#Movies: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST + 4 more! (#amwatching #goodstuff)

I know I hinted about a possible Key West post, but this was actually easier to put together. Below, are my thoughts on some things I’ve seen in the last month or so, including Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast.


Victoria: Masterpiece’s dramatization of Queen Victoria’s life. I love Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes together. Truth be told, I’d never heard of them before. Because Netflix’s The Crown aired around the same time, it seemed as if everyone was comparing the two with Victoria coming up short. (How do I know this? Well, nothing concrete, that’s for sure. It’s just my take based on a quick perusal of reviews and talking to people at the library). But I liked Victoria and will definitely tune in for the next season. I did try one episode of The Crown — and liked it — but Victoria feels more fun. The costumes and sets are beautiful, the chemistry between the leads is great, and I like that the story takes place further back in time. (The Crown is based on Queen Elizabeth II’s early life. Geesh. She’s probably not watching, but that’s gotta be weird.)

Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who gave up on Reign because it was too ridiculous.

High Strung: In a nutshell, this is “student bunhead meets fiddler busker,” which is exactly why I wanted to watch it. I love dance movies (I have no dance background, but my younger daughter dances and I love a good performance). Some of you might also remember that I have a mini-thing for fiddlers. (I used to play the violin — badly; I talked a little bit about that in a podcast I did for Functional Nerds years ago — again, badly… They’d invited me on the show to talk about The Fifth String by John Philip Sousa and I totally botched it.) Anywho, when I saw High Strung was about a spirited ballerina and a young violinist — whose neighbor happens to be part of a hip hop dance crew — I was in. The New York Times wasn’t impressed, but I’m sure the reviewer is way more cultured than I am and she at least admitted that the choreography was great. The story is very predictable, but let’s face it: people don’t watch movies like this to be surprised. We watch to get what we paid for — an entertaining performance. I would have paid far more than the rental fee to see the final “String & Dance” number performed live.

Who would I recommend this to? Fans of Strictly Ballroom.

Passengers: Oh my. Where to start? Before I knew what the movie was about, this was on my Must See list. And then I heard some of the scuttlebutt and I was less enthusiastic. I finally rented it and watched it with Penny and E, which meant we had an interesting discussion about Jim’s Big Choice, why he did it, and whether it was forgivable. Confused? This movie opens in the distant future. Planets have been terraformed and colonized, but FTL travel still eludes us. The grand spaceship Avalon, which resembles a high-tech, spacefaring cruise ship, is on its way to one of those other-earths. The trip takes 130 years. 5,000+ passengers are in deep sleep. Their pods are set for them to wake up when they are four months from their destination. Due to an unforeseen meteor strike on the ship, however, Jim’s pod opens early. As in, 90 years too early. And he can’t put himself back to sleep. So he’s looking at a very lonely, boring existence until he spies a fellow passenger sleeping prettily in her pod. Her name is Aurora, which should tell you what happens next and why the movie only has a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Hint: he doesn’t wake her up with a kiss.)

Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who likes science fiction and/or debating whether and how redemption is possible for someone who commits an arguably unforgivable act.

Hidden Figures: Ah, now we’re getting to the good stuff. This was nominated for Best Picture and, after the whole Oscars contretemps, it’s nice to get back to just talking about the films. This is the story of three brilliant, but unrecognized African-American women, who worked for NASA and helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space: physicist/mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Hensen); “human computer” Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer); and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). The movie did a great job of portraying the bullshit these women had to put up with. Penny, E, and I were aghast, pissed off, and then finally, thankfully, elated and inspired. (Of course, bullshit, i.e. discrimination, still happens, but I liked that the movie ended on an up note).

Who would I recommend this movie to? Anyone who likes bio pics, historical fiction, and/or movies featuring strong women.

Beauty and the Beast: Like many, I’m a fan of the original animated movie and Belle is one of my favorite Disney characters. The fact that the source material is one of the oldest fairy tales ever is fascinating to me. So I went in with incredibly high expectations. And Disney partially delivered. I’d rate this redo alongside their live action Cinderella, but beneath Enchanted. Enchanted, for me, continues to be the Gold Standard. That movie’s combination of animation and live action, the story, the humor, its self-awareness and affectionate mockery of itself, the songs, the dance numbers, the juggling act between whimsy, romance, and quirk, not to mention Amy Adams’ simply sublime performance. Well, I very much enjoyed the new B&B, and it’s enchanting at times, but it’s no Enchanted. What did I like? The big dance numbers with Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou (he was Olaf from Frozen), and the fact that the filmmakers answered a question I’ve long had: why was the Beast a beast before he was cursed? (In others words, why was he such a cad that he refused to help an old woman?) Worth noting that everyone else in my family unequivocally loved the film.

Who would I recommend it to? Hahaha. You know who you are. If the idea of a live action Beauty and the Beast sounds appealing to you, then this movie is a must see.


So, how about you? Have you seen any of the above? What did you think?

Advertisements

Ann Gimpel on Seasons of Change

Just got back from a long weekend in Florida. Terrific trip but the airports were nuts. One cancelled flight due to Niko, one delay to address a maintenance issue, another due to lightning in a connecting city… so Ann’s weather-related guest post is particularly timely. Stay safe, everyone!


“Weather is a potent element in fiction.”

I’m a four-season gal, myself. I like cold winters, balmy springs where things are coming alive again, and long, languid falls with that crispness in the air that promises winter is just around the corner. The only season I’m not crazy about is summer. I’ve never liked heat much, so thirteen years ago we moved to the mountains. The first few years were great, but the advent of climate change has brought ninety degree days to the High Sierra. I’m not terribly pleased about that, but there’s not much I can do, either. One good thing is that at eight thousand feet elevation where I live, it always cools off at night.

Weather is a potent element in fiction. It can actually be a character in its own right. I’ve written some books where the weather was one of the antagonists. Quite aside from that, there’s something delightful about misty, foggy moorlands. Or rainy, blustery days. Real people have to deal with weather, so story characters should have to as well. It makes the book seem more real, at least to me.

Writing convincingly about weather is a challenge. After all, how many ways can you describe a blizzard? It turns out, there are a whole bunch of them. And what a wonderful opportunity to show the reader watery eyes, shivers, frosty whiskers, and half-frozen fingers and toes. It’s impossible to write a whole book from a “show” perspective, plus it would be exhausting to read. But there are tricks that can make a manuscript come alive to a reader’s senses. Weather is one of them. Smell is another. The world smells different after a winter rain than it does after a gentle spring shower. Writers who pay attention to their surroundings come up with the best descriptions of how their characters react to elements in their environments. Maybe it’s clichéd, but Margaret Mitchell’s description of Atlanta burning in Gone With the Wind is amazing. I could almost smell the smoke reading it as a thirteen year old long after lights-out by flashlight under the covers.

I’m not quite old enough to remember when families gathered around the radio, because TV either hadn’t been invented, or was in its infancy. I have, however, listened to some old radio programs like Mystery Theater. Radio used a lot of sound effects, many of them weather-related. There was the patter of rain, the whoosh of wind, and people huffing and puffing against a storm in progress.

How about you? What’s your favorite season and why would you pick that one? Do you have a favorite book where the weather played a significant role?

More about Ann

Ann Gimpel is a USA Today bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients. Now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 45 books to date, with several more planned for 2017 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren, and wolf hybrids round out her family.

Website | Blog | Amazon Page | Facebook | @AnnGimpel

More about Ann’s Latest Release

edge-of-night-cover

Edge of Night

Here’s a roadmap to Edge of Night. Welcome to an eclectic collection of nine short stories.

You’ve done time at the edge of night. Nail-biting, stomach-churning time filled with hissing snarls, menacing growls, the whoosh of unnatural wings, and the flash of hellfire. Time that lasts forever, but is over within seconds because time becomes unpredictable in places like that. You don’t want to stay, but it’s too fascinating—in a grisly, macabre, toe-curling kind of way—to turn your back on.

You recognize it, though. The place just at the threshold of darkness where it’s not quite safe anymore. Evil broke its bounds at the edge of night, or maybe it always ran free and we’ve been deluding ourselves all along.

Join me for nine supernatural tales. Monsters, demons, gods—fallen and otherwise—ghosts, aliens. A touch of science fiction. More than a splash of romance. From magical lands to a chilling glance into the past, Edge of Night has something to tempt everyone. Everyone who craves danger, that is. It takes guts to read the stuff woven into nightmares.

It’s a tough job, but you’re up to it.

Welcome to my world. A world where magic holds court and the dude next door just might be a demon. Or a shifter. Or an alien.

Click here for information and buy links

edge-of-night-banner


Thank you for guest blogging today, Ann!

ARRIVAL: Movie Review (#sff)

Last Friday, Penny and I went to see Arrival. This is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that made me want to review it. To tell people – go see it. (Mild spoilers below).

Arrival, science fiction, movie, aliens, review, love, language, choices

Arrival, which stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, is a science fiction movie about aliens coming to Earth. It’s a story that’s been done a million times before and, because of that, it’s also a movie that reminds us that the telling part of storytelling is sometimes more important than the story part.

The movie is slow and meditative (more Close Encounters than Independence Day). And it’s sad. It opens with a heartbreaking montage showing Amy Adams’ character (Dr. Louise Banks) with her daughter, who dies at a young age from cancer. Even though I knew the movie’s backstory before seeing it, the scenes nearly brought me to tears. And, if it weren’t for the rest of the story, I might have even been angry with the filmmakers for putting me through such emotional turmoil in a sci-fi flick about aliens landing. But Arrival is as much about the aliens’ arrival as it is about Banks’ daughter’s arrival, which is why I eventually forgave the filmmakers for that unbelievably sad beginning.

After the aliens arrive, Colonel Webber (Whitaker) puts Banks (a linguistic expert) on a welcoming team with Ian Donnelly (Renner). Ian is more technical and science-minded than Louise, whose main objective is to learn how to communicate with the aliens. Over the course of months, Louise and Ian teach the aliens rudimentary English and learn their much more complicated, but infinitely more interesting, circular language. (Words and sentences are inky blotches that look like coffee rings).

This is a movie that reminded me of different movies at different times (during the intro, Gravity; during Act II, Contact; and during Act III, Interstellar) but still managed to retain its own unique identity. Despite its well-worn story hook, Arrival delves deep and provides new food for thought – about how language can be a lens through which we perceive reality, how precious both time and love are, and how a difficult, impossible choice can become a destiny you’d want to repeat over and over again.

Did you see Arrival? What did you think? Have you seen any other movies lately worth discussing or recommending?

“I Can Kill You With My Brain”

Today’s guest is Kelly Meding. She shares a little bit about her inspiration for two of the characters from Oracle, her latest release. She’s giving away one signed copy of the book. Details below. Welcome, Kelly!


oracle

Thank you, Jill, for having me on your blog to talk about my novel Oracle. Oracle is the first in a two-part duology called “The Project Files”, which centers around two super-powered fugitives, an android prototype, a nervous robotics engineer, and a teenage girl with no past, plus the private research corporation that’s hunting them all.

When I first set out to write the story that became this novel, I was definitely influenced by the release of the first “X-Men” film in 2000 (yes, that’s how long I’ve been fiddling with this series). I didn’t know a lot about the X-Men, beyond the FOX animated series, I loved the idea of mutants—that they were born with their powers, rather than getting them through a radiated spider, or being an alien from another planet. I wanted my own super-powered characters to also have organic powers, but in their own way. In superhero films, the heroes always seem to have never-ending powers that never take their toll.

My characters’ powers were going to be organic and heavily tied into their physical functions—as in, using their powers weakens their bodies, and eventually wears them out. Think of their abilities like a pair of shoes: the more you use them, the more they wear out, and eventually, you can’t use them any longer. Their powers were all also going to be mental in origin.

Olivia Gellar is a telemagnetic. She can manipulate most metals by using her mind, but each time she flings a screwdriver across the room, it takes its toll in headaches, nose bleeds, and physical exhaustion. Same with her partner Nick Patterson, who is a telepath. Manipulating your thoughts isn’t as easy as poking into your brain—too much for too long can end in a seizure.

Nick and Olivia are only two of my powered characters in the “Project Files” duology, and I hope their journeys are as fascinating for you to read as they were for me to create.

What’s your favorite sort of super power?


More about

Oracle

Dr. Dean Frey is a man of science. His lifelong desire to create a better future for mankind has led him to the prestigious, and highly mysterious, Wilderness Institute of Scientific Research & Technology, as the head of their Robotics Engineering department. Building on the research and designs of others before him, Dean’s own genius culminates in the successful creation of Anthony—the first fully automated, free-thinking android prototype. And now Wilderness wants to sell Anthony to the military.

Unwilling to allow his achievement to become weaponized, Dean reaches out to a former Wilderness employee with the resources to help him steal Anthony and relocate them both to safety. He’s put into contact with the very secretive Nick and Olivia, who ask for one simple thing in return: trust us, no matter what you see or hear. Blind trust isn’t in Dean’s cautious nature, but he has no other choice.

For telekinetic Olivia, rescuing a fellow Psion from a life of imprisonment and experimentation is one of her favorite things. Being paid is nice, but she’ll do the job for free, if it means giving Wilderness the finger. When Olivia’s reclusive mentor solicits her and her telepathic partner Nick’s help in smuggling a very special Project out of Wilderness, they jump at the chance to infiltrate their former home and do some internal damage to the institute that created them.

With their combined knowledge of the facility, breaking Anthony out of Wilderness should have been easy—but Olivia learned a long time ago to never underestimate her enemies, or the lengths they’ll go to retrieve what’s theirs. And this time, the price for stealing the Project may be more than she’s willing to pay.

Amazon Paperback      Amazon Kindle


More about Kelly

Born and raised in Southern Delaware, Kelly Meding survived five years in the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, only to retreat back to the peace and sanity of the Eastern Shore.  An avid reader and film buff, she discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy, on which she blames her interest in vampires, psychic powers, superheroes, and all things paranormal.

Three Days to Dead, the first book in her Dreg City urban fantasy series, follows Evangeline Stone, a paranormal hunter who is resurrected into the body of a stranger and has only three days to solve her own murder and stop a war between the city’s goblins and vampires.  Additional books in the series, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead, and Wrong Side of Dead, are available in both digital format and mass market paperback from Bantam. Books five and six, Requiem for the Dead and The Night Before Dead, are published in digital and paperback by Smedge Press.

Beginning with Trance, Kelly’s MetaWars series tells the story of the grown-up children of the world’s slaughtered superheroes who receive their superpowers back after a mysterious fifteen-year absence, and who now face not only a fearful public, but also a vengeful villain who wants all of them dead.  Trance and Changeling are available now in both digital format and mass market paperback from Pocket Books. Tempest and Chimera are available in digital format only via Pocket Star. All four books can also be purchased as a digital bundle.

Writing as Kelly Meade, her paranormal romance trilogy with Berkley Intermix features three shifter brothers and the women they come to love, starting with Black Rook, and continuing with Gray Bishop and White Knight.

More about the Giveaway

Kelly is giving away one signed copy of Oracle. Unless Kelly says otherwise in the comments, it’s U.S. only due to mailing costs. Click here for the Rafflecopter and click here for my complete giveaway rules.

When I was a kid, I used to love the Wonder Twins. I don’t know if it was that they were twins or that they were shapeshifters, but I loved seeing all the different things they would turn into. Thanks for quest blogging today, Kelly!

 

My Ten Favorite #SFF TV Shows – Final List

For nearly two weeks, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on my favorite science fiction/fantasy TV shows. Seven out of ten are based on books. Below is the final list with links to the posts where I discussed them.

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. Outlander
  3. Orphan Black
  4. RWBY
  5. Blindspot
  6. The Magicians
  7. The 100
  8. Bitten
  9. Shannara
  10. Witches of East End

What do you think? Would you have ranked them differently? Are there shows that should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments!

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#3]

We’re in the home stretch! Only two more shows after this. I’m betting 90% of you are watching at least one of my top two shows. For anyone new, here’s my usual lead-in:

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

3. Orphan Black [science fiction – human clones] Baaa! That’s the sound of a sheep bleating, btw. I heard that S4 introduced a clone who likes to wear a sheep mask (haha), but I haven’t gotten that far. After practically mainlining the first two seasons one weekend a while back, I had to go cold turkey. It was that addictive. 😀

Tatiana Maslany plays the lead character, Sarah Manning, who isn’t 100% likeable in the beginning. She’s a con artist who snatches a suicide victim’s bag, breaks into her home, and steals her money. She’s got a drug dealer for a boyfriend and a daughter she hasn’t spoken to in months. But she’s oddly, impossibly, ferociously irresistible. Who doesn’t love second chances? So when Sarah says she wants to use the dead woman’s money to get her daughter and start a new life, you can’t help but root for her. You want her to succeed. Does the end justify the means? It’s a question that could just as easily be asked of whoever created Sarah and her sestras.

The same actress who plays Sarah plays at least four other clones who are regular characters, as well as the odd clone here or there who is not a regular. It’s an acting tour de force. Each of the clones are played to such perfection that, most of the time, you forget the same actress is playing them. It’s not just her hair and clothing (because those things can be chalked up to other people), it’s her mannerisms, tone of voice, and personality. Plus, in most of the episodes, the clones are interacting with one another.

Other characters I love are Felix, Sarah’s unshakably loyal brother, and Mrs. S., her tough-as-nails foster mom.

Final neat thing: Each episode in S1 is named after a quote from On the Origin of Species. Later seasons’ episodes were named after quotes by Sir Francis Bacon, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Donna Haraway.

Are you watching Orphan Black? How many seasons in are you?

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#7]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

7. The 100 [science fiction – space stations/post-apocalyptic earth]: I started watching the pilot to this a LONG TIME AGO and couldn’t make it through. Honestly, I don’t know why. It seems weird now. I gave this a second look because of Veronica Scott’s posts about how much she was enjoying it and, the second time around, it clicked. (The lesson? Give things a second chance, people! 😀 ). The second time, I started watching with my youngest but VERY QUICKLY realized it was way too dark and violent for her, which is a shame because she loved the premise and the main character. (Every kid is different; sometimes it’s more personality and preference than age). I won’t tell you the exact episode when we both decided she was finished with the show (at least for a little while) bc I promised no spoilers, but I will say, older kids and adults who like SF will find this show compelling. I adore Clarke! Smart, tough, resilient… I’m still in S1 so don’t tell me if she dies in the comments!

How about you? Do you watch The 100? What do you think? Have you ever given something a second look and realized it was much better than you initially thought?

TOP TEN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY TV SHOWS – RANKED! [#10]

From now until mid-June, I’m counting down my ten favorite SF/F TV shows – ranking them from least to most. Least favorite doesn’t mean it’s bad though. If it’s on my list, it means I liked it enough to watch beyond the pilot. My thoughts on each are included and, for once, these are SPOILER FREE posts.

10. Witches of East End [witches]: Based on the book by Melissa de la Cruz. Julia Ormond’s American accent is terrible, but I still like her and her character, Joanna Beauchamp. (Since that character is supposed to have lived for thousands of years, why couldn’t Ormond keep her English accent? Why not give the character a brief Brit background or something?? People who know more about this, chime in.) I’m only a few shows in, and I like it, but I have to admit I’m leery of getting too attached. The show was cancelled after two seasons. There’s an online petition underway to bring it back so, who knows, maybe East End fans will prevail the way the browncoats did.

Are you watching Witches of East End? Did you read the book? Don’t you HATE it when stories get cancelled before they are appropriately wrapped up by their creators? 😉

Program Note

I know I’ve been VERY QUIET. Just busy.

The good news is the cover for Pocket Full of Tinder is almost finished – yay! It’s looking so great!! I’m getting ready to send out my June newsletter. In it, I’m going to share a bunch of sketches by my awesome illustrator, as well as a little bit about the process. If you love book covers and behind-the-scenes making-of type stuff, then sign up here.

As with my last newsletter, I’m offering some fun prizes. A $10 eGC to Book Depository –OR– fireball earrings and a SWAG pack, winner’s choice except any winner outside of U.S. gets the eGC. What’s included in the SWAG pack? Red hot cinnamon candy, bookmarks, book charms, book lover buttons, and an artist trading card made and signed by yours truly. I was looking for something unique to give out and ATCs seemed like a neat idea.

To make up for my being MIA at the end of May, I’m going to be posting EVERY DAY UNTIL MID-JUNE (I know, can you believe it?! I warned you about my inconsistent posting schedule. 🙂 ) But, seriously, it’s always good to change things up. In the past, I’ve gone for days (weeks) without blogging and then dumped one to two thousand word posts on you. This time, I’m splitting it up.

Starting today, I’ll be counting down my Top Ten Science Fiction and Fantasy TV Shows. I also have two guest bloggers scheduled so… Stay tuned and enjoy the posts!!

SPRING: #horror #romance #movie

Has anyone watched SPRING yet? The 2014 horror, sci-fi, romance flick directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson and staring Nadia Hilker and Lou Taylor Pucci? (It’s not rated, but I’d put it squarely in the rated “R” category.) I saw it last week and have been thinking about it on and off since. If you’ve seen it and want to discuss, read on! If you haven’t, be aware – big spoilers below!!

Spring

The woman who cuts my hair recommended this to me. I’ve been going to her for years and we talk about movies all the time. We have similar tastes and she watches as many movies as I do. So it’s always fun to catch up and swap recs. I have to say, the day we discussed this one was pretty funny. The backdrop was this semi-swanky hair salon and there we were, me in the chair, her chopping away behind me, talking about blood and tentacles and syringes and killings and body transformations… and it seemed like every head in the room turned our way. I couldn’t figure out if they thought we were insane or just wanted to watch the movie too.

As some of you know, I’m actually not a huge horror fan. I prefer supernatural thrillers, psychological suspense, and/or dark fantasy to straight up horror but, occasionally, I’ll watch something with a twist (The Cabin in the Woods comes to mind). So I was wary when my hairdresser first recommended Spring. After hearing all the gory details, I asked her:

Does it have a happy ending?

Yep, I’m a wimp sometimes and I just wanted to know what I might be getting myself into. She was reluctant to spoil it for me but finally said, “Yes.” And her answer is what convinced me to watch it and why I’m passing this info on. Romance fans who like dark stories, this one’s for you. Bonus: horror fans will not be disappointed either (but don’t tell them the ending 😉 Half the fun for horror fans will likely be trying to figure out whether the guy will end up the girl’s victim in some sort of gruesome black widow scenario).

Why did I like it?

I loved that it successfully blended two near-opposite genres. Combining horror and romance is really difficult. Romances are about bringing two people together. They are about human connections, closeness, emotions, warmth, and love. Horror is about frightening the crap out of the audience. You know someone’s gonna die and it might even be the MC.

Ok, so what’s it about?

The movie opens with Evan losing his mother. It’s a really sad scene. Tough to watch, but it immediately establishes his capacity to love and be there for those he loves. Grief-stricken, he decides to travel and round-aboutly makes his way to Italy where he meets a mysterious, beautiful woman – Louise. The rest of the movie centers on their developing relationship, which is massively complicated by who and what she is.

What you may not like about it

FlickFilosopher wrote a review that points out that, in order to get to the happy ending, Louise had to give up her immortality and change who she was. The reviewer’s point was that, not only was Evan not worth Louise’s sacrifice, but why should the girl always have to change to get the guy?

It was an interesting point and one that caught my attention. (Obviously, the stories are different, but in my first novel, Noon also struggled with who and what she was. Ultimately, she decided not to change.)

For me, however, Louise’s change and sacrifice worked. Why? Three reasons.

First, I thought Evan might be someone who was worth that kind of sacrifice. Hey, it’s a movie. The filmmakers only get two hours for audiences to fall in love with their characters. They showed me enough of Evan’s character for me to fill in the gaps. He had potential as an awesome beau even if we didn’t see all of it. His devotion to his mom and his interactions with the other characters (the two buddies he traveled with for a while and the old widowed farmer he worked for) gave us hints that he was someone who, despite being at a very dark point in his life, was still going to approach the world with openness and warmth.

Second, he loved Louise enough to die for her. Yes, he fell in love quickly but, man, once he was in, he was all in. When he found Louise mid-shift in her apartment looking deadly and terrifying, he didn’t run. Nope, he bashed down the door and found a way to help her. And, at the very end, when Louise kept telling him she was probably going to kill him – that she didn’t love him and that, for his own sake, he should get the hell out of dodge – he didn’t. He never left her. He was willing to risk her killing him if it meant having a chance at a life with her.

Third, there were hints that Louise was sick and tired of that immortality b.s. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Sounds pretty lonely to me. And Louise’s rebirths every twenty years sounded awful. If she was fully embracing who and what she was, she wouldn’t have been carrying around all those syringes to stop the transformations. Nope, she was ready for it to be done.

Have you seen SPRING? What did you think?

[Am I back to blogging? No. Not really. I may share my thoughts on stuff from time to time here, but for now, I’m still focused on my WIP. So I’m heading back to my writing cave. NaNoers – soldier on!!! Wishing you – and me – high word counts for today! 😀 ]

PREDESTINATION: Does happiness require a deep connection with another?

If I was a blogger with a good sense of timing I would have posted this on Valentine’s Day but instead of writing this post, I had lunch with a close friend and, later, played poker with my family. Romantic? Not really, but it was one of the best Valentine’s Days I’ve had in a while. The experience seemed to underscore the meaning of the movie I watched just a few days prior to the holiday – PREDESTINATION.

Predestination, Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, time travel, science fiction,  Spierig  brothers, Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies

As with Into the Woods, I knew I’d likely do a blog post about Predestination because I kept thinking about it long after I watched it. But Predestination is no fairy tale, not even a subversive one. Its themes are mature and provocative and written with an adult audience in mind. My post is tame but not spoiler free. If you haven’t read the source material or watched the movie, skip the orange section below.

I’ve mentioned before how plague movies never get old with me. But time travel movies… eh. I have to admit, when I first saw the description for Predestination my response was, “another time travel movie?!” But then my husband suggested we watch it AND pointed out its Rotten Tomatoes rating (81%) and I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Predestination is the story of a time traveling agent who is trying to stop a mass murderer – the “Fizzle Bomber.” It stars Ethan Hawke (who I loved in Gattaca but haven’t seen much of since; I haven’t seen the Before Midnight/Before Sunrise/Before Sunset movies… yeah, I know, I should see them too…) and Sarah Snook (who I’ve never seen before, but hope to see more of in the future).

The movie starts in medias res with a mysterious figure trying to stop a bomb. The bomb fizzles but the stunted explosion is still powerful enough to completely disfigure the person. They then travel back to the “future” (1992) where the story’s basic premise is established.

The injured mystery man is a Temporal Agent who works for the Temporal Bureau, a government agency that sends people back in time to prevent crimes before they happen. That part felt very “PreCrime”/Minority Report-ish to me, which, combined with the fact that time travel was discovered in 1981 [would we have traded MTV or the IBM PC for time travel?] gave the story a slightly dated feel, but it wasn’t until later in the movie, when Space Corps (and its ridiculous “female companions for male astronauts” search) appeared in the plot that the story’s 1959 origins became fully apparent.

(I found out later that the movie is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s “ ‘—All You Zombies—’ ”. And my gripes about Space Corps’ dubious side mission are relatively minor. All I’m sayin’ is that it felt laughable to me that a contemporary non-dystopian sf story would feature a would-be respectable space program that disallowed female astronauts while searching for women streetspacewalkers. And yet… I came to see that searching for companionship, as well as what happens when you find it and lose it, was one of the themes of the story.)

So back in futuristic 1992 the injured agent tells us part of his story as his face is reconstructed. When he’s finally healed enough for his bandages to be removed, he looks in the mirror and declares, “I’ve changed so much, I doubt my own mother would recognize me.”

He’s then sent on another mission – NYC in 1975 – to stop the Fizzle Bomber from killing 11,000 people. He goes undercover as a barkeep and one of his customers insists he tell him a joke. After first refusing, the barkeep opens the next part of the story with, “A man walks into a bar…”

Maybe it’s that I love tricky, trippy plots. Maybe it’s that I know storytellers love to leave clues for people who are paying attention. Maybe it’s because I’d made a late afternoon Starbucks run that day so I was working with more late night caffeine than I’m used to. All I know is that about halfway into it, my husband and I both shared our theories about what was really going on. Both theories were interesting and backed up by story clues but I thought, “it would be impossible for us both to be right.” And that’s when I knew… We were both right. And that’s when the story got really interesting. And heartbreaking.

But this is not a heartbreaking post, I promise. In fact, now would be a good time for those of you who don’t like spoilers, or dark tales about transformative journeys, to jump ahead to my warm and fuzzy closing.

~

If you’re sticking around to read this part of the post it means you’ve read the story or watched the movie…

And so you know that the story revolves around the identities of the barkeep/agent, his customer, the customer’s past/future lover, and the Fizzle Bomber.

Due to the aforementioned mid-afternoon mocha and my husband’s alternative theory of Who Was Really Who, we got it all sorted out pretty early on. But that doesn’t mean the movie was predictable. Seeing a snake eat its own tail isn’t going to be boring even if you know it’s going to happen. I thought the movie’s use of the ouroboros symbol was well done. The movie’s not just about identity, it’s also about reinvention and transformation. Yet that transformation isn’t always welcome or good. Unlike the symbol of the mighty phoenix, which rises triumphantly out of the ashes to begin its life anew, the ouroboros consumes itself. It isn’t kind to itself. It is its own worst enemy.

I condemned and hated the final iteration of the main character. Who wouldn’t? But, oh, how I sympathized with the young, uncannibalized version.

But cannibalized by what is the question. What ultimately destroyed Jane and created the Fizzle Bomber?

Too many time jumps? Maybe. There were all sorts of references to the fact that too many jumps could wreak havoc on one’s mind.

But I think it was loneliness (exacerbated by the character’s repeatedly betraying him/herself) that ultimately destroyed Jane. In the end, the Fizzle Bomber says something like “by killing me, you become me.” So sad. Honestly, I, like everyone else, was blown away by Sarah Snook. Her portrayal made me want to give Jane a huge hug and kick the crap out of everyone who was giving her so much grief. But then I also kind of knew Jane wouldn’t thank me for it. Because this was the same character who willingly admitted (if only to herself) that she was better than everyone else.

Ah, Jane. How could I fix your story? How could I give you an HEA? Leaving aside the perilousness of attempting to tinker with Heinlein, it’s still interesting to contemplate. Reunite her with her parents? Nope. Let her grow old with her one true love? Nope. All the horrible things that happened to her storywise had to happen in order for her to be born, have the childhood she had, live the life she had, etc., etc. because taking away any one of those things would jeopardize her very existence.

~

So, yep, Predestination is a very good time travel movie. Definitely better than a Plain Jane plague movie.

My final thoughts? One day a year isn’t enough. And it doesn’t always have to be about hearts, chocolate, and roses. It can be about tapas or sushi, poker or pedicures, a walk in the woods, a trip to your local animal shelter, complimenting a stranger, or simply smiling at them. You can and should deepen your connections to other living things every day throughout the year and you should be kind to yourself. That doesn’t mean be egotistical or narcissistic. It just means, don’t be your own worst enemy.

Want to read more about Predestination?

Did you do anything fun for Valentine’s Day? Are you doing anything fun for President’s Day today? We’re headed to see Jupiter Ascending later. Tomorrow? Gah!! Looks like it might be another snow day…!? At least my commute is short. Lol. Stay safe and warm, people. Here’s wishing you more than romance – I wish each of you HAPPINESS. 🙂

Rose Shababy: What is the best Halloween costume you already have?

Today’s guest blogger, Rose Shababy, is the author of THE BLUE EFFECT, an adult urban sf/fantasy that was released this fall. She’s here with a confession…

“I’ve never been much for dressing up during the Halloween season.”

Sure, as a kid I looked forward to it every year, but as an adult I’ve been a little apathetic about the idea. I’ve only dressed up a couple of times in the last twenty years.

Once, in my twenties, I went to a bar party as a baby in a onesie with full freckles and binky and proceeded to consume large quantities of upside down margaritas. I will admit that I stumbled home with all the adroitness of a real baby.

One year I worked at an Italian specialty grocery and the girls I worked with convinced me we should all dress up. I went along with it, figured out a simple costume I could wear over a dress of my own, and showed up that day with a tiara and sash that read “Miss Diagnosed.” I chuckled over my own cleverness, but the laughs abated after a while, somewhere around the tenth customer that said “I don’t get it.”

I haven’t tried dressing up since. Oh, I talk about it. Sometimes I tell my husband, “We should have a giant costume party this year!” And we never do.

I’ve often thought I’m just a big ol’ stick-in-the-mud for not dressing up. Until recently.

I’m an avid reader. I love the whole fantasy/science fiction/paranormal genre, but I’m not picky. I’ll read just about anything if it looks interesting.

Writing a book is even better.

Reading someone else’s work means I’m limited by the confines of their story. When I sit down to write, I can build my own world and take it anywhere I want to go.

The people in my stories can be anything I want them to be.

I had so much fun writing my debut novel, The Blue Effect. Each character is a piece of me, albeit exaggerated. Not to mention they all have really cool super powers.

My main character, Blue Brennan, is larger than life. She’s sassy and mouthy, jaded yet vulnerable, ordinary and extraordinary.

Kasey is mysterious, honorable and kind.

Avery is grouchy and gorgeous and tortured.

The beautiful twins, Val and Esme, are opposites. Esme is gentle and brilliant, while Val is wild and hilariously snarky.

Ash is thoughtful and earthy.

When I sit down to write, everything I wish I could be, or the things I wish I could say or do come pouring out onto the pages.

None of my characters wear costumes, so no amount of dressing up could make me feel like I’m walking in their shoes.

Turns out, they’re unnecessary, because the best costume available is my own imagination.

I can close my eyes and suddenly I’m armed to the hilt, fighting evil vampires.

Or I’m waving my wand in an epic witch and wizard battle.

Sometimes I’m wandering Bourbon Street in New Orleans searching for ghosts and ghouls.

Other times I’m dressed in petticoats and lace, trying to escape Atlanta before Sherman’s men set it on fire.

Once in a while, I’m fighting for survival in prehistoric times, hunting mammoths and gathering food for winter.

And sometimes, I’m Blue Brennan, telling people off, freezing time and jumping through space to wherever it is I want to be.

When I read or write a book, I can be anyone I want, no costume necessary.

And as it turns out, my imagination is the best costume I could ever wear.

The Blue Effect

More About The Blue Effect

Blue Brennan is jaded and bitter despite her pin-up girl looks and quick wit. Night after night, she scours the Seattle club scene looking for someone or something to fill the emptiness inside.

When she meets the mysterious Kasey, her world stops… literally. He claims she has the ability to control time and stuns her even further when he reveals his own gifts.

Blue is inexplicably drawn to Kasey and reluctantly enters his world filled with a new breed of humanity. They’re misfits like her, blessed or cursed with powerful abilities, struggling to hide their differences from the rest of society.

Then the group discovers a nameless, faceless sociopath with nightmarish powers; and he’s coming for Blue. She’s left reeling when they discover her gifts are the key to defeating his terrible evil and saving them all.

Now she must race against the clock to harness her own powers and save her new friends. Can she be more than a renegade? Can she be a hero too?

Available at Amazon  BN  iTunes  

Rose Shababy
Rose Shababy

More About Rose

Rose Shababy and her family reside in eastern Washington State. Rose grew up in the Northwest but swears she’s going to move to warmer climates someday. She’s claimed this for over 20 years, however, and has yet to move more than 75 miles away from her mother.

Rose has a deep love of all things Star Trek and yearns to travel the heavens, as well as an intense desire to be bitten by a radioactive spider.

Unfortunately she sucks at science and math so she hasn’t been able bring her dreams to life, instead living vicariously through books, comics, television and film. She hopes to someday make a million dollars so she can afford to buy her way to the international space station, but she’d settle for being able to fly around the world and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Rose also loves to cook and worked for years in a gourmet Italian grocery and deli where she learned to hone her skills. She prepares culinary masterpieces for her family, but fervently wishes the dishes would wash themselves. Especially now that her dishwashers/children are nearly grown and only one still lives at home.

Rose likes to use her free time wisely. For instance, she likes to daydream, will often read for hours until she falls asleep on the couch with an electric blanket and a warm tabby cat curled up on her hip, as well as spending cozy weekend days watching Syfy movies like Sharknado and Mega Piranha with her husband.

If Rose were a cartoon animal, she’d prefer to be a wise old owl or a sleek and sexy jaguar, but in reality she’d probably be a myopic mole with coke-bottle glasses.

Rose can be found online here:

The Blue Effect Banner

So, what about you? What are you dressing up as for Halloween this year? Rose is the only one who gets a pass. Kidding. I actually haven’t dressed up in a while. But Halloween’s on a Friday this year, which means a little extra celebrating might be in order. 

Both of my kids want me to go as one of the Downton Abbey characters. I’m honestly not sure why. Maybe because they know I like that show. Maybe because the dresses are pretty cool. But I can’t do Downton Abbey without zombifying it. [and p.s. to WordPress “zombifying” is in Merriam-Webster: please update spellcheck.]

Thanks, Rose, for guest blogging today!

Ten Things from Summer 2014 (#movies #books)

My thoughts on ten things I watched or read this summer:

  1. The Lunch Box
  2. Outlander
  3. Snowpiercer
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Giver
  7. Noah
  8. The Firebird
  9. Lucy
  10. Me Before You

The Lunch Box

This mixed-up lunch box story involves India’s dabbawallas, the men who pick up hot lunch from home and deliver them to office workers. I was nearly as fascinated by the dabbawallas as I was infatuated with the movie. And I’m not the only one. Apparently, others have been interested in the process by which the dabbawallas deliver hundreds of thousands of lunchboxes daily with very few mistakes or delays. But don’t watch the movie just to see the dabbawallas! Watch it for the wonderful characters: a lonely, unappreciated housewife who cooks amazing food, a cantankerous, soon-to-retire office worker, and his genial replacement.

Outlander

Who else is watching this series on Starz? I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried it might be too much Lifetime and not enough HBO, but I was pleasantly surprised by Episode 1 and now, after six episodes, I’m firmly entrenched. I read the books years ago so it’s been fun returning to the story and seeing how it’s being told on screen. Tobias Menzies as Frank/Jack Randall (remember him from Rome and GoT?) and Graham McTavish as Dougal (in truth, I did not remember him from The Hobbit) have been doing a terrific job. And Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), if not looking exactly as I imagined them, are skilled actors with great chemistry. And I loved the author’s cameo in Episode 4!

Snowpiercer

I loved this movie. Yes, it’s gory and violent and bloody. And, yes, it strains credulity (there’s steak up front; where are the cows?!) and, yes, there are a few things not to like about the MC (well, one thing in particular). But it sticks with you. It’s unique and memorable, as much for the story – admirable these days since post-apocalyptic stories seem to be everywhere 😉 – as for the juxtaposition of scenes and characters (gruesomely dark and wet ax fights; kids singing over-the-top propaganda songs inside a surreally calm and disturbingly charming classroom car; Tilda Swinton as a vile, deranged second-in-command; Octavia Spencer as a vengeful mother on a search and rescue mission; and Chris Evans as oh-so-conflicted Curtis).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I wanted to love it. I really enjoyed the first one, despite the fact that I didn’t think the franchise needed a reboot. But 2 didn’t wow me. It wasn’t the ending, it was the fact that the relationship between Gwen and Spidey before the end didn’t seem as fun as it did in the first movie and the villains were kind of meh. I’m still planning on seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 3, but only because Spidey is one of my favorite superheroes and I like Andrew Garfield. I think if everything around him comes together it could be great fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy

All the fun that was missing from Spidey 2. Word seems to be that this was everyone’s favorite summer ’14 film. Yeah. What they said. And for good reason. Mostly, the cast. I was largely unfamiliar with Chris Pratt before the film. I don’t watch Parks and Rec, I didn’t see Her, and, even though I saw Moneyball, I don’t remember his character. But he was terrific in Guardians! I read an Entertainment Weekly article before the movie that detailed his career to date. He sounded genuine and grounded. His portrayal of Peter Quill made the movie for me. And, of course, I loved Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket too. My kids loved Groot.

The Giver

I didn’t read the book. My older daughter did though and it was interesting hearing her take on how the book and the movie were different – namely, and among other things, that the movie’s characters were older and its ending less ambiguous. I found myself wondering if the novel’s vague ending was a subtle message and, if so, what that message might be. Ambiguous endings can be more powerful and achieve a more lasting impact because readers love to argue about them. Regardless of her original intent with respect to The Giver’s ending though, Lowry’s now written three other books that provide definitive closure.

Noah

I put this off for a while even though the trailer looked great and reviews were positive because I worried that it might be The Fountain meets Evan Almighty. But it wasn’t. If you are on the fence about this movie, rent it. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly had already proved they worked well together in A Beautiful Mind and adding Emma Watson to the mix definitely cinched it. They all delivered emotional, compelling performances. The special effects and visuals were fantastic and the filmmakers’ take on one of our oldest stories (especially the watchers, a fanciful bit of storytelling) was interesting.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The story of modern-day Nicola who has the gift of psychometry (she can sense an object’s history by touching it) interwoven with the story of Anna, a young Scottish woman living in Russia during the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. I love parallel timeline plots when they are done well (Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and Katherine Neville’s The Eight come to mind) so I very much enjoyed this. Two romances, historical detail, and a bit of ESP = an irresistible combination. I will definitely be searching for other Kearsley titles in the future!

Lucy by Laurence Gonzales

Last month, I promised to talk more about this. At the time, I wanted to see the movie so that I could compare and contrast it with the book, even though they are two entirely different stories. But I never made it to the theater. (I see very few R rated movies in the theater because I can’t bring my kids). In any case, my theory, which I’ll have to test later, is that the book and the movie share a similar title because each is about an evolutionarily advanced girl/woman and Lucy is a reference to “Lucy” our oldest human ancestor, the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found. [Incidentally – and as a wonderful example of how art can impact science deeply and directly – the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”]

So what about the book? If you like social science fiction, read it. It’s the story of a girl who is half-human, half-bonobo, which to someone like me (who spends lots of time in a fictional world inhabited by all sorts of shapeshifters and human hybrids) doesn’t sound too outlandish. But the story initially appealed to me because it wasn’t fantasy. It’s billed as a Crichton-esque “biotechnical thriller.” And the book jacket copy describing the fifteen year old “adorable, lovely, magical Lucy” made me curious. I was worried about what would happen to her before I even started reading her story.

The two best parts of the book for me were the character’s relationships (more time is spent on these than on the scientific aspects, which suited me fine but may disappoint others) and the author’s idea of The Stream (his term for the whole ecosystem of living things and their observable and imperceptible, though real, effects on that ecosystem and other living things within it).

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I saved this one for last because it was the toughest one for me to gather my thoughts on. Initially, I downloaded this book because I was simply looking for a nice, warm emotional romance – one I could read in 24 hours and would, by and large, likely forget about 48 hours later. [As an aside, this is not a criticism of stories that can be consumed quickly or are forgotten easily; there’s an art to crafting them too – just because a story’s easy to read doesn’t mean it’s easy to write]. But Me Before You *isn’t* that kind of story. Parts of it are nice, warm, emotional, and romantic. But the book is a lot more than that and it’s not easily forgotten. Nor should it be.

It’s the story of a 26-year-old woman (Lou) who’s a little lost. At the start of the book, she’s living with her parents, she’s in a so-so relationship, and she’s lost her job. It wasn’t a glamorous or high paying job but it was one she enjoyed and its loss propels her in search of another. She finds one caring for a 35-year-old quadriplegic (Will) who’s not lost (he knows all too well what he wants). He’s rich and handsome… a former business tycoon and lady charmer who is now at times angry, withdrawn, or resigned.

SPOILERS… don’t read ahead if you want to read it and don’t like spoilers…

Before reading Me Before You I’d never heard of DIGNITAS, the Swiss right-to-die organization. And then, the day after I finished it, CNN ran this article. And then, the next week, a very close friend of mine had a family member take her own life. She wasn’t quadriplegic, but she was dealing with issues that were just as serious as Will’s. So I’ve been thinking, on and off nearly every day since I read Me Before You not just about the dignity of life, but the dignity of death. Is it a happy topic? No, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It’s a huge, meaningful topic. A blog post can’t do it justice. So, for now, I’ll simply say that Jojo Moyes’ book should be read – as much for the author’s thoughtful portrayal of Will and his struggles as for the author’s down-to-earth and at times truly humorous take on Lou and Lou’s life.

UPDATE 6/2/16: I’ve thought about this book on and off since I read it, and with increasing frequency lately since the movie is being released tomorrow. I can’t say my thoughts have gelled any further. Perhaps because the issues raised by the book are too complicated for a simple reaction.

Stephen Spohn, COO of AbleGamers, offers an interesting, thoughtful response to Me Before You over at Chuck Wendig’s blog. As someone who values both life and an individual’s right to direct their own destiny, the ending to Me Before You would have been excruciating for me to write. Everyone reading/watching the story will likely identify with Will in different ways. It’s impossible for an author to satisfy everyone’s desires with respect to that character.

‘Me Before You’ was an opportunity to create a commercially successful, Nicholas-Sparks-level, true genre-defining romantic movie starring someone who is severely physically handicapped conquering his demons, winning the girl and riding off into the sunset like we see in so many other Hollywood romances. – Stephen Spohn

Ironically, I picked up Me Before You looking for a fairly typical romance featuring a handicapped hero who conquered his demons, won the girl, and rode off into the sunset. Which isn’t what I got, obviously. But I can’t in good conscience say what I got wasn’t worthwhile or valuable. In hindsight, Moyes probably wishes she’d done her research differently. But I still admire her for writing a difficult story about a sympathetic character readers loved and wanted to champion. Do I wish the story would have ended differently? Sure. But I think that about lots of books. If Moyes had chosen a different ending, my guess is she’d have just as many critics, they’d just be saying different things.

Writers should think carefully about the effect of their work upon the world. But they also deserve the right to write the endings for their characters that they feel are appropriate for those individual characters.

Have any of you watched or read any of the above? If so, what did you think? If not, are you watching or reading anything worth sharing? Let me know in the comments! I hope everyone’s September is off to a great start.

What to Read and Watch: 3 Fantasy Novels + 2 Futuristic Movies + 1 Horror Show #SFF

I’m a panelist at SF Signal’s Mind Meld today. The question was:

What lesser-known books have you read, fairly recently, that you think deserve more attention, and why?

If you stop by, you’ll get to see what my answer was (hint: 3 fantasy novels), as well as read the other panelists’ answers, which should give you some great reading ideas for your holiday break.

For those of you who need to take a break from your TBR pile (it happens; you’re forgiven 😉 ), below are my thoughts on what I’ve been watching.

General Spoiler Warning: I find it hard to discuss things without giving too much away. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a fan. So… if you don’t like spoilers, go watch MR. NOBODY, HOW I LIVE NOW, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY (COVEN) and come back.

Mr. Nobody

Like Inception and Cloud Atlas, this is a movie you’re gonna wanna watch twice. I knew from the trailer that it was trippy science fiction (a good thing). Even so I still had to resort to some post-viewing internet searches to get the red-yellow-blue thing. But once I did, I thought it was a brilliant visual way of reinforcing Nemo’s various life choices/paths. The story is about a man named Nemo Nobody who is 118 years old when the movie starts. He is the last mortal man in a futuristic society that has learned how to achieve immortality through stem cell compatible pigs (that part sounds absurd, but the movie isn’t, and the filmmakers treat the concept as absurdly as it sounds… perhaps a commentary on the futility and absurdity of man’s constant search for immortality?).

In any case, Nemo is being interviewed on his deathbed. A journalist has snuck into his room and wants to hear his life’s story. But his joy at snagging the scoop turns to confusion as Nemo weaves a story that is full of multiple inconsistencies and not a few earlier deaths. Nemo isn’t just musing about “what if” or “wish I woulda.” His constructs three different realities with alternate endings in each. Most of us tell our life’s story in chronological order. Not Nemo. His story is full of all the choices he made – and all the ones he didn’t. It’s pretty neat. (Although I found his “blue” life and wife hard to take, but she’s supposed to be that way. Great acting by Sarah Polley, btw. Who saw The Claim? That’s another good one to rent, although there’s not even a whiff of SFF in it).

All of the above aside, I’m not sure I agree with the ending premise: that all your life’s paths are just as worthy, equal, or meaningful. At the same time though, since we live in the real world (where smoke will not go back into the cigarette even if we live to be 118), I think it’s important not to regret past choices or wonder too much about paths not taken.

Interested in reading more about Mr. Nobody?

How I Live Now

Fifteen year old Elizabeth a.k.a. “Daisy” – a troubled teen who hears voices and has a constant need to wash her hands – arrives from the U.S. to spend a summer with cousins on a remote farm in the English countryside. A nuclear bomb is dropped on London. WWIII breaks out. Martial law is declared. And then… bad stuff happens. The kind of stuff you can imagine. And then are glad that you’re only imagining it, not remembering it.

The movie opens with scenes of idyllic summer days (you know their only purpose is to sharply contrast with whatever’s coming next) and scenes from an idyllic summer love (the fact that the young lovers are cousins is glossed over and, in light of the film’s true horrors, I had no trouble forgetting about that too).

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy and she is terrific, as always. I wanted to know more about Daisy’s character. Why did she hear voices before the war even started? Why was she always washing her hands? There was other evidence of mental and/or emotional vulnerability (medication, a vague reference to a possible eating disorder) but the underlying cause was never explained. Were all of Daisy’s pre-war problems just due to the fact that her dad ignored her? Maybe the character was more fully fleshed out in the novel. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. The message of the film was survival and forward motion, not looking back.

Regardless of the cause of Daisy’s initial troubles, the one bright spot of the film was watching her transform from a prickly, obsessive, anti-social teen into someone with close family relationships, the competence to plan and execute a cross-country trek back home through land pock-marked with enemies and other dangers, and the will not just to survive but to make sure those she cares about do too.

Above all, How I Live Now is a film that makes you appreciate life. All of it. The big stuff. Family. A safe place. A sense of self. And the small stuff. Gardens. Sunshine. Clean water.

American Horror Show (Coven)

Even though I’m a speculative fiction fan, I don’t read or watch a lot of horror. But I love certain aspects of it: dark, macabre storylines, monsters, usually a twist or two, and sometimes, humor. I think I first heard about this show in Entertainment Weekly and the premise intrigued me: a New Orleans boarding school for non-conformists who also happen to be witches. In the first episode, a witch accidentally kills her boyfriend – by her act of passion, not in an act of passion – and another is burned at the stake (she comes back to life in E2). The show never looked back. Each episode just got more and more outlandish, which is what makes it so entertaining.

Ordinarily, by now, I would be wondering how the creators could possibly sustain the dramatic trajectory they’ve put themselves on, but that brings me to the other reason I got hooked on the show: its unique anthology format. Each season is a standalone story, with its own story arc – a promised beginning, middle, and end – all in one season. Each season stars many of the same cast members: Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters… As well as some who are there only for that season: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto… So, of course, I had to go back and start watching season 1 (Murder House) in between episodes of S3. Be forewarned, however, this is not a show for the meek. (Fans of True Blood or Game of Thrones, you’ll be fine. 😀 ).

What about you? Have you seen Mr. Nobody, How I Live Now, or American Horror Story (Coven)? What do YOU think? Hope everyone’s having a great week!

Without Romance, Science Fiction Can Feel as Soulless and Empty as an Interstellar Void

My next guest blogger is JC Hay, author of His Lowborn Heart, a Science Fiction Romance. He discusses some of the wonderful things that the romance genre lends to the science fiction genre when the two are combined to produce one amazing story. Welcome, JC! [Also: be sure to check back tomorrow… I’m going to reveal the new cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE!]

SFR, science fiction romance, His Lowborn Heart, JC Hay

Discussing Genres

What Can Romance Offer Science Fiction?

There have been a few posts lately about what Science Fiction offers to Romance as a genre, and I (obviously) agree that like any speculative genre, it offers new and interesting ways to look at relationships, and new challenges to overcome on the road to ‘happily ever after.’ What I haven’t seen a lot of, however, is that the opposite is also true – Romance has a lot to offer to Science Fiction. Indeed, without it, the genre can feel as soulless and empty as any interstellar void.

Foremost, Romance offers a way to humanize the future. Science Fiction is the language of the possible, but too often we find loving descriptions of fantastic advances in technology, with little understanding of how the changes affect our ability to relate to each other. In the last decade, “friend” has taken on an entirely new definition thanks to Facebook and the Internet. As we push our ‘constantly connected’ lifestyle into the future, how does that blur the line for our other relationships? Is a long distance romance possible between two people separated by light years? What if they never meet in the flesh?

Romance lets us explore the impact of cultural differences as well – not just through literally alien cultures, but through different directions of our own culture. With our own plugged in society, and the media’s constant focus on seconds of our attention; how does that change our approach to each other? (Actually, that could be a fun story – a cyber-blogger transmitting her life and focused on her ratings, finds her Mr. Right, and the ‘audience’ hates him. Or gets stuck with the ‘Mr. Right’ that her ratings have decided on, rather than her. Put that in my To-Write file!)

Most important to me, Romance gives the characters of Science Fiction something to believe in. In sweeping space epics, and tales of galactic empires at war, it’s too easy to focus on the distance and see it in large scale. But Romance brings us into the individual lives of the people; it lets us see how these grand plots disrupt and interrupt their lives, and how their love can keep them fighting against otherwise insurmountable odds. We care about an upstart rebellion, not because the Empire is Evil, but because a feisty princess and her sardonic pirate captain manage to find each other in the rubble. Romance makes us care about their futures, and thus our own. And that’s what Science Fiction was wanting all along.

About JC Hay

SFR, science fiction romance author, JC Hay
JC Hay

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them. In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), and the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter of RWA. His newest space opera, His Lowborn Heart, is coming in December from Lyrical Press. JC Hay is on Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes even http://jchay.com.

Are you a fan of SFR? JC’s post reminds me that I need to mix a little more of that sub-genre into my TBR pile. I’ve really enjoyed the SFRs I’ve read. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments or just tell us your thoughts on mixing genres. Thanks to JC for guest blogging today!

What to Read & Watch: 3 Fantasy Books and 2 Science Fiction Movies

Today, a few thoughts on the books I’ve been reading and the movies I’ve been watching, and then Thursday 8/15/13 Suzanne Johnson is guest blogging about her latest release in her “Sentinels of New Orleans Series” – ELYSIAN FIELDS. There will be chances to win some GREAT PRIZES (including an iPad 2!) so be sure to stop by again tomorrow.

Assassin’s Gambit

(Fantasy Romance)

I found this title because Amy and I connected online and the story intrigued me. (Click here for her guest post on “Brainy Heroes”). The plot was almost equally divided between the romance between Vitala (a Caturanga champion and deadly assassin) and Lucien (a charismatic amputee emperor) and a coup d’état and the war that follows. Vitala and Lucien were unique and memorable and their path to happiness full of enough bumps and hurdles to keep me turning the pages. The secondary characters were interesting too (loved Flavia!). The second book in the series focuses on the romance between Rhianne (Lucien’s cousin, a mind mage) and Jan-Torres (a foreign prince). I can’t help wondering if Celeste (Lucien’s sister) or Ista (another assassin) will get their HEA’s in future books. Amy will have to let us know! 🙂

Generation V

(Urban Fantasy)

I found this book because I read Brennan’s post during the Supernatural Smack Down event that my character Noon Onyx participated in. The voice of her character, Fortitude Scott, immediately captured my attention (click here for Fort’s Smack Down post) and made me laugh and I thought, “I just have to read this.” Brennan’s writing style is terrific and her vampires feel fresh and new (even though most of them are ancient). Half the reason I was turning the pages in the beginning was to learn more about the character and the world he lived in. He made me laugh, he made me feel sorry for him, and he made me root for him. There are some dark parts to the story, but urban fantasy readers are prepared for dark. Those parts of the story are well-balanced by the humor. I loved Suzume, the trickster kitsune who is Fort’s body-guard, life coach, and partner in crime. The ending nicely wrapped up loose ends while leaving plenty of room for Fort to grow and take on new challenges. I’m definitely looking forward to the second book, Iron Night!

House Of Shadows

(Fantasy)

I already posted a bit about this already. Just wanted to say I finished it and adored it. I’ll be looking for more of Rachel Neumeier’s books in the future. I read in the extras at the back of the book that she started this book three different ways (with the three main characters) and then decided to make up a plot that tied everything together. Fascinating. Each of the characters were very well-rounded and developed so her method made sense in hindsight. There was also a bit of sweet romance, but the twin stars of this story were the magic and the world itself.

Oblivion

I have to admit that Tom Cruise is not automatically box office gold for me anymore. That said, this role reminded me again that he’s a great actor, equally able to play an action hero and show a lot of soul. In terms of the depth of emotion the character shows, this role reminded me more of Vanilla Sky or Jerry Maguire than Mission Impossible or Minority Report. Nothing about the plot was mind-blowing (i.e. like The Matrix or Inception were the first time I saw them), but it absolutely held my attention. The visuals were stunning. Since this movie is so easy to spoil (and very worth watching!) I’ll just say that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic earth wasteland. Cruise plays a droid technician who’s living a lonely existence with his partner, Vika, when he discovers a human survivor in the wreckage of a recent spaceship crash – a beautiful woman whom he recognizes from his dreams or memories. The story that follows is just trippy enough to be interesting and just a hair’s breadth shy of sappy sentimentalism, all set against a very slick futuristic backdrop. In other words: I loved it!

Never Let Me Go

The most un-science fiction science fiction movie I’ve ever seen. The least creepy beyond-creepy movie I’ve ever seen. This movie is about as far from a movie like Aliens as you can get. There are no monsters jumping out at you, but that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have them. But, oh, are they hidden. And besides, the story isn’t about the monsters. It’s about their victims. But by phrasing my thoughts this way, I’m probably giving you a misimpression. This is not a scary movie. It’s a horrifying movie. And there is a difference. I can’t say I loved it. It was too sad and depressing for that. But it did make me think and it was incredibly well done. If you like science fiction movies that are slow and reflective, this is one to rent.

So what is it about? Since I don’t want to ruin your sense of discovery if you watch it, I’ll just say that it’s about a group of children at a boarding school who learn that they aren’t exactly who they always thought they were. More specifically, the story tracks the lives of three of the kids caught in a love triangle. But it isn’t a typical angsty contemporary high school romance drama. The movie was based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name. Ishiguro clearly deals in topics no less weighty than the nature of humanity, the existence of souls, and the ethics of some practices that are still speculative but only all too imaginable.

Noon Onyx Series

White Heart of Justice

We just finished the back cover copy – yay! Will be posting that once I have the new cover. I’ll be offering some fun prizes during that event as well so stay tuned…

How about you? Have you read Assassin’s Gambit, Generation V, or House of Shadows? Have you seen Oblivion or Never Let Me Go? Did you read that book? If so, feel free to share your thoughts and don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for Suzanne Johnson’s post (and a chance to win an iPad 2)!

A Quiz: What’s your Science Fiction and/or Fantasy Fashion Style?

Love how this model’s coffee mug matches her clothing… If only I could be that sartorially organized!

If you’re like me, your closet is a hodgepodge of eclectic gear suited for all sorts of different tasks: business meetings (albeit those jackets and skirts are now gathering a bit of dust), cocktail parties (more wishful thinking than reality these days),  upscale lounging (rhinestone studded t-shirts and jeans — gifts and mementos from trips to Vegas), walking up the aisle of a church (old bridesmaids dresses — the less said the better), etc., etc. The point is, I’ve often perused my closet wishing I had one consistent style. Which got me thinking… If I were to donate everything in there tomorrow, what would my new style be? For inspiration I turned to my favorite genre, science fiction and fantasy.

Want in on the fun? Take my quiz to find out what your favorite SF/F inspired fashion style is:

1. What’s your favorite weapon?

A — Your feminine wiles

B — Guns, swords, or the heel of your boot

C — Magic or a dashing hero

D — A rousing fight song

2. Favorite hair style?

A — Blonde pin curls

B — Slick, short or tied back

C — Waterfall tresses styled in an elaborate up-do, often adorned with ribbons, pearls, or flowers

D — Amplified “natural” colors: ink black, fire engine red, lemon yellow

3. Favorite clothing?

A — Brightly colored, body skimming outfits that complement your curves

B — Black leather or black vinyl accessorized with mirrored sunglasses or a silver breastplate

C — Full length dress with bell sleeves, a hooded cloak and jeweled diadem

D — Anything made with the help of woodland animals or your fairy godmother

4. Favorite shoes?

A — Stilettos

B — Boots. Big boots. HUGE boots.

C — Ballet slippers

D — Bare feet (especially if you’re a mermaid or a young Native American princess)

5. Favorite shopping companions?

A — Your robot pals

B — You shop online. The mall isn’t open at night. (And who has time to shop anyway?)

C — Your lady-in-waiting shops for you

D — A band of dwarves

Answer Key

Mostly A’s: Bold & Sexy

Does this woman look like a robot to you?

You are confident and self-assured. You love attention and choose clothing, shoes, and hair styles that will ensure a grand entrance. You like bright, eye-catching colors or outfits that mold to your every curve. So what if part of you is cybernetic or you aren’t human? Relevance? Great fashion sense is the only thing that matters. Character examples: Number Six from Battlestar Galactica and Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager.

Mostly B’s: Rebellious Fighter

Do you really have to wear boots to kick butt?

Your best friend is the weapon in your hand. It’s the only thing you can trust. Wardrobe malfunctions are for weak posers. You wear gear that’s designed for real action. Black is your color of choice because it serves as night camo and hides blood stains. Boots are de rigueur. Character examples: Trinity from Matrix and Sonja from Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.

Mostly C’s: Medieval Maiden

Demure but dangerous

You are soft-spoken and genteel. You prefer clothing from a bygone era. Concepts like chivalry and noblesse oblige are as real to you as your jewelry. No base metals, glass, or synthetic stones for you! Long sleeves and skirts don’t get in your way. Instead, they complement your grace and beauty. Character examples: Galadriel from Lord of the Rings and Yvaine from Stardust.

Mostly D’s: Animated Princess

Why is pink not a primary color?!

All burdens can be lightened with a song; all villains are less fierce when spoken to in rhyme. Your fashion choices are a little one-dimensional, but your expressive nature, the vibrant hues of your dresses, and the extreme length of your locks is enough to overcome this small disadvantage. So what if you’re a cartoon? None of the other examples are real either! Character examples: Rapunzel from Entangled and Mulan from… Mulan. 🙂

So readers, which SF/F fashion style is yours? If you could chuck all your clothes and start fresh, what would you fill your closet with? Of the characters listed above, which are your favorites? Do you like them because they are similar to you? Or because they are completely different? Have any other character examples for the above fashion categories? Do you even like to shop?! Whether you are shopping, reading, or just hanging out this weekend… have fun! 😀

Giveaway: Limited # of Ace/Roc Science Fiction and Fantasy 2012 Samplers with Work from Benedict Jacka, Alex Hughes, Jacqueline Carey, Steve Bein, Anton Strout, and Jill Archer

I’m giving away a limited number of Ace/Roc science fiction and fantasy 2012 samplers. (And I’m giving away one $10.00 Amazon eGift Card. Tweet about the sampler giveaway to be entered to win the eGift Card. Details for both sampler giveaway and eGift Card contest are below.)

Free Ace/Roc Comic-Con Samplers!

Later this month is the San Diego Comic-Con International. It is one of the biggest conventions in America and the fourth biggest in the world. Attendance routinely reaches 130,000 and badges for this year are SOLD OUT. In other words (for those of you who don’t know already), the convention is HUGE. Every year at SDCC, Ace/Roc gives out a sampler of new work from some of its authors. This year, DARK LIGHT OF DAY was picked to be included. I am thrilled and eager to share some of the samplers with anyone who (like me) doesn’t have an SDCC badge for this year.

Here’s a list of the authors and works that are excerpted in the sampler:

  • FATED by Benedict Jacka
  • CLEAN by Alex Hughes
  • DARK CURRENTS by Jacqueline Carey
  • DAUGHTER OF THE SWORD by Steve Bein
  • ALCHEMYSTIC by Anton Strout

and…

  • DARK LIGHT OF DAY by Jill Archer 😀

How to Request a Sampler:

Want to receive one of these amazingly cool samplers? All you have to do is fill out your contact information below and I will send it to you. (Giveaway will run until July 15, 2012 or while supplies last. For this giveaway, I reserved 50 samplers. Due to mailing costs, U.S. only.)

Samplers are no longer available.

The samplers contain excerpts from all-new work.

Share the Love — Pass It On! (The eGift Card Contest)

If you know anyone who would like one of the Ace/Roc Science Fiction and Fantasy 2012 samplers, please re-blog, re-tweet, post this on Facebook, etc., etc. In other words, TELL EVERYONE! 😉

As a thank you to anyone who helps me spread the word via Twitter, I’m giving away one $10.00 Amazon eGift Card. Tweet the paragraph below to be entered to win the eGift Card:

Ltd # of free Ace/Roc SF/F ’12 samplers avail from @archer_jill. Want 1? Dets here: http://wp.me/p1G39m-g3. RT for chance to win $10 eGC.

I’ll announce the winner of the eGift Card here on July 16, 2012. Winner will need to provide their e-mail. Void where prohibited.

Dark Light of Day Can Now Be Pre-Ordered!

Dark Light of Day is available for pre-order now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you already know you’re going to buy it, why wait? 😀

Other booksellers: Feel free to contact me if you’d like your link included on my website.

If You Haven’t Already Connected With Me, What Are You Waiting For?

If you haven’t yet, consider subscribing to my blog, following me on Twitter, or friending me on Facebook. I’ll be running other contests and/or giveaways from time to time, and will be sharing more information about Noon Onyx and DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I hope to also continue my guest blog series so that followers can discover new authors and discuss interesting topics with them. So, if you are a book lover and/or science fiction and fantasy fan, follow me and get in on the fun!

I want to end this post with a final thank you to all of my followers and everyone who has expressed an interest in Noon Onyx and her first story, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I recently turned in book #2 (Noon has a new assignment, new allies & new adversaries!) Writing her second story was just as much fun as writing her first. Next up, more adventures and arduous conflicts for book #3! I hope everyone enjoys reading the books as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!