still think that the single player campaign will be good and that this will be a good game and the story (at least from the trailers) looks interesting. Below are links to various elements of the game and this is one I’m looking forward to when it releases later this year.

Story/Campaign Trailer

Assault at Theed Multiplayer Demonstration

Well, that’s it for EA–I’ll move on to Ubisoft games that were interesting in the next post.

Skin Deep Published in Aurora Wolf!

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Source: Aurora Wolf – A Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy (aurorawolf.com)

SKIN DEEP PUBLISHED!

Just wanted to let you know that Skin Deep, a short-story that I’ve worked on and detailed on the blog has been published by Aurora Wolf – A Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Please head over to their website, read my story, rate and comment on it and (while you’re there) perhaps, read and comment on other stories that I are listed.  Right now my story is on the from page (with the above image – thanks to Aurora Wolf for letting me use the image!).  There is no cost to read the story, or  in other words, its FREE!

Skin Deep has been very much of a long-term passion project.  It was one of the first stories  I wrote with the intent of getting it published.  The story that is published in the 3rd major draft of the story.  My first draft came in the 90s and I submitted it to several markets found in Writer’s Market & Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market.  I only remember one piece of feedback that I received for it from an editor who thought the Psionics (mind powers) in the story strayed too close to magic for her tastes.

I put it “in the trunk” for a while and then I rewrote it substantially around late 2013 – early 2014.  The basis of the current version came from this rewrite.  I had the plot and most of the character, but something still didn’t feel right about the character and her motivations.  I put it up again (not submitting it significantly) until I revised it mid-2015.

As I noted in the blog about the story,  I changed the main character’s name, and really worked to increase the setting of the story and I think that’s what was missing from the 2nd draft–not enough setting to really ground the story.  In all, I’m glad I got to tell Mahalia’s story.  Please go read it if you have a chance–best of all, did I mention its FREE!

CHILDE ROLAND PUBLISHED!

In case you missed it, Childe Roland was also published late last year.  It is still up and, like Skin Deep, it is also FREE!  Please head over to ElectricSpec.com to give it a read as well if you have the time.

OTHER PROJECTS

Lastly, I’m still writing and working on other projects.  As you’ve no doubt realized by the slowness of the blog, I’m really overwhelmed with coursework and classes, but I’m trying to get a handle on the massive amounts of reading and grading that I’m having to do.  I will post more about other projects that I’m working on in the coming months.  Like a business, I need to refresh my sold “stock” with new “stock” if I’m going to make my writing career work, so I have lots of new projects in the wings.  More on these soon.  Well, that’s all for this week, and I’ll try to have a new post up next week (I promise, I really will TRY!).  See you next post!

Author’s Note: Silence Will Fall

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Source: Wikipedia (The Rover–from the TV show The Prisoner)

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Source: David-Stimpson.blogspot.com

AUTHOR’S NOTE: SILENCE WILL FALL

So I finished Project Silence this morning and I’ve officially titled it, Silence Will Fall.  The title comes from a line in Dr. Who (New version with Matt Smith playing Dr. Who) where he must defeat an enemy known as The Silence.  That line stuck in my brain for some reason (as has the enemy’s name of The Silence which I may use/revisit in another story some time in the future.)

STORY’S GENESIS

The genesis of the story is both simple and complex.  Simply speaking, the story originated from a dream where I saw the protagonist at a dam defeating a Floater in a novel and unique way.  With a few minor tweaks here and there, I tried to capture both the feeling of the dream and the actual events as best I could in the story.  The more complex version the image of the Rover (see above illustration).  My family has always been into PBS, and while I don’t watch period shows like Downton Abbey, I’m my uncle would have as he was hugely into Masterpiece Theatre.  However, somewhere along the lines, I must have seen The Prisoner (on PBS as rerun most likely as I remember the bounding ball of the Rover and I remember it killing someone) as a child.  That image has also stuck with me although I don’t think I consciously thought about it.

However, after that dream, I wanted to write about a “ball of death,” and see if my protagonist could defeat it.  I knew I wanted the story to be post-apocalyptic because that’s what I saw when I dreamed, but I also didn’t want to create a huge backstory for the Floaters.  I thought about Independence Day 1 & 2 and other invasion movies that tried to explain the aliens and I didn’t want that for this story.  So I decided that they would just descend from space down to Earth as if space was simply water and they were traveling from world to world (reef to reef to continue the water metaphor) in search of food.  The key is they are hunters of noise.  Any noise attracts them, so for humans to survive, we would have to be silent (hence the title).

KEEP IT SIMPLE 

So I wanted to try to keep everything in this story simple.  Three parts (Beginning, Middle, End) and about a 1,000 words for each section.  I managed pretty well with the 1st and 3rd sections, but I needed to have some dialogue between characters as well as to have the protagonist discover a potential solution to the story’s problem.  The 2nd section clocks in approximately at 1,800 words–a little longer than I would have preferred, but if it works, so be it.

I wanted to finish this story quickly, but right after I finished the 1st section, I started Orientation at MTSU for their program.  I don’t seem to handle transitions well and when the weekend came, I was mentally exhausted.  I didn’t actually pick up the story again until two weeks after school started (so approximately four to five weeks elapsed between the 1st & 2nd sections), but once I picked it up again, it took about three weeks to finish it.

REVISION

I don’t intend to submit this story immediately, although I think that it is one of my better pieces.  I want to “put it on the shelf” for at least a month and then look over it and revise it.  I still may not submit it for a while though because I have a “backlog” of stories out.  I currently have (with Silence Will Fall) ten (10) unpublished stories, with five (5) stories currently out.  I don’t want to try to have more than 5 out at any one time because with school, it gets too hard to coordinate markets (finding ones that are open and are good, and then formatting the story(ies) for those markets all take time that I could use for schoolwork).

My hope is that I can just submit my “backlog” of stories and hold off submitting this piece until the first of the year (2017).  I do reserve the right to revise this plan at any time however.

NEXT UP

So I have started two stories.  I want to start a longer project–I’m leaning toward the 1st issue of a four issue (or 3 or 5 issue) comic book mini-series.  I’ve got about 3 or 4 options, but I’m still deciding which one I want to go with first.  I think I may work on one more short story while deciding, or I may start on the long one and then switch to the story once I get a rough draft done.  I’ll decide after I finish the schoolwork for this week–at least, that’s the plan.  We’ll see how it goes.

Until next time.

Star Trek Beyond: Mini-Review (No Spoilers) & Implications

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Star Trek Beyond International Movie Poster from Shockya.com

Fun

So I saw the 3D Imax showing of Star Trek Beyond yesterday and I was really impressed by it.  Not to mince words: I loved it!  It was a fun movie and harkened back to the things that made Star Trek such a global phenomenon in the first place.  There are no spoilers in this mini-review as this is really more of “impressions” than a true review.  Currently, this is sitting at an 84% (critics) and 86% (audience) score on Rotten Tomatoes  and it is deserved.  On a quick side note: see how closely critics & audiences scores are when one side or the other doesn’t have an ax to grind (i.e., Batman v. Superman or Ghostbusters).

Good Plot, Action, & Characterization

Why are both critics and audiences liking this movie?  In short, it has a good plot, lots of action, and strong characterization.  Again, with no spoilers, the plot is strong.  It has a very well defined beginning, middle, and end.  The beginning reacquaints us with the characters and starts the problem.  The middle is tense and the end ratchets up the stakes in a totally believable way.  It follows “Fryetag’s Pyramid” perfectly–in a way I haven’t seen in a while.  The action is very well done, in fact, it is second only to Captain America: Civil War this year (so far).  I was very impressed with several of the set pieces in the movie.  If you can see this in IMAX 3D, do so!  It is well worth the extra cost for the action set pieces.  Finally, the characterization in the movie is also very well done.  One of the most fun things about both Star Wars and Star Trek is the interaction between the characters.  The script separates characters in a unique interesting way–it doesn’t stick with the “expected” pairings of characters and this allows us “fresh” perspectives on the various characters through their dialogue and actions.  I really like the way the dialogue especially was written and this is the first Star Trek where I feel all of the characterizations “match” completely with those of the original cast.

Rating

I give this one a solid A (a 95-98 if I was grading it academically).  Why so much higher than Rotten Tomatoes?  Remember, I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader and writer.  This movie was made for me–I’m its target audience.  Does it have problems–a few small ones, yes.  Some characters don’t get enough screen-time in my opinion, for one, but on the whole, this is a very enjoyable movie that has great action and great heart.  It is everything that I aspire to when I write (or what I’m looking for when I’m reading/watching genre works).

Implication for my Writing

So this is a new section that I thought I’d add to (most) every review/mini-review of works as I learn things that I can try to add into my (creative/writing) life.  One of the things that I noticed that I liked about this movie was the idea of inner conflict for the main characters. I’m currently stuck on “Project Storm.”  I’ve written the first scene and have an idea where to go for scene 3, but scene 2 just won’t come out right–and now I know why.  It’s the same reason that many of my characters are “ciphers.”  The protagonist for Project Storm has no inner conflict.  He has an outer conflict–to save his ship–but there is nothing inside him that he is struggling with.  Several of the characters in Star Trek Beyond have a clearly inner struggle that they are struggling with and must find their answers through course of the plot.

I think that I start drafting too soon.  I often know the plot (or most of it for short works).  I usually have a good grasp of the setting.  I don’t think that I often know what my main characters are struggling with when I begin the story.  I know what they want or what their problem is (sometimes), but I often can’t say why it matters to them.  I’m missing their internal motivations–why is escaping so important to my protagonist of Project Storm?  “To stay alive,” would be my answer to that question, but that’s not really an answer.  To be alive or to be free AND alive?  Those are two entirely different motivations and they change the entire story.  Scene 2 will play out much differently if the protagonist just wants to be ALIVE, or if he’s willing to die to stay FREE.  And I don’t know yet which one my protagonist would choose.  So, to my mind, I’ve started drafting without giving enough consideration to my character (& that to my mind is why I’m stuck!)

So, I’ve gone back and I’m trying to figure out what is the inner conflict that my characters are struggling with before I begin drafting to make the drafting process easier.