Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It's good to be bad!
So, Star Wars: The Last Jedi released, and Luke Skywalker was right: “This is not going to go the way you think.”

Ok, that’s a big, fat lie.  It goes exactly the way you think, except for the parts where it doesn’t.  The Last Jedi does . . . or did?  Whatever Yoda would say, and how!

This will be a spoiler-free report, so read on without fear or remorse.

Anyone who pans these films just doesn’t know how to embrace the cheese.  The movies are fun, but they’ve always been light-fare of a local boy who goes big.  They’re space opera, with emphasis on the opera part—big heroes, big fights, big explosions wrapped in a “battle for freedom”.

Lucas forgot this during his “prequel” phase, and we’re well rid of him for these installments.  That may be blasphemy to some, and you’re welcome to it.  Lucas was always, always, always the “big idea” guy.  His ideas have now spanned 45 years, and a franchise that can imagine quite a bit more.  He simply could not execute, and as Harrison Ford once told him (paraphrasing), “You can write this stuff, but you can’t say it.”

Thanks for showing us the Force, George.  We’ve got it from here.

The Kessel Run?  That old thing?
Rian Johnson has impressed the hell out of me since Brick (with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which everyone should now watch, and then own on Blu-Ray).  Taking the reins of the greatest space opera ever has really allowed him to shine.  He treats the characters as one should for the second movie in a planned trilogy—he beats the hell out of them.  That’s not to say he’s disrespectful.  Anything but.  Johnson, who is only a few months younger than me, grew up with Star Wars.  It’s been a part of our cultural tapestry from the start, a thing that, even if we wanted to, we can’t get away from.

It’s a damn shame that Johnson will not be returning for Episode IX.

That said, The Last Jedi does everything the trailers promised and more.  It is visually beautiful and wonderfully exciting.  There are enough lightsabers and space battles to fill an Imperial starships—not the local bulk cruisers, mind you, I'm talking about the big Corellian ships.  Luke Skywalker is all kinds of in this thing, and Carrie Fisher is just so much awesome it will fill your heart to bursting.

Yeah, the view is great, but look at the location!
Another shame that we won’t get to see her in the next movie.

There was at least one scene that put me right into tears, and another that made my jaw drop at the implication.  Johnson did what every Star Wars film should—provided a good story, well told, that left me wanting more.  What The Force Awakens began, and Rogue One promised, The Last Jedi has now delivered.  See it.  See it again.  Buy it on disc and add to your collection with pride.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Marketing Covers for Flames of Perdition Part 3

As promised, here is the theoretical cover art for Company of the Damned.  This might be my favorite out of all three, as it’s the only book that hasn’t released yet, and thus had no first or second cover to salt the well.

Shaken, but not stirred

Also, as I said, I have some news about an upcoming release.  In addition to being picked up by Ellysian Press for the Aubrey Hartmann steampunk books, a side project for Del’s world has been nagging at me.  I’ve decided to give in and write a Jane book.  Jane was supposed to be a one-note side character, a tough-as-nails member of the shadowy Jaccob/Joshua Smalls group operating out of Salt Lake City that Marrin became enamored of.  She ended up growing and her story-arc became more and more prominent—but she’s always been secondary to Del.

Until now!

I’m still working on titles, but the first chapter of the book is written.  This will be a stand-alone, outside of the Flames of Perdition series, but still within that world.  I’ll keep you posted as the work moves forward.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Show & Tell

Tell me again how to make your drink!
Back in the day, I loved, loved, loved Show & Tell time.  Mostly, I loved to show and tell.  Probably we all did, but I don’t recall a thing anyone showed and told about during Show & Tell.  Probably it was a lot of stuffed animals and real animals and whatnot.  I do, however, remember some of my showing and telling.

Writers are often told “show, don’t tell.”  It’s one of the first things posted on a request for critique.

Telling actually has a place in writing.

It may seem like blasphemy to the masses of new authors eagerly attending their first conference, but it isn't always practical to show.  Some scenes, technical, mechanicals, etc. can't be shown, they have to be told—especially if the character is trying to understand why a thing isn't working in the first place, and they need that thing to work.

But Rob!  Why would a character think through all the aspects of a piece of technology?

Well, Slotted Pig, in real life, we do this in our heads all the time without really thinking. When an app fails to load or function correctly, we start to run through all the steps: turn the device off and back on, reinstall the app, check for updates and patches, etc. Some of that is pretty common, so it’s not very interesting to a reader.  When dealing with a process, tech, magic, etc. that is not common, or is wholly made-up, then some telling is not only needed, it’s downright necessary.

A simple example that nearly everyone can relate to is “trigger discipline.”

Most people don't know what trigger discipline is, even if they've handled a gun a few times.  Books and TV and Hollywood often get it wrong.  Tarantino even exploited this hand-waved trope in Pulp Fiction when Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) accidentally shoots Marvin in the back of the car due to his complete lack of trigger discipline.

In the case of trigger discipline you’re actually accomplishing both telling and showing at the same time.  You tell the reader what the term means, and in so doing, that your character knows how to properly handle a gun, that she’s a trained and even competent professional.

Certainly, there should be more showing and less telling going on in a story.  It's easier to be immersed in the visceral experience of a world that feels real.  But to say you should never tell is just not what storytellers should be hearing.