Dread and Revelries of Spring

Below is a poem I recently wrote simultaneously with a short horror story.  The short story was read on Trio Simpatico, the podcast I co-host.  We produced the reading for our string of horror themed episodes in October, and a portion of the poem is used to close out that piece.

Both the story and the poem are based on a dream which my wife relayed to me one morning.  Her dream was splendidly cryptic and contained some really frightening imagery.  The short story, called Ghost Storm, is an elaboration of the nightmare as my wife told it to me, while the poem is more of an interpretation of the same basic ideas though most of the details are transferred to a completely different time and place.

If you’d like to hear our audio production of Ghost Storm click HERE I’ll most likely be posting the text here in the weeks to follow.

The poem is below the break, enjoy!

ghoststorm

 

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George Lucas Doesn’t Hate The Fans, He’s Just A Terrible Artist

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.

—-Leonardo Di Vinci

“Star Wars is like a woman who was once vibrant and beautiful but who has had an obscene amount of plastic surgery and hasn’t been allowed to age gracefully.”  —-Some Guy on a Star Wars Forum

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or simply aren’t a Star Wars fan or geek of any ilk, you most likely have been hearing the complaints about the changes made to the Star Wars movies in their upcoming blu-ray release.  Most of the recent controversy has centered around some added bits of dialogue given to Darth Vader during the climactic final battle between Vader, Palpatine, and Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi.  In this newest version Darth Vader screams “No! Nooo!” as he picks up his Sith master and gives him the shaft.  A phrase that has already garnered some fan ridicule when it was used in Revenge of the Sith and now has them outraged due to its insertion into the iconic ending of the original trilogy.

Cover of the upcoming Star Wars Blu-Ray

Now many Star Wars fans out there already have several complaints to bring up against Uncle George, the bearded creator.  This recent tinkering with the saga seems to be the straw that infuriated the camel’s core fanbase.  Many other blogs and commentaries seem to imply that they feel George Lucas hates the fans, cares nothing for the Star Wars saga, and thinks that adding to, and messing with, the movies will encourage us gullible fans to shell out a few extra bucks in order to collect a newer version of the films.

But here’s how I see it.

From what I can tell George Lucas does NOT hate the fans of his movies, or think that they are fools.  On the contrary Lucas seems to take quite an interest in the fans and their activities.  He has personally attended several of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and I have personally seen him speak twice.  From all indications he seems actually quite congenial to, and appreciative of, his fans.  One quick example that comes to mind is when Uncle George was taking questions at one of the previously mentioned Star Wars Celebrations, when one particularly stereotypical geeky fan asked a very specific and involved question about buzz droids and particle shielding on Jedi starfighters.  George took a breath and was about to answer the inquiry before the other fans in the auditorium booed the awkward questioner down from the mic.  I remember personally yelling something along the lines of “Ask that kind of shit at a Trek convention!”  George Lucas however said nothing, and simply shrugged as if disappointed he didn’t get to answer.

George Lucas shakes hands with a young Jedi fan

What I’m getting at is that George Lucas could be so much more standoffish with his fans, he could be like the Emperor, mysterious and removed from the people.  Instead he seems to make appearances quite often, has dialogues with the fans, and has even given his take on a few of the popular criticisms about his work.

That’s not to say that George Lucas hasn’t made some mistakes in his work.  I am in no way simply pardoning Lucas for everything just because he takes a few minutes to chat with the fan boys.  Jarjar was waaaaay overdone.  Episode II is terrible.  Han shooting first was stupid.  He shouldn’t have directed the prequels.  And Indiana Jones 4 was total shit (but actually I put most of the blame for that debacle on the other major players involved with that one, Lucas’ story could have been one of my favorite Indy movies, but the execution was atrocious!)

Now onto the idea that Lucas hates the Star Wars universe, or simply has no regard for the established universe that is Star Wars.  I’ve commented on this before in my post about Lucas VS the Fan Boys.  Without repeating myself too much I’ll just restate that I’ve never felt, nor have I really seen any evidence to support the idea that Lucas simply doesn’t care about what changes he makes to the Star Wars universe.  On the contrary I have to say that if you’ve read any interviews with Dave Filoni, the director of the Clone Wars cartoon, or George Lucas himself, you’ll discover that there is quite a bit of thought and effort put into what new elements are added to the Star Wars universe through the cartoons, and film changes, and how those elements fit in with the existing Star Wars realm.  Sure Lucas makes changes to established and iconic scenes, and tinkers with works he’s already completed but I attribute that more to the idea that Lucas is a perfectionist who regularly thinks about how he wishes this or that scene had turned out better.  I don’t believe he makes changes on a whim, but instead foolishly makes these edits based on his current state of mind, and not his original inspired direction.  As a writer myself I can sympathize with wanting to tweak your work to make it just right.  That however has to happen before it is unleashed upon the world.

Which brings me to the last part of my rant.

“Lucas just wants to make a quick buck off the fans by making some unnecessary changes and putting the movies out on a new format.”  George Lucas knows how to make a buck, there is no denying that.  That son of a bitch is the grand master of merchandising and he established the style of promotion and rebranding that keeps a product fresh in the mind of the consumer.  He knows how to stretch something out and get the most from fan expectations and desires.  I’m convinced that the only reason we haven’t seen the live action Star Wars television series yet is because the Clone Wars was far more popular and successful than originally anticipated, so why show all your cards at once?  Get the most of the Clone Wars and when that winds down, ramp up the live action show once more.  Some might say it’s a dick move, but it’s just good business.  Hold onto those good ideas until you need them, and keep the product going.  It’s America, it’s capitalism.  So all our Star Wars dreams aren’t coming true all at once, too bad.

I believe Lucas does what he does in terms of changes, additions, tinkering, etc. because deep down George Lucas is still clinging to his indie film school roots.  Somewhere deep down there is still good in Lucas, he pictures himself as a hipster film geek who praises 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kurosawa movies.  He wants to try to perfect his art however and is afraid to let things go until they are “done right.”  The problem is of course that things are never done right, they’re just done as best as they can be.  As the above quote states art is never finished, only abandoned.  This of course means that George Lucas is a terrible artist in that he just can’t let go.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t have made the prequels or has done too much with the Clone Wars, on the contrary, for the most part, I really enjoy these new segments of the Star Wars saga (glaring annoyances aside.)  It just means that Lucas has to learn to let go.  When he stepped back from the directors chair on the original movies we found that his vision could be fulfilled just as well, if not better, through a different set of eyes.

A young George Lucas with his friend, a young Francis Ford Coppola

It is my theory that George Lucas is not a spiteful person, nor a solely greedy one.  If any maladjustment can be assigned to him I would say he suffers from excessive vainglory.  He wants his works to be the best, and remain the best.  Star Wars, his inarguable pinnacle achievement and best known creation was once the apex of movie making, a groundbreaking achievement in film.  He is slow to relinquish that glory and so attempts to make his art a continual work in progress, slowly adapting the state of the art practices of the present to his masterpiece of the past.  Without a doubt Lucas has been a pioneer in new technologies and styles of film making, but he is unable to completely let go of his pride and the earlier works that got him there.

That is why you fail.

That is all!

Finally! A Darth Plagueis Novel.

Yesterday I discovered that Lucas Books has finally decided to put out their long awaited Darth Plagueis novel! Check out the news and a brief outline of the novel at The Force.net.

The cover art for Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

This novel was originally announced shortly after the debut of Revenge of the Sith where we heard the first tantalizing mentions of this Sith lord who trained the Emperor and his brief biography. At the time I was incredibly excited by this news, I’m a sucker for the bad guys, they’re always so much more interesting then the good guys. Especially when it comes to the Jedi and the Sith. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of the Jedi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and all things Lightside are great! But we’ve seen it all before, you know? We all know how a Jedi should act. Selflessness, virtue, peace, knowledge, defense, one with nature, etc. etc. We get it. There are plenty of Jedi in the Star Wars universe and over the course of the 6 movies we get a good look at their structure, teachings, and individuals.

When it comes to the Sith however, they remain something of a mystery to us, at least in the movie universe. In the books there is quite an expanded knowledgebase about the Sith and their history, but even with that there are extensive gaps leading up to the time of the movies. The Sith are figures in Star Wars that leave something to the imagination, they are the element we don’t know enough about. When you think about it, most of the knowledge we do have about the Sith in the films is given to us by the Jedi, sworn enemies of the Sith who have spent a good portion of their history trying to erase the memory of them from the galaxy. We can assume their interpretation of the Sith is slightly skewed.

Darth Plagueis the Wise

To make a few comparisons, the Sith are the Apocrypha to the Jedi’s Bible. The heretics and Cathars to the Jedi catholic church. A feud that started as an ideological difference erupts into a full out war which results in the victor being known as “right” and the loser being known as “wrong.” From there the Jedi go on to establish themselves as philosophers and peacekeepers working with the Galactic Republic to maintain an order of light. While on the other hand the Sith, who are believed to be vanquished, must alter their strategy, work in secret and pass their teachings on in a more clandestine manner with a new motivation of total revenge against those who had tried to destroy them.

Of course I could go back and forth about this history of the Jedi and Sith but what I’m getting at is the allure of the Sith.

What draws more curiosity, an object sitting openly under a lamp, or an object hidden in shadow just out of sight? Clearly you can tell what there is with the object under the lamp, you can observe it and know something about it just by looking at it whether it interests you or not. But that hidden object has so much more appeal because you just can’t know exactly what it is until you investigate. It’s the whole idea of wrapping a present as opposed to just handing someone a gift. That element of the unknown, the mystery, it’s what gets our attention.

Long analogy, short I like the Sith because there’s just comparatively so little information about them in Star Wars lure.

The Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn was a good Sithy read, detailing the middle history of the Sith and how the order was reduced from an army similar to the Jedi, to the master and apprentice system we see in the movies. As interesting as that was I was still more excited about the talk of a Darth Plagueis book.  Unfortunately after Revenge of the Sith the Plagueis book was delayed in favor of several other books including a Darth Vader novel and a story about the construction of the first Death Star. Topics that had already seen several novelizations over the years. I read those books however and enjoyed them, but still anticipated the Plagueis read. Unfortunately it was eventually cancelled with no further word.

Finally yesterday, years later, I find out that it is back on! There is even a cover and a brief summary indicating that this time they mean it.

Why am I so excited for this book? Well as I said before I’m a fan of the bad guys in general and the Sith in particular. Perhaps my favorite Sith is Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine. And why shouldn’t he be? If you like the Sith than you’d have to love the Master who orchestrated the final destruction of the Jedi order, subverted the government that pandered to those same Jedi, and who put the Sith in sole control of the largest imperial rule the galaxy had ever seen. Sidious is the Sith Lord who brought about the endgame of a thousand years of Sith patience and planning. This is the man who worked openly among the Jedi undetected, who trained Darth Maul, and who bested Yoda in one of the most epic lightsaber duels of all time.

But who trained Darth Sidious?

Darth Plagueis the wise. If Sidious turned out to be such an evil badass, the guy who instructed him must have been fairly impressive himself. Finally we will get the chance to learn more about this mysterious penultimate Sith Master in James Luceno’s next book simply titled Darth Plagueis.

Darth Plagueis and a young Sidious

Actually James Luceno himself is another reason I’m really looking forward to this book. I love his Star Wars novels especially Cloak of Deception, Labyrinth of Evil, and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. Luceno is a skilled and subtle author who writes the Sith and the Darkside well, not simply portraying them as evil villains who do bad purely for the sake of being evil, but actually portrays them with some depth as to why they do what they do, how they are different from the Jedi, and why they use the Force in the manner they do.  Aside from that, in my opinion Luceno is one of the few Star Wars authors who really captures the feel and scope of the Star Wars universe that we are used to in the films. He has a deep understanding of the characters, history, and setting of the Star Wars universe that really takes his books to the next level. He blends well the elements of action, politics, and philosophy that are found in Star Wars making his works more than simply “typical” sci-fi books in the guise of Star Wars novels.

James Luceno

I haven’t been keeping up with most of the new Star Wars novels, I believe the last one I read was 2009’s Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber, but with this book finally being released I again have a Star Wars novel that I’m really looking forward to.

That is all!

Writing it is Easier Than Getting it Read. Nothing New About That.

So I’ve written a novel. That sounds pretty good. Sure. That’s a great deal of time and effort put into 230,000 some words of story telling. I’ve read, and re-read the pages several times, changing, editing, adding as I need to. Now however I am on the brink of the truly difficult part, figuring out what to do with it next. I have done some research online about a few different literary agents, but of course there is also a great deal of spotlight these days on self publishing and e-books and all that. There are other resources available as well such as creating an audio book on a pod cast and circulating the work that way. Here is an example of that: PodioBooks.com

http://www.podiobooks.com/

Frankly I’m leaning toward the agent route. It’s the traditionally best approach to take, most agents are also editors, which I think should go over the work with a fine toothed comb, and it just seems to make sense for me. I don’t have the resources, or connections to promote myself enough to do a self-published e-book and I don’t really have the time to create an audio book that might never be heard. I’d like to be able to get started on my next project while this one is in the hands of some professionals somewhere.

Now my biggest problem is that my current story has only been read completely by one other person, a friend, who had great things to say about it and a few helpful suggestions. I have another friend about half way through reading it, she’s actually doing some illustrations for me so she is taking her time and sketching and taking notes as she reads so it will be a little longer until she is through it all. My wife is a middle school teacher who is always under various time constraints. Although she is the best editor and literary critic I know, the last thing she wants to do with her free time during the school year is edit my work, essentially an extension of her work life, and I can’t blame her. I want her above all others to take a look at the writing, because I know she will tell it to me like it is, and let me know what’s good and what isn’t. She will get to it when she can, she is currently swamped with educating America’s future. I however am anxious to put things in motion! I have everything in place for submitting my work to an agent, cover letter, summary, chapter outline, finely tuned writing example, author bio, the works! All ready to print out and send in.

Oh and don’t get me started on printing things out, I thought it would be so much easier to just print it from home, I’d buy a brand new ink cartridge, a ream of paper, and I would be good to go. To make a long story short just go to kinkos or wherever and print your work out there. Cough up the $40 and make it easy on yourself. Trust me something will go wrong at home, and it will infuriate you AND it will all wind up costing more money in the long run.

The devil's tool

Anywho printing concerns aside, I feel stuck. I eagerly want to send this thing out there and get the whole process in motion, I want to do something more with this work I have done. While on the other hand, I am self-conscious and desperately seek some more test audiences for this thing, a bit more validation that it might actually be worth publishing, which I of course believe it is. Everyone is too busy, or unwilling to read it off a computer screen (which I don’t blame them) and I don’t have enough printed copies to go around. I’m very paranoid about handing it over to random people I don’t know and I really just want it into the hands of some pros who know more about the publishing industry then I do! Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

As for now, that is all!

Thor Looks Appropriately Epic

First off the newest Thor trailer was released recently and word on the street is that another Captain America trailer is on the way as well!

This new trailer can only be described in one word, EPIC! Granted it is only a movie trailer, but from what we’ve seen in these first two previews of the film I have to say that it certainly looks like this movie has captured the grandeur and sprawling splendor of Asgard with a good mix of the mundane Midgard. In the first trailer we got more of an idea about what Thor would be like on earth, heavy on S.H.I.E.L.D elements with Thor running around in a t-shirt and jeans. In this trailer however we see much more of mythic Asgard, Thor in his full battle regalia, along with some new scenes on earth. I’m especially liking the Destroyer armor, that shit is straight out of the comics! Most importantly we see how the two settings are going to mix, that there seems to be a great balance of the visual spectacle of the Gods mixed with the small town america aspects of the film which ultimately endear Thor to the world of men.

To be honest I was a little worried when word came down to us that Thor would take place in both Asgard and Midgard. Originally the rumor was that the movie would be set entirely in Asgard, with Thor amongst his fellow godlings. I was pretty excited for the prospect of a chance to really set up Thor’s character in Asgard in an epic realm with a feeling and story akin to the Lord of the Rings. Pure myth and fantasy, with perhaps a lead in at the end where Thor is banished from the land of the Gods which would work into the Avengers extravaganza. However after seeing this and the other footage from Thor I think this mix of settings that Kenneth Branagh has put together will be even better. It looks like we will not be shorted any amount of myth and fantasy in this movie, and we will have Thor’s earthly set up out of the way and fully explained by the time the Avengers movie rolls around. Plus it will set the Thor movie apart from the other Avengers solo outings, in that we will have an obviously different movie from Iron Man, and a mix of two worlds unlike Captain America, which will be entirely set in the era of World War II with little or no connection to the modern-day of the Avengers.

All of this will be quite a benefit to each individual movie in the long run, and each individual series of movies (assuming there is going to be a Captain America 2 and Thor 2) because in these initial outings we get to develop these unique characters in very different ways which gives a specific feel and focus to each hero. This helps alleviate the stereotypical super hero movie cookie cutter plotlines and hopefully continue the costumed hero genre (as long as they are done well) for a long time to come. Also this could make for a very successful Avengers series of movies. The Avengers has a great many fans excited, but it is a project that I have heard some nervous grumblings about as well. More or less some fans are claiming it will never be done right with so many big personalities involved both in front of and behind the cameras. I however believe that Marvel Studios has established, quite successfully, that these various heroes are very unique individuals with certain skill sets which they bring to the table and if the studio wants to do the Avengers right, they will throw a big earth shattering problem at this assembled team of do gooders and let the movie be a playground for their heroics. Spotlighting what we already know about these heroes while at the same time showing them in a team and working together to save the day. Not to say that there won’t be some friction among the members (Hulk and Thor mayhaps?) but they really shouldn’t over think the Avengers, they’ve already got the really cool pieces in place now they just have to put it together with the same attention to detail and focus on talent that they have with these other movies in order to make one epicly cool movie!

And on that note, that is all! Maybe next time I will discuss the upcoming DC movies, who knows?

The Avengers Big Three