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A Guide From The Perplexed #13

The Comic-Con 2017 Edition! Freshly back from two days at the convention, I give my impressions of Comic-Con in general, and some specific details about my experience. I end the podcast by discussing some of my projects, specifically what I plan to do with the podcast at this point. Music is the song Subdivision by Rush, as covered by Ember After.

Southbound to Comic-Con (for a while)

And here I go again (on my own): it’s time for Comic-Con International, aka SDCC. Regular readers know that I have tried to make it every year since about 2010, and usually I do. This year has been particularly touch-and-go. As I mentioned in a recent podcast, Luna, our 14-year old giant schnauzer, is in quite fragile health, and leaving her alone isn’t an option, and handing her off to someone else to take care of isn’t a very palatable option. Michelle offered to watch Luna so that I could spend a couple of days (July 20/21) at Comic-Con, then I’m reciprocating by coming back early so she can go camping with friends on the July 22/23. So I won’t get the full Comic-Con experience, but I know that Luna will be in the capable hands of her co-owner, and I’ll still get a couple days of geek mecca.

I fully intend to podcast on my return about the experience, as well as fire off my next newsletter (you are signed up aren’t you?) subsequent to that. If you follow me on social media, however, look for cool pictures posted to Instagram and Facebook and maybe tweets too. So if you’re going to be at Comic-Con yourself, please feel welcome to let me know on the social medias (and the emails), and if you’re not, hopefully I’ll have some entertaining stuff for you.

A Guide From The Perplexed #12

I wrote a new short story! In this short podcast I talk about my new free science-fiction short story “Yes / No,” and share some of my hopes for Comic-Con International 2017. I finish up talking a little bit about the next novel in The Sedumen Chronicles, Firebird Champion.

New short story: Yes / No

I’ve written a new short story! I’ve already presented it to my mailing list (and you did sign up for my newsletter, didn’t you? If you haven’t, you can here) but I wanted to give it away to everyone else too. As the cover image above should suggest, it’s called “Yes / No,” it’s science fiction, and it takes place in Earth’s orbit in the near future. Here’s the short description of the story:

Captain Lang’s repair mission was routine: fix the malfunctioning robotic arm on the International Space Station. What wasn’t routine was the wormhole that opened between Earth and the moon, and the alien vessel that contacted him. Captain Lang figures out how to understand two responses from the aliens: yes and no. This makes it difficult for the aliens to communicate the imminent danger and urgency of Captain Lang’s situation…

Short stories are my way to experiment with ideas and plots that don’t necessarily require a full novel’s worth of twists and turns. They’re short and fun, and hopefully a dozen pages worth of entertainment. As ever, my short stories are free to either download or read online. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please tell your friends!

Click here to download Yes / No as an ePub, PDF, or mobi (Kindle) file

Click here to read Yes / No online

Batman Has Left The Building – Goodbye Adam West

Adam West, TV’s Batman, has died at 88 after a short fight with leukemia. I was surprised by this (I had no idea he was sick, he’s been doing voice work and guesting on TV shows) and it made me quite nostalgic.

I’ve written before on my blog how influential watching Star Trek reruns as a child in the 70s was to my creativity and imagination. Well, so was watching reruns of Batman. And as a child Adam West was the ultimate superhero. He was earnest and good, smart and capable, and no matter how devious the plot or desperate the peril, he could always wiggle his way out of it. When you’re a kid, you don’t understand camp, and I took it completely seriously, and was riveted.

As an adult the hokeyness of it is readily obvious, but it’s still charming. Even beyond nostalgia, these days with dark and gritty superheroes being so conflicted and driven and psychically tortured there’s something endearing about a hero who does what’s right because it’s right, fights crime simply because he can and he knows the police needs his help. Sure, you can do these things without dressing up in bat-themed spandex, but hey, the bat suit was fun!

The Batman TV show was instrumental in my love of superheroes and superheroics. Maybe you can’t draw a direct line from the Batman TV show to The Sedumen Chronicles but I certainly wouldn’t have the mindset I do if it wasn’t for the daring-do of the Caped Crusader. Adam West’s Batman couldn’t have been further from the Dark Knight that Batman became, but his ultra-earnest-while-campy take was perfect for a growing boy looking for heroes. Thank you, Mr. West, for being the perfect Batman at the time.

A Guide From The Perplexed #11

Welcome to the latest episode of my semi-regular podcast, A Guide From The Perplexed—superhero edition! I recently saw the Wonder Woman movie and had a few things to say that I didn’t want to write in my review. After that, I give my view on some of the comic and superhero television shows that aired this past season: Lucifer, Supergirl, Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Iron Fist. And before I sign off I have a quick update on upcoming projects of mine.

A Movie Worthy of a Woman of Wonder

The pressure to make Wonder Woman a successful superhero movie must have been intense. In fact, it isn’t just a great “superhero” movie—it’s a great movie. I carefully avoided all spoilers before I saw it, and I’d like to share some thoughts here and I’ll give all of you the same courtesy. I won’t tell you anything about the plot you didn’t already know from the trailers.

Wonder Woman is one of the very highest scoring critical hits among superhero films (currently 93% Rotten Tomatoes) for good reason. The movie is an origin story like so many other superhero movies, but manages to feel fresh. Wonder Woman is a war movie—World War I to be exact—and while the core of the story is getting to know Princess Diana and her mythological origins and world, the horrors of war and what it does to the people involved, both soldiers and civilians, is front and center.

And Princess Diana, our Woman of Wonder, is a complex character. Wonder Woman isn’t Tony Stark: she’s not a charming rogue who’s gruff exterior gives way to a heart of gold. Her heart of gold is on display from the first minute. She’s smart but naive, trained but inexperienced, beautiful but mighty, loving but fierce, superhuman and yet completely human. That’s not an easy task for any actress, but Gal Gadot has the physicality, the looks, and the emotional depth to pull it off.

The credit for this success needs to go to everyone involved. The story and screenplay were solid; it captured enough of the fish-out-of-water aspect of Diana’s journey to make it clear to us, but not so much that it got old or corny. Patty Jenkins does a great job directing the film, giving the story room to breathe while still making the action scenes pop. The production values were incredibly high. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was also perfect—he has an “everyman” quality in this movie reminiscent of Harrison Ford, the perfect worldly foil for the wide-eyed Princess Diana. But everyone, Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Robin Wright as Antiope, Connie Neilsen as Hippoltya, Danny Houston as  General Ludendorff, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis, et al, all pulled it off.

All the nits I can pick are small. Occasionally the CGI was a bit obvious. Sometimes the themes and moral values the movie championed were heaped on pretty thick. And like so many movies these days that want to “worship” their action stars, there are moments of “ultra-slow mo action cam” that isn’t my preference; I like action scenes kinetic throughout. Thankfully, Jenkins doesn’t rely on that nearly as much as other directors (Zack Snyder…ahem…). And then there’s just fanboy comicky things that I liked this and that from the graphic novels that would have been fun to see, but those aren’t worth mentioning here (I think I’ll save that for a podcast).

I’ll admit that I wanted to see a Wonder Woman movie for decades, so this film meant a lot to me. My expectations were high, and this movie met them. I also have read a few sexist reviews, and I know that Jenkins was under a microscope to see how this movie would do financially. Well, she has officially become the first woman to direct a movie that made more than $100 million opening weekend. This is a big deal for studios opening their pursestrings to other female directors, and female-led tentpole action films. For that reason, in addition to how good the movie is, I highly recommend that if you’re interested, you see this in the theater rather than just wait until it’s on video. Show the film industry that women-lead movies can be just as successful as movies helmed by men. Ultimately, we’ll all get better movies that way.

And Shadow Turns 16!

Shadow is a hard cat to photograph. He’s usually sleeping, getting into trouble, or grooming himself.  When he’s not, he’s on my lap—which is sweet, but not conducive to me taking his picture.

And that, in a nutshell, is Shadow. At sixteen he probably spends most of the day asleep. Which I guess he always did, but now even more so. When he’s up, he still likes to put himself exactly where he’s not supposed to be, and generally be a nuisance, but then snuggle and be affectionate with me.

It’s a sad coincidence that both of my oldest pets have May birthdays. Luna is defying all the odds every day she wakes up and smiles and gets on with it, but it’s definitely getting tougher for her. Shadow will probably live forever out of spite. So tonight I’ll give Shadow his favorite treat (a raw egg) in honor of being part of this crazy menagerie for one more year. I have always been, and will always be, a “dog person” but I have to acknowledge that Shadow has somehow managed to burrow his way into my heart.

Happy 14th Birthday Luna!

Happy Birthday to Lionheart’s Moonage Daydream, whom we call Luna. At 14 years old, she’s two years past the average lifespan of her breed (giant schnauzers live for 10-12 years), so I’m extremely happy she’s still here.

Age is definitely taking it’s toll. Her hearing is going. Her vision isn’t what it used to be. Her hips are fragile, and sometimes she can’t rise if she’s laying down. She moves slower. Eats slower. She barks when the other dogs bark, sometimes not knowing why, and even facing the wrong direction from the object the others are barking at. And saddest of all, occasionally it seems like she’s in pain.

But then she smiles, gets enthusiastic when I come home, tries to run after the other dogs when they play (a sort of hobble-run at this point), and otherwise shows signs that she’s not quite done with life yet. And her last vet checkup earlier in the year there was nothing abnormal wrong with her, just the expected decay of a venerable, elderly dog.

So here’s to Luna, squeezing every last drop out of the time she has left. She’s been getting table scraps all day and will probably get some special treats later, too. Because at this point, she’s earned the right to be spoiled!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 entertains and expands the MCU

A little late to the party, I know, but I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 last night. I had read nothing about the plot, no spoilery articles, and was thoroughly entertained. So I intend to offer the same courtesy with my write up.

One of the joys of the first Guardians of the Galaxy was how the characters were so clearly drawn, distinct personalities. The sequel does not disappoint in that area. Some of the characters get new roles—the image above shows Yandu and Nebula with the Guardians. But they’re still the same characters, with the same motivations, even if evolved.

As with the first movie, although the Guardians are based on Marvel characters who, well, save the galaxy, this is really a science fiction/space opera fantasy far more than a “superhero” film with capes and cowls. One criticism is that since we know the characters, it’s not quite as fresh and surprising as the original. Yes, we know who the guardians are now, but that doesn’t mean this movie is weak. The direction, the acting, the writing, and the production values are all extremely high. There are moments that look a bit overly “computer animated” to me, but in general the effects are excellent, the action is exciting, and the plot holds up. Even the four (yes, four) cut scenes in the credits are entertaining. If you enjoyed the first one, Marvel movies, or science fantasy in general, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be a fun ride.