The Mandalorian – AWESOME!

Cowboys in space, that’s exactly what we wanted and what we got. It’s an awesome show, and I am so glad I got free Disney+ from Verizon to watch it.

Will I renew my subscription after the year is over? Probably not. I’ll do exactly what I’ve been doing with other services. I’ll reup for a month once the thing I want to see is completely out, binge, then cancel. The only one we’ve been keeping an account with is Crunchy Roll and that’s just because there are so many anime’s to watch that it makes it worth it. Sort of like when Netflix had everything there. Now it doesn’t, and I’d just rather not watch most of what’s out there.

But as for Mandalorian, specifically, I loved it. Anyone who reads my blog might know that I wasn’t a big fan of the new trilogy movies, but Mandalorian feels like a return to classic Star Wars. They don’t make it complicated, or add in lots of social commentary, they just make it fun. And that’s what I wanted.

I liked it so much I did some fan art.

boda

Regardless, Baby Yoda is adorable. It’s fun to watch the father son dynamic of the series as Mando takes more responsibility for the youngling. I love seeing a good fatherly role model on tv for a change, and the bounty of the week sort of structure they have going is pretty good. Plus… BABY YODA!

And the season finally just opened up a whole bunch of possibilities for the future!

So if you, or a friend, have access to Disney+ I’d suggest watching it. It’s worth your time.

Review: Rise of Skywalker

Since the movie just came out today I won’t be writing any spoilers today, just an overview, and I’ll give my spoiler review in a week or so.

Okay, first, let me tell you where I’m coming from as a fan of the Star Wars movies.

I grew up in the 80’s, and I watched the original trilogy on laser disks that my parents had. I watched them a lot because they were some of my favorite films, and they shaped my view of science fiction (or rather science fantasy) going forward.

The second trilogy came out and we watched all three of them in the theaters. While there were parts I wasn’t a fan of I still enjoyed them. There was still decent story telling, even if a few characters weren’t that great, and the Anakin story arch wasn’t that strong. The clones, the large scale battles, and especially the beautiful sets and dresses for Padme all made me love Star Wars even more.

Then the Disney movies started. The first one gave me hope. Sure, Rey was a boring character that didn’t seem to have much direction or personality yet, but there were some great moments, and some call backs to the original series that gave me hope that they were taking their ownership of the Star Wars franchise to heart and really going to do it justice. They just needed time to get their feet under them and the next movie would be even better.

Rogue One I loved. It seemed like a fully developed movie, with a great cast, fantastic story line, a lead actress with a personality and some character flaws to over come. By the end of the movie I was about in tears because I had grown to really love those characters and believe their friendship and camaraderie to the end. That, in my opinion, is one of the best movies in the series.

Then the Last Jedi happened. I did a whole review of that movie here, but suffice it to say that while there were some nice scenes I still think the writing was garbage, the pay out for the first movie fell flat, and I feel that it is one of the WORST Star Wars movies that ever existed. It was so bad I didn’t even care about Solo, and still haven’t seen it. Maybe I’ll watch it when it comes out on Disney Plus cause I’m still not willing to pay for it.

So when Rise of Skywalker was announced I wasn’t that keen on seeing it. If my boyfriend and our room mate hadn’t been going (and paying) I probably wouldn’t have. But we did… And I think I’m glad I did.

First, I didn’t hate it. I don’t think it was the best Star Wars, but it wasn’t the worst either. There were some parts I actually enjoyed, and I thought they did a better job of giving Rey a personality, even though I still think she (the character not the actress) was one of the weakest parts of the movie. The actress did what she could with the character, but from the start they billed her as an all powerful Christ like figure there to save the world who never fails at anything, and there isn’t a lot you can do with that except… well… succeed.

Still, when I look at the last movie and what Abrams had to work with I was surprised how well he put together a coherent plot. He had to deal with all the hype of who Snoke was and what he represented being utterly destroyed upon his death. He had to deal with a demoralized Poe, a broken rebel alliance, and a cowardly Luke Skywalker. And then he had to make a coherent story where the good guys win.

The general complaints I had were that the director, Abrams, had to cram so much into the movie that everything ended up being quick cut, and I at times I felt like I was getting too much information at once. And the ending. I hated the ending.

There will be people who absolutely love this movie. I know at least three of them, one of which has already watched it twice. There will be a small amount of people who hate it, though some of them are hating on it more because of how the fandom was treated after Last Jedi then the movie itself. I think if they had been treated better instead of being called all sorts of awful things then they may have had a kinder view of the movie, even with it’s flaws.

For me the movie was a 7/10. It was a good popcorn movie with a few cringy parts, but the ending made me never want to watch it again. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re walking in with lower expectations. If you go in with lower expectations and get an okay film I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re expecting it to be the best movie ever then you’re more than likely going to be disappointed.

It’s not always what you think.

I, like most young writers, did the natural thing when I joined social media: I followed authors of books I loved. Some were great, like Patrick Rothfuss and Neil Gaiman that speak about respecting others, making great art, and sometimes the struggles of life. They do what they can to help those in need and encourage others to do so. They share their love of books, words, artwork, and comics. And it’s a wonderful corner of the social medias. Even when I disagree with them sometimes (because it’s very hard to find someone you agree with 100% of the time) I never feel like they are talking down to me, or feel that I am less of a person because I disagree with them.

Then there are other authors I had to stop following. One I wrote about before, others said some really awful things that made me hate going to twitter, and after a while I just had to stop following them in order to have any semblance of a happy life. I wanted to talk about things that concerned me in the world, even take action when appropriate. I didn’t want to feel like the sky was falling every time I opened my phone. I couldn’t live like that, so I stopped following them.

Today I saw one of those authors have a small rant on twitter and blame everyone except for himself for his failure. You see, he was fired from his job. He even admits they said they fired him for his vulgarity and confrontational behavior on twitter. He said it was something different: it’s the right wingers! They did it! They caused him to get fired by constantly harassing him because of LGBTQ characters in his stories.

So I was curious and went to look at his book. 39% of the reviews are one star. I started reading through them and review after review after review mentioned poor writing, short sentences, and boring characters. Only three of the reviews I read mentioned feminism or LGBTQ. Even the reviews that mentioned the “social justice” angle mentioned the poor writing. Then I found this lovely review:

No! Surely it isn’t that bad, it can’t be possible. So I read the first two chapters and…it’s worse!

I have no doubt that someone loves this type of writing. I have read parts of other books that try to break from the mold and make something different. Tree of Codes was made by cutting away words from another book to make a new story. The Lovers Dictionary is poetry made entirely from dictionary entries. There are many books out there, especially in literary circles, that have unusual, or intricate stylistic qualities to them.

You won’t find them in the latest Sookie Stackhouse, or Magic the Gathering franchise novel. You won’t find these unusual turn of phrases inside a Nora Roberts novel. What you’ll find inside each of their stories is consistency across the brand, from how characters are described, to common phrases and sentence construction.

To take a beloved franchise of hundreds of books and then turn it into a literary exposition….well I can’t say that I’m surprised that it wasn’t received well. The author blamed a lot of the bad reviews on the poor reception of the last movie, and how “toxic” the fans were. I wrote my own review of the latest movie in this franchise and this particular author would have called my review toxic, too. It doesn’t matter that I had legitimate things I didn’t like about it. I dared to speak against it so I’m part of the problem.

And that’s where I guess my opinions sour on certain authors, artists, or people in general. Just because someone criticizes your work that doesn’t mean they are criticizing you. Just because they didn’t like your work it doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad, in some cases (like this one) it probably was just presented to the wrong audience. Someone would have liked it, but not the fans of this particular franchise.

Right now I do want to make a point. I am criticizing the author, himself, directly. Blaming others for the fact that you got on twitter after poor sales and bad reviews and lambasted everyone who hated your work as trolls, and vulgar names, is down right terrible behavior. “Poor sportsmanship” would be a nice way of putting it. I have no doubt that there were some awful horrible people out there that said some nasty things to him. I’ve had those people in my chat, or stream, as well. I used the block button, or more often the mute button, and I stopped seeing their nasty comments. Then I went about having a happy life, which is the best revenge to any negative people out there. And sometimes I’ll even laugh and make a joke back and get them talking to me as a person instead of being an asshole.

I do know that sometimes it gets out of hand and people can do things offline instead of just through a keyboard. In those situations it’s important to keep your family safe. But in the vast majority of online interactions the easiest way to de-escalate a situation is just not to engage with the idiots online. Because they’re just that, idiots. If you stoop to their level then what does that make you?

And lets be clear, it wasn’t the LGBTQ angle. There are plenty of LGBTQ characters in many franchise books that are doing well. Here, choose a book from thousands of books that have LGBTQ lead characters in any genre out there. Most of them have really good reviews unless they have bad writing, or bad story. That’s how reviews work. Even when there are trolls making bad reviews it won’t be a large percentage of them.

Anyway, that’s my rant. And this is why new authors are told not to read their reviews. Don’t do it if you can’t handle the negative ones. And if someone says “your writing is bad” either listen, or put your writing to use where it will be appreciated. You don’t kill the characters in romance, and you don’t write literary fiction in a scifi space opera story. It never works out.

Thoughts on Star Wars the Last Jedi

Is been a few weeks since I saw the new Star Wars movie, and I had to think about it because I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at first.

On the positive side, there were some cool new creatures. Crystaline wolves, fish people, and porgs (that were flavor to the set rather than integral to the story, which I liked.)

I loved the final battle scene. The beautiful reds and whites playing off each other, and marking every move made in the field.

I really liked the development of Rey and Kilo. Tense hatred, punctuated by bitter betrayal, and a risk finding answers for both of them. I almost felt their story line was a little rushed to add in bits for other people, which disappointed me.

I even liked the bomb run. It had a very ww2 vibe to it, risking everything to stop the enemy, which is what the original SW fight scenes were based off of.

So, there was a lot to like in the movie, and even love.

But let’s get into the things I didn’t like as much. Here there will be spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is that while we were watching I would be really into what was happening, on the edge of my seat, and then something would happen that just pulled me out of the scene and ruined it for me. I thought about it too much, stayed analyzing and trying to figure out why it didn’t fit, and it took me a while to get back into it. There weren’t a lot of those moments, but they were sometimes big moments.

In writing one of the worst things you can do is throw a reader out of the story. It becomes less likely they will pick the book up and continue reading. There were other things that pointed at bad, or sloppy writing. No foreshadowing, missing continuity, sub-plots that lacked cohesion with the main plot (casino planet?). You probably want specifics, but it’s been a few weeks since I watched it so I can’t give you a very detailed list of anything. But I can tell you why I think the purple-haired-lady was such bad writing.

In a story you have to make people care about characters. Make them hate the character, or love the character, but make them FEEL something about them. Either you see them a lot and grow accustomed to them, or they save a puppy, or kill a puppy…SOMETHING happens to make them endearing or hated by you, and then when they die you care. Either you cheer, or you’re sad. It really impacts the audience. But you have to SHOW that they are worth caring about, not tell us.

If I said “hey, that dude over there killed a puppy,” you might look at him a little sideways, but you’re probably not going to believe me. If I show you a video on youtube of the guy tying up a helpless puppy, putting it in a sack, then throwing the sack into a deep, fast moving river…you’re calling the cops more than likely. Showing has far more impact than telling ever will.

In this case they introduced a character, told us she was some great commander that did some awesome thing, then she promptly told Poe (someone we really liked) to get lost. She keeps telling him to get lost, and has no meaningful interaction until the very end. Even then she tries to destroy the one chance we, the audience, can see of the rebels survival by trying to capture Poe. Then after she’s destroyed all chance of anything good happening (from what we see) someone finally speaks up and says “oh, she had a plan.”

We spent no time with purple-haired-lady. We knew nothing about her, other than Leah said she was a good general. We did not see her kiss a kids boo-boo, rescue a puppy, or teach some young trainee to shoot. She did NOTHING except stand there and tell Poe to sit down and shut up, over and over again.

I saw a video from I Hate Everything that said we also didn’t care about Admiral Akbar, so it wouldn’t have mattered if they would have switched it out. I disagree. The fact is Admiral Akbar has been a staple meme of Star Wars culture. “It’s a trap!” is imprinted on us. We quote it, time and time again. We see his face, hear his voice in countless videos, pictures, and jokes. We knew him. No, he didn’t save a puppy either, but he did try to save the fleet, on screen, while we watched, and that resonated with us. We watched as the ships were decimated, and we knew Admiral Akbar tried to save them, but it was too late. If he had been the one on that ship to sacrifice his life than it would have meant something. Instead we got a “and Admiral Akbar is dead too” from some lady we didn’t know, or care about. They didn’t even have the decency to show him die.

You know what it felt like? What a lot of the movie felt like? The director said “how many women can we cram into this movie” and he cut out as many men as he could, making their rolls insignificant if he couldn’t out right cut them. Unless they were the bad guy. Notice that most of the fighter pilots they showed were women? Or that all of the generals were women? Poe was cast as even more of a screw up maverick than the first movie, and Fin was painted as an idiot at times. Mostly due to sloppy writing. I try to imagine this is because most of the men already died in battle and all they have left is women, but it’s still awkward that they make the male’s in the rebel group look so damn incompetent. Even Luke had become a coward, though I was glad to see he learned from it.

Lastly, the way they destroyed the ship at the end was kind of bad ass, I’ll admit. It was beautiful imagery, and looked amazing…and it left a lot of questions. Like why didn’t they sacrifice any one of the other three ships that were being destroyed before that? Oh, I can see not sacrificing a ship unless you had to, but you’re already dead. Why aren’t you doing something heroic instead of letting yourself get blown up? And how did purple-haired-lady know it would work? Was she really the first person to even think of doing it? Even so, it was a beautiful scene, and I think with a little bit more story they could have made it fit in better.

And no, I’m not talking about the casino planet. Let’s just forget that ever happened, okay?

Overall I loved the imagery, and the battle on the salt planet was beautiful. I even liked the end of Luke, it was fitting. I thought the dice on the mirror were kind of dumb, but what can you do? There was sloppy writing, and inconsistencies, and it kind of didn’t fit entirely in the Star Wars universe, but it was a really good space adventure film.

Would I watch it again? Maybe, if it was on late night cable or netflix. I’d probably even like it more the second time. If you believe the film theorist watching something repeatedly makes us like it more. I will probably even go to the theater to see the next movie in the series…and hope it has a better writer next time. Or the director stops trying to make it so female-centric. Whichever.

Copywrite

Most writers will eventually run up against copywrite at one point or another. This is both good, and bad. While copywrite does protect your intellectual property and allow you, and only you, to legally make money off of your work (be it art, video, music, games or the written word) it also has some unintended consequences.

Watch the short video below for a little explanation on how it started, and how it has been changed over the years.

Fan Fiction

Last month someone asked Neil Gaiman a few questions about specifics concerning the background of his characters. I thought his answer was beautiful:

“I think that is what fanfiction is for. Go and make it up, and learn.”

For years, many writers have argued about fan fiction. And here it is from one of the (imho) great writers of our time. “Go, make it up… learn”.

There are some great things to be said for fan fiction.

  • The world is already created.
  • There is a HUGE reader base already, much of the time.
  • You get to explore new ideas.
  • You get to use you imagination.
  • You practice writing.
  • You practice getting criticism.

What’s more, Fan Fiction gives the reader a vested interest in the world.

Remember all those little kids pretending to be Jedi, Power Rangers, or Transformers? Maybe you were one. Fan fiction is just the next step. It’s doing something you love, exploring a world you adore, and making it your own.

Legally, fan fiction is okay in most places as long as you don’t try to sell it. Some authors, like Piers Anthony and Gaiman, even actively encourage it. Why? Because they love their fans. And if you actively participate in their world through stories and art of your own you will be more likely to keep investing in it later by buying their books, or watching their (potential) movies.

Those kids that played Jedi in the backyard? They grew up to be adults who flocked to the theaters in droves when Phantom Menace came out. They still dress up sometimes and call it “cosplay“, only now they spend small fortunes to do it. (How much does a Stormtrooper suit cost?)

So, participate in fan-fic. Enjoy it. Read it. Write it. Then encourage it for your own fans. It’s good for the heart, the soul, and even some pocketbooks. But really, it just brings more life to a story, and gets people thrilled to read, and write. What could be bad about that?