State of the Onion & a Late Christmas Present

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I pray you made it to today in once piece, more or less safe and sound, happy and hale.

So why do I call last year an onion? Because 2020 sure stank and made most of us cry! I’m firmly convinced that it will be looked back on as the year before we entered the next dark age or came into a Golden Age.

It has been a factory farmed dumpster fire…
In a flood…
During a hurricane…
That busted through all our living room windows…
And turned upside down…
to wreak havoc in our lives.

Photo by Produtora Midtrack on Pexels.com

Many of us weathered the year better than others. Some had to learn the truth of the “pandemic” the hard way, while others are still terrorized by it. As for myself and my family, it’s been a very rough year both in the terms of health and employment, and is part of the reason for this update.

Now, I am going to strive to keep my politics out of this save for this one blast of steam from the relief valve. It’s been extremely difficult to do anything these days (write, work, live) in the era of #Covidiocy, #stolenelections and #justus for the implementation of “The Great Reset” which is poised to re-establish a new neo-feudalist world order and turn us all into serfs of a Godless world police-state. With the amount of stress, anxiety and depression I’ve fought against, plus a few new things in my life has made it very difficult to focus on things that matter to me in a creative sense. To realize what I’ve accomplished so far is pretty surprising. At least I’ve survived this plague that only kills 0.03% of all who catch it with no lasting issues. I expect things to change for the better in the future, barring a full on civil war/revolution. Okay. So now you know that we’re all struggling in these days, depending on your nation and state, some worse than others. I pray you all have kept safe, healthy and sane enough to keep living life in accordance to your conscience, and that God bless you all as He knows you need. Amen?

Cool. #MakeOrwellFictionAgain

Despite all these hardships, I’ve been able to make ends meet thanks to God’s grace from a variety of sources, and some lucky breaks on keeping money rolling with new day jobs and assignments. I’ve had to swallow my pride on more than a few occasions, but I’m very grateful for all the positive things that happened to keep me afloat and in my home, fed and safe. Happy is a relative term of course. I make sure to get my sourpuss curmudgeon card stamped daily by the news and current events.

There have also been some personal triumphs as well, but those are for a later date. It has distracted me a bit from writing, and I apologize. In the long run it will be helpful and maybe facilitate even more writing. They’re not ready for the big public reveal.

One year ago, book 3 of the Akiniwazisaga (Into the High Places) still on Amazon came out. I personally think it’s probably the best of the series to date. Don’t let the lack of reviews fool you. But if you haven’t bought a copy yet, come on! It’s there! You’ll love it!

Since then, I have gotten about 30% through Book 4 of the series before I had to shelve it to focus my creative power on a new project that I hoped to have farther along by now: Tales from the Dream Nebula.

As I talked about last blog. Positive side, two novellas are done. The third is percolating in my head and is about to start rolling out soon enough as I can get some obstacles out of the way on the mechanics of the plot. Some great ideas have come up that I can’t wait to implement.

I hope that I will be putting out either 4 novellas for Dream Nebula this year, or finally finish book 4 of Akiniwazisaga. At least that’s my aspirational goal. I’m not a big believer of resolutions. I always manage to blow through them like a small town red light at 3am. So why set myself up for failure. Just sharing what I hope to accomplish and bring into your lives. Otherwise, I’ve been working on music from time to time, though I’m not sure where to put it out there to share with you all. Youtube has been getting a tad…. persnickety and I’m not thrilled about that. We’ll see what comes up and share then. It’s some nice stuff. Still working on the first movement of an actual symphony. Yes… an actual honest to God symphony. We’ll see what comes of it. There’s been some great learning experiences with that so far.

But anyway, in the spirit of your enduring with me, I figured I’d give you an early look at one of the first pair of scenes of “Tales from the Dream Nebula” as a thank you to you all. Mind you, this is like a third draft before going to an editor, so we’re not even talking beta read level, but fans be fans, and one should give treats and surprises to them from time to time. Yep, I mean it. Your fandom is deeply appreciated. In this era more than ever.

Synopsis: Tales from the Dream Nebula
“Series 1 : Omnipresence”
Episode 1 : “Dreams Within Dreams”

Tales of the Dream Nebula is a high Sci Fi fantasy adventure in the vein of classic Raygun Gothic stories. Think Flash Gordon meets Smokey and the Bandit with many other cyberpunk, film/neo noir, space opera and classic suspense influences mixed in. Earth is no more. Conquered by Xiao the Eternal who came from somewhere deep in space and conquered the planet, breaking it up into pieces, where the chunks of the planet floated as islands in an endless sky of breathable air. Meet Winston A. Harper, pilot of the tug, Sierra Madre. A man who is haunted by his past, drifting with the circumstances of his life. His partner Billy Joe Bob, a sentient industrial mechanoid haul freight with their tug, the Sierra Madre through the skylands that make up the remnant of Earth, living small and unnoticed in the blind spots of the new nations of a humanity subjugated by Emperor Xiao, for now.

Note: this is an early version, copyright M. D. Boncher. Final product may contain changes.

1.

Black and white flickers of an ancient film entranced Winston’s eyes showing him illusions of an Earth and a culture that no longer existed. Like his life, it was carved up and lost to the Dream. He took another long sip on his sweaty tumbler and shifted in his favorite green couch. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the cut glass. A smile wanted to touch his lips, but faded away.
The detective on screen caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie and was giving him the third degree after a sharp sock to the jaw. The bug eyed mousey little man whined and groaned as he spilled his guts.
“Winston?” came the call from somewhere behind him. He tried to ignore it. His daughter, Emmy continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in cars, making up her own stories.
“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper. Had she gotten in the house, he wondered.
“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch for him. Now he smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of her barbeque ham sandwiches.
There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.
“Winston-on-on-nn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered as her connection to his virtual home instance lagged for a moment.
He sighed, she had hacked her way into his local server again.
“Go away, Mother!” he shouted back, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leaving the kitchen to let her in.
“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today. There’s a reason I have the instance set private.”
“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking. Emmy ignored the racket and Winston turned up the sound.
“Oh for the love of…” came the growl and with a terrific splintering bang, Mother forced her way through the locked front door in a spray of pixels and static that rippled throughout the home.
“Nahq it!” Winston hollered spilling his brandy Old-Fashioned. He shot up off his couch and glared at her angrily.
“Nahq it, yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been trying to contact you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised I found you here in your own little Levitown nightmare of a shrine watching old movies.”
Mother looked like a woman in her forties today, like she could have stepped out of the movie Winston had just been watching. A sharp gray suit with A-Line skirt and a bright white blouse and a string of pearls, gliding in the room on impressive impractical heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands of long bangs framing her face.
“In costume today, Mother?” Winston sounded almost amused as his dispatch agent sneered at him.
“No. it seems your behnging server came up with this. Blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie.”
“And so what if I’ve been down for 3 hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole break to get me unloaded. I’ve got another five hours at this rate.
“This was a hot load, Winston. They started offloading you the instant you bumped dock. They’ve been done for hours and have been screaming at me to get you moved so they can bring in the next one! I do not appreciate being screamed at by overclocked Wirey warehouse managers every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’. Which is what you’re facing I might add!”
Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her apron which Winston bought her to tease her domestic skills giving off even more of that ancient film era’s vibe.
“Hun, would you like me to escort her out?” her voice was pleasant, but with a hint of iron as Winston’s private server security protocols leaked into her subroutines.
“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at the simulation.
“Nahq it! Fine, mother!” Winston shouted. “All of you, shut up and I’ll get off the dock and get rolling!”
“That’s all we ever wanted,” Mother smoothed.
“Wait. They said I was unloaded, but they didn’t give me a backhaul?” Winston said as he readied to exit his home server instance.
“They decided to go with a different vendor. Since you didn’t leave right away, that dock lead decided he couldn’t trust you to deliver on time or follow their rules any more.” Mother said, arms crossed.
“For sleeping three hours on his dock?” Winston whined.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this stunt with them,” Mother reminded him. “He warned you there would be consequences. Once you’re moving, contact the guardpost on the way out to get further instructions.”
“And what does that mean?” Winston shouted.
“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only give it to you in person as it were.
Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream and exited from his home instance.

2.

The snap back to his sleeper cabin was jarring. Winston peeled off the induction rig headband and threw it back onto his bed rack with a tired groan and rubbed his eyes. The sleeper was just big enough for a generous bed, a small shower and kitchenette with impractical storage under the mattress and in cupboards over his head. Billy Joe Bob was knocking on the locked door.
“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his lumper.
Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. His flight suit rumpled and feeling dirty for sleeping in it. No time to shower, so Winston grabbed his hat and opened the door to the cockpit.
Billy Joe Bob glided backwards and got out of Winston’s way.
“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin on the windscreen off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be buffed out,” the industrial mechanoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.
Billy Joe Bob’s rotund torso bulged like a beer gut that vanished into a glittering pile of volcanic sand that surfed silently across the floor, picking up after itself as it went. His humanoid chest and head rode on top of that bulky core with massive brawny arms and hands made of the same glittering charcoal sand that poked out at the shoulders like he wore a sleeveless tee shirt. The BJB series of industrial mechoid was an incongruous mix of metal and grit but created a lot of flexible utility, plus it humanized him enough to feel personable to most people. Although a biologically modeled head was less efficient as a sensor suite, most industrial mechanoids preferred them. Or as the sentient ones, called, Indus, did. It helped with inter-sentient interaction. Nothing seemed to freak out bionts faster than a giant insectoid or incomprehensible sensor suite for a head.
The particle shield was down on the canopy leaving the cab dark, lit only by the monitors and blinking LEDs. An angry red pulse from the comm suite indicated Mother was on the line. The large number of missed messages snarled at him in a red insistent font
Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the pilot’s chair. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats remained empty. Ever since he bought the Sierra Madre after his life was destroyed, they were never filled. Billy Joe sure didn’t need to sit in one and he avoided the pretense of that level of humanity.
Winston flopped down into the seat, and the crash frame slowly descended, and wrapped him securely in place, he started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. There was a smooth vibration as the grav fans could be felt through the hull of his tractor.
Green across the board.
His pair of bulk trailers reported back their hitches were working proper with a double hook and they were free of the dock and station-keeping. They were go for departure.
The message continued their accusatory glare, till with a sigh, Winston raised the particulate shield and the outside came into view in a bright golden glow.
The clouds went on forever in all the colors of the sunset with darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. Like the islands of Earth before it was conquered and consumed by the Dream and its lord and master, Xiao the Eternal. Closer in, the huge industrial anchorage of Omnifeed’s complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with over ten over sized containers.
The windows of his cab’s canopy slowly revealed more of this busy scene as the shield retracted extending a little past him, revealing the four huge open maws of his grav fans that compressed gravity and sucked in air with their usual dull rainbow flicker when more substantial than gas was sucked through and mangled in the compression.
Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.
“Hoss, look out.”
A man was flying to him on his Bumblebee flight harness from a tug parked danger-close.
“That jackass.”
The man, landed on his canopy over his head and started yelling at him in a language Winston had no clue about.
“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound cut through the hull. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the fellow driver was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on his proper protective gear. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will do that.
“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob said quickly. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.
“Way ahead of you, Bubby,” Winston said, his hand already hitting the emergency shutdown for the number four fan just as the gravity well plucked the careless pilot up and fired him through its maw. The tidal forces, though no longer fatal, shot the man through its open vortex guards at hundreds of klicks per hour out the other side, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball. His flight harness’s emergency safety protocols protected him from impacting another object. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses.
“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror as the monitor tracked the man through space. “This ain’t gonna… this… Aww cheis.”
Panic shook Winston wide awake. He sounded the horn again signaling his departure from the dock with two shorts and a long blast. The Sierra Madre left her dock behind and followed her assigned path toward the guardpost, an irrational part of his mind hoped that by getting out of there fast would somehow absolve what just happened.
Winston said nothing. His mind whirling on what just happened. It was not his fault, he rationalized. That pilot climbed onto his tractor without proper gear inside a restricted area. The fact he saved his life by shutting down the grav fan in time made it all just a near miss. No one was really hurt. Right? Just pride and ego. Cheis, cheis, cheis.
“You think we’re in trouble?” Billy Joe asked.
“We’ll find out soon enough, Bubby,” Winston said, as he eased the Sierra Madre into their prescribed flightpath.
Another call was coming in to his comm suite, priority one.
Winston tapped the channel open.
“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over.”
“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” came the professional sounding AI voice. Their voices had been modeled on the ancient art of flight controllers’ speech. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their voice implied.
“Go ahead Omnifeed Control.” Winston squinted as he fought to keep the fear out of his voice.
“You are hereby charged with violating site safety rules as well as professional rules of conduct on site for failing to leave dock when ordered.”
“He climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan but it was too late,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”
“Understood and he will be dealt with accordingly,” Omnifeed Control replied. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to those violations. After that time you may reapply to be a certified carrier.”
“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the AI.
“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this loading facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.
“I’m being permabanned for him violating your loading dock policy? He climbed on me!”
“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad he was essentially unharmed. Your legal information has already been exchanged with his agent for the incident, in case there is permanent harm and medical bills.”
“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested and slammed his fist against the armrest.
“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the controller said in Pavlovian reflex. “We, as a third party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest rating and will protect it with all due legal effort.”
Winston let out a defeated sigh, and as if she could hear it, his comm bleeped again as Mother tried to get through.
“Copy all that Omnifeed Control. Sierra Madre out.”
The other comm continued to blink as he sat there considering his situation.
Was this to be the final plunge?
Will he be rockbound and sucking on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t find work after they impounded the Sierra Madre?
This was his last regular client. It was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover for people who dropped the ball. Sure you could look the hero doing that, but the hassle. Oh my Xiao! The hassle!
Winston flipped the comm from Mother open but said nothing.
“It isn’t as bad as you may think, Winston.” Mother’s words were gentle.
“It certainly isn’t good. Did the payment process out?”
“Yes. We’re paid in full, so there’s a little money in the kitty, but you can kiss your insurance goodbye. I have several texts to respond to from Omnifeed, and that pilot’s lawyer.”
“Did you see Omnifeed’s evidence?” Winston said with a little hope.
“I did. He was at fault and so I might be able to get my lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with some lost time and wages from him.”
“Mother, did I ever tell you that I loved you?” Winston said with a smirk. Behind him Billy Joe Bob let out an arpeggiated laugh.
“Eugh!” Mother let out a strangled groan. “You Biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a racist name. AIs were often just as emotional as humans.
“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother. Am I untouchable now?”
“Give me a minute to put some feelers out,” Mother said. At least she hadn’t abandoned him. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job. She knew he slept in his home instance. It kept his own dreams away. Controlled.
He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him on his way back home in Pseudomaha. The big nanofabrication feedstock tanks dwarfed the skyland they were originally built on as it consumed the natural and turned into an artificial station. 
And then the facility disappeared behind a cloying yellow cloud of sulfur dust.
“Hoss, you want me doin’ anything right now?” Billy Joe Bob asked.
“You got chores left?” Winston asked eyes glazed over on the traffic sensors. The little blobs of blue, green, yellow and red, slid past with neon trails in the holographic hud.
“Naw. Not really. Containers are empty and undamaged. We have an extra free day with ‘em before getting them back to Consolidated Freight for maintenance.” Billy Joe said
“Rog that,” Winston said. “I got nothing for you then. Go on off duty and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. We’re slow go till Mother gets back to me.”
“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack up in the engine compartment with a slithering hiss of his utility liquid skirt leaving Winston alone with his worries.

Into The Future…!

It’s been a while because life has decided to be problematic. Between the fear porn called “the news” and lockdowns and joblessness and riots and presidential race follies… and just plain insanity of the world, it’s amazing I’ve gotten any writing done at all.

But I have. Not as much as I’d hoped, but seriously a nice chunk of first drafts are done.

But not on what you think.

I’ve been having a project gnawing at the back of my brain for a while and it’s finally demanded I put book 4 of the Akiniwazisaga on the back burner and let it come out. So, there will be a delay in that trilogy being completed.

In compensation for this, here’s what’s coming next:

Tales From the Dream Nebula

This will be another genre mashup. TFDN, as I abbreviate it will be a “Raygun Gothic Space Opera” fantastical adventure serial with elements of Cyberpunk, Nanopunk, and Neo Noir genres. The best way I can describe it is if you cross Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy, Dark City, The Matrix, and even elements of Battlestar Galactica, throw them in an industrial blender and hit “frappe”. If you’re looking for Tolstoy or Lewis, this ain’t the place. I’m aiming more for Edgar Rice Burroughs type of adventure. Great fun, with a little meaning to it, and some spicy scenes too. Will this be for the Christian market, you may ask?

I’ll say “Hhmmmmmm…no. It’s mostly for the general trade market, but an author can’t escape his own beliefs, so who knows what will pop out here or there.

This is part of a much bigger project I plan to do with this universe, too. So don’t just expect novellas and novels. Uh uh. There’s more but we’re starting with a series of 4 novellas, which are planned to release over 2021 if all goes according to plan. (The first two are entering editing, and the third is being started very very shortly.) Due to the nature of the project I may have to find a small press or publisher to partner with for the second part of this project.

What’s the second part of the project you ask? Heh heh… maybe I should wait till later to tell you about that. Let the theories grow in your minds till you’re pestering me for answers.

The big thing I’m going to need to evolve the project will be artists. I mean I am accomplished in some degree with art, but not something I’d consider press worthy. More like I’d have an occasional work that could be good for it, but I’m no Frank Miller.

So, there you go. This is the next big project coming. Not the one I expected either, but the one that must be. And although Book 4 of Akiniwazisaga is delayed, it won’t be for long.

As always, if you want to have some more regular interaction, join my Discord server (link above). I’m around pretty frequently. I will possibly have some more Realm Maker news coming up in the future weeks/months for fans of Christian Spec Fic.

So till next time, vaya con dios!

Realm Makers Conference 2020 Public Event: Realm Awards Ceremony!

Thanks to the pandemic, RM2020 has gone virtual, and this means the Realm Awards Ceremony (which used to be a banquet full of cosplay and other fun stuff) is open to the public!  When?

TONIGHT @

Ever been interested in what a bunch of sci fi creatives do when massed in one place, even if virtually?  Now’s your chance!

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/realmawards2020

You may see a lot of authors (*other than me) you are familiar with there, chatting away!

Come on in, and see what it’s all about!

Progress Update: January & Beyond

Life keeps chucking curveballs at me, but I’m getting a few solid dingers from time to time.

white and black anchor with chain at daytime

Photo by Manuel Keusch on Pexels.com

So why isn’t Book 2 out?

Honestly?

Book 1 is still getting edited for reissue.  I am 95% done with Book 2 (basically formatting) but Book 1 has been an absolute beast.  Combined with my issues surrounding my new day job, I’ve had a dickens of a time getting focused on the work.  On a positive note, it will be worth it, and you’ll get a “twofer” when the release happens.  The schedule for book 3 is uninhibited yet.  I only worry about book 4 at this point.

So Books 1 and 2 will release as soon as I can manage, and then we move on to editing Book 3 and writing of Book 4 in between.

Now, something else that is sapping my creative strength has been a new series that is demanding my attention.  I’ve been taking notes, thinking about characters and worldbuilding for that too.  So some of that energy has been diverted.  The intent is to not work on that till book 4 is in editing, and then bang out the whole trilogy.  Yes this new project is designed to be a one off trilogy, written in serial format.

So what is it?  Once again, I don’t write clean genres.  It’s going to have elements of Film Noir, Pulp Adventure, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk and Space Opera.  It’s an awesome concept with a twist I think will really be fun for those of you who like mangling tropes.  So when it comes time to start working on that, I’ll have y’all put your axes up, strap on your ray guns, and put on your aviator shades, cuz we’re gonna go save humanity!

 

airplane silhouette on air during sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

The Last Jedi & The Importance of Satisfying Your Audience

Or:  “Because… Reasons/Script/Girl Rule/Boys Drool/SJW/$$$$”

So…  Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

 

You have been warned.

 

Over the last week or so, I’ve thought a lot about The Last Jedi and I have to say, my enjoyment of the film has decreased with time.  When I left the theater, I would have given it 2.5 stars.  Not great but entertaining.  As I thought of the implications of the activities of the story, I got more and more grumpy with it.  Now I’d give it 1.5 stars.

Why has my impression of the film dropped like this over time?  Many reasons, but I’ve noticed since I started writing, my standards for writing has gotten higher.  So what were the specific reasons?  Here’s where the spoilers start.

 

 

 

 

 

star-wars-the-last-jedi-2017-movie-poster-red

  1. Mary Sues…. Mary Sues everywhere!

Let’s face it.  We all expected Princess Leia to manifest something of the force sooner or later.  But to survive having the bridge of the ship she was on blown up around here, surviving the blast, being thrown into space, start to freeze, then force pull herself back into the ship and open the door…. ummmm…..  NO.  Just F-ing no.

Then there’s Rey.  Sure she has some skill with her staff, we saw that in the first movie.  We get the impression she knows how to fight.  But to suddenly go full Neo (I know kung fu) with no real training?  Not to mention have such a manifestation of the force so powerful that Luke is just about pooping himself?  She’s force pulling and pushing.  Grabbing for light sabers in a way that took Luke training to pull off, and she’s doing it with nothing, and being equal in power as Darth Emo?  I mean Kylo Ren?  Again… NO.  F-ing no.

Rose (why the hell are you even in this movie) who was a plumber… A PLUMBER suddenly being able to pilot those skimmers and make a death defying save of Finn?  Come on… really.  (Of course, Finn was a Janitor who can suddenly pilot all manner of craft like and expert becauseeee…. reasons?  It’s in the script?  Because Girl-Power!

:Facepalm:

And of course, Vice Admiral Holdo single-handedly, with one jump at lightspeed with a cruiser destroying a superdooper star destroyer and a dozen others in the First Order’s fleet?  Well, hell son!  Why not do this all the time?  They could have just done this to the Death Star and won with the loss of one ship and Alderran would have been saved!  The Rebellion had cruisers then.  Just go full Kamikaze and be done with it.  She goes from incompetent Bee-eye-tee-see-itch wasting ships and lives (blaming Poe in the process for getting them into this mess) to savior with little to no reason as to why.  Again… What the fuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!???!!!!  (And they got the cruiser trim without an auto pilot?  pffft)

Mary Sues destroy stories.  No movie can survive four of them, particularly when one goes full martyr too.  Not to mention when every single boy (for there are no men in this film, only stupid smelly boys) is nothing more than comic relief and a foil for the women.

2. Darth Gollem… I mean Snoke goes down like a chump.

Okay, now this is just a cheap way out of good writing.  I fully admit I larfed in surprise as he gets skewered and then CUT IN HALF by Kylo pulling a fast one on him.  The problem?  Darth Emo would not be capable of pulling a fast one on Snoke like that if he was as truly the puppet Snoke claimed.  This is bad because there is almost no indication in the story that Kylo’s free will and desire to be good is actually growing.  I mean even in Darth Vader’s conversion you got more of a tip off in that even his body posture showed he could not tolerate watching the Emperor kill his son.  Kylo?  Nuthin.

What makes this more egregious is that Snoke was to be this huge badass that seemed more powerful than Darth Sidious ever was.  So here’s movie one.  Big setup… BIG set up… then zortch!  He’s dead.  Now if he’s not dead, they better come up with a fantastic reason as to how, and then pay it off.  I mean this is the equivalent to finding the secret tunnel to the final boss fight on level one that the game developers forgot to remove, typing in the cheat code and killing the boss in 30 seconds.  Not good, and that’s what happened IMNSHO.

You can’t build up a big bad guy and then take him down after only one monologue and a show of relatively superficial force… joke not intended.

3. Bathos killing Pathos at every turn

Every serious moment was undercut by something humorous, or worse, the lack of courage for a new generation character to be killed is given the “just a flesh wound” treatment.  Admittedly, Poe trolling General Hux in the very beginning was quite funny and well done.  There were a few other humorous points too, like Luke brushing gravel off his shoulder when the AT-ATs fail to kill him… a funny Eastwood-esque moment worked well.  But there were so many other times where relief was subverted by humor, or noble sacrifice subverted by G.I. Joe Red/Blue laser writing.  Finn was in a point to go out a real hero and cement his place in lore history, but no.  Rose stole that moment in a Mary Sue level save for the guy she had the hots for so we can get a trendy cute puppy love kiss.  Shucking foot me.

4. Speaking of Lore… Let’s just crap all over it while leaving the audience in the dark.

Now some of this was explained in a video by a Star Wars super-fan that many of the things that left the audience wondering why or how things happened were in the extended media, but left out of the film.  Okay, yeah.  I get that.  Small problem.  I’m not buying the dozens of related materials just to figure out what happened.  If I can’t tell why it is so from the movie, tha’s crap writing, y’all.

But here’s the real travesty.  Big spoiler… REAL big.

Luke dies because…. reasons!  I know I’ve said this three times this blog, but holy crapsnacking porgs on a stick!  So, how does Luke survive the standoff with the AT-ATs?  BTW, you see almost all of their footage in the trailer… weak Disney, very weak for something so cool.  He’s doing galactic range force projection of himself.  So he isn’t even there, and cannot be run through with Kylo’s Lightsaber and die.  Ergo, he died because the plot said so… and Disney obviously wants to shove the original trilogy out of the way so they can go on making a new SW film every friggen year with new characters.  Han was killed because Harrison Ford said he should have died in Return of the Jedi.  Sure, I can see that.  But to have him go down like he did in Force Awakens tarnishing his legacy as hero to one of failed father and a bit of a deadbeat loser badboy a princess fell for and a broken and messed up kid who ultimately kills him because Darth Emo is all angst-ridden. (Your name is Ben, we named the dog Kylo)  Don’t get me wrong on this one point though, I like Adam Driver’s acting.  Guy’s good.  He’s easily the best portrayed character, but that says how good an actor he is for the crap he has been given for lines and characterization.

But to treat Luke as a broken and failed Jedi trainer who tries to murder Kylo as a child out of fear?  Just wow.  Mark Hamill was right to criticize this plot.

5. The biggest reason:  Wasted Potential

When I was watching the film, I saw so many huge potentials for really good twists.  Also, there are ways for Ep. IX to redeem the movie, but honestly, I don’t think they would or the public should let them off the hook so easily.

Potential 1:  The Weapons Dealers being the real source behind the war (Oh and way to piss me off, Disney, for having the word “RESISTANCE” be the only word fully capitalized in the opening crawl.  Way to telegraph for the SJW’s out there in the age of Trump)    That said, it would have been a very interesting direction to go, and make it believable how the First Order and the Resistance kept having access to a seemingly endless ability to wage war across the galaxy.  Seriously a good idea, new villians could be introduced and a war behind the war would have been refreshing.  But alas, I’m certain that will be ignored as a throw away commentary on American Imperialism and proxy wars.

Potential 2: What if we threw a war and nobody came?  If you had it where the destruction of the First Order’s fleet and the death of Emperor Snoke as well as the complete eradication of the Resistance’s fleet was the end of the war?  Called on account of no materiel left to fight with?  They called for help, but nobody came.  Not even Luke did really.  This again, opens the door for a more sneaky covert spy thing, as well as the scramble to fill the power vacuum.  Who’s next in line for controlling the galaxy?  The Hutts?  Any of a dozen factions or races from extended lore?  That’s some of the most interesting stuff there instead of painting ourselves into a corner with only having two small factions (or are they really that small and if so, we should give zero foxes about this entire movie because the losses aren’t that important) slugging it out.  Ben Shapiro said it best that Disney painted themselves in the corner by making the First Order being only a repeat of the empire when all new land could be cultivated and even our old favorite characters would need to find their place in it.  Newp.  We just got lather rinse repeat with a smidgen of new fan service and old fan kiss offs.

Potential 3:  Rey and Kylo rule the universe.  What if both of them joined forces?  They easily could have.  But no, let’s just recreate Luke vs. Vader all over again.  The potential for them to BOTH fall to their own lusts, being that one was on the dark side, and the other having no training…. it was a foregone outcome that they could become the next imperial force.  Or you could have both of them turn on the new Grand Moff Hux.  I still say, despite him giving off the snotty English private school bastard vibe, Hux could become a great villain and they could join the Resistance and fight against him, AND the weapons dealers as the First Order and Resistance fall into ashes creating two new orders to slug it out.

Potential 4: Luke could have redeemed himself.  If given the chance to make right his failures as yoda pointed out, and throw out the Jedi religion as antiquated and failed like Bruce Lee threw out Kung Fu to create Jeet Kun Do, that might have been something truly interesting as well.  They would then have to fight against new enemies as well as the corruptive influence of the Force if given over to their baser lusts personified in the Dark Side.

I do not expect any of these potentials to be addressed or realized.  I think we’re looking at those possibilities in the rear view mirror, n’er to return.

BTW. the Porgs are stupid IMHO, but supposedly there was a reason they’re in the movie that I have not confirmed.  Supposedly they had puffins walking into the shots so often they just CGIed them into Porgs.  If this is true, well played.  If not… another log of WTF on the bonfire.

What has this taught me about my own writing?  Simply put, payoffs and audience expectations.

I expected Snoke to be much more threatening and survive to the next movie and prove the build up we got in The Force Awakens.  Andy Serkis is a motion cap savant and it’s a shame to waste that talent.  So that’s taught me if I build up a villain, even if i just have them lurking in the background I must give them an appropriate conclusion to their own story ark and not throw them out like garbage.

There is only so much subversion of the tropes and mood you can do before the audience gets pissed at you.  You cannot turn every serious moment into a joke like Joss Wheadon on speed.  I remember in an interview about the movie “Iron Monkey” about the tastes of Chinese audiences.  They want a little humor, a little romance, something scary, something to cry about and lots of escapist fun all in the same film.  Because of that, you give them what they want.  You cant jerk them around with pretending to give them a heroic sacrifice of a main character to steal it away in order to preserve the power of the unnecessary sacrifice of a minor unnecessary character (particularly because its a woman).  Don’t manipulate the emotions of the audience with a beloved character’s death, but then to ‘save versus logical outcome because script’!

Do not… repeat DO NOT… violate the rules of your own universe.  mmm mmm… don’t do it.  You cannot go 7 movies without someone doing the obvious, “why don’t I just ram that target as I shift to hyperspace and press the ‘win’ button” only to then do it to create an unnecessary martyr, or any other reason.  This violates a fundamental understanding of the Star Wars universe.  It’s implied collision at lightspeed is bad, but logic dictates that would be the first weapon you’d go to when given the chance.  You just make it into a missile.  So in your own writing, unless you’re willing to spend the time explaining how nobody did it before (too expensive, too unpredictable, too penguiny… whatever)  you don’t do it.

For example in my own setting, the supernatural events (aka the magic system) always has God or Satan behind it.  (or by proxy a demon or angel)  There’s no digging up magic metal or water from the ground.  So that stuff is all physically hard science like we have in the real world.  This can create real pickles for me at times.  It also means that with steam power, you will never see walking machines or steam blimps.  Physics in my setting remain the same as they do in this world, unless a supernatural force from God, Angel, Demon or Satan is involved.  If I violate that, please beat me about the head and shoulders.

There are more reasons why I don’t like the film so much anymore after the fact, but this will do.  As you can see, not thrilled with the new trilogy.  It’s about as bad as the prequels right now and the third movie better pay off YUGE or they ain’t getting my money back any time soon.  Save yourself the cash and see it on some streaming service or rental.

This is not the movie you’re looking for.

Go ahead and comment below if you desire.

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Realm Makers – H. G. Wells Challenge

One of my fellow Realmies put forth this question in our group the other day, and after reading my response, I felt it was good enough to put here too and share with all you fine folks.  It’s Spec Fic, not fantasy, so… there’s that.

Dave Withe’s H.G. Wells challenge to the Realmies.

“If not us, then who?”

I was “blessed” to grow up in the Golden Age of Science Fiction and Fantasy (that’s what they called Sf back in the 1950’s and 1960’s). The hard Sf writers back then foresaw many of the Whizz Bang tech that has transformed the world into what we have today. (NASA was actually working on Faster Than Light travel before the Big O turned NASA into the Muslim outreach agency.)

Question for Discussion:

With your futurist speculative hats on; Starting from existing trends, what kind of Speculative, Whizz-Bang tech can you imagineer for your stories which will revolutionize the world in the next century?

I call it “The Missing Next Step Analysis”, look at today’s capabilities, then extrapolate as much as you can with existing trends until you get to “The Missing Next Step” that can’t be extrapolated from existing technological / biological / Quantum / etc. knowledge.

Then, imagineer something to be that next step.

I started using Solid 3D Holographic Projected Keyboards several years ago in some of my stories; but that’s old news now, a Japanese company is currently developing that technology for commercial release within the next few years.

Let’s see if we can pull an H.G. Wells on the early 21st century world. (he foresaw nuclear power during the Age of Sail you know).

Are we not some of the most innovative inventors of new worlds. Step up your game people. Have done with recycled plot lines and stretch to ask the tough “What If” questions.

Let’s Imagineer the future.

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My predictions of the future are pretty dystopian because I believe socio-economic failings of the globe will rewrite ourselves into a second dark age of barbarism and insanity similar to what came after the Fall of Rome… but worse. This will end up destroying our ability as a species to grow technologically for another 500 years (while saving our souls) till we clamber our way back up to even this level thanks to all the anti-intellectual insanity in the west, and zealous anti-enlightenment barbarism in the rest of the world. The only thing technology is going to do is accelerate the process by which this all happens and the thoroughness of the devastation. To paraphrase Einstein “I do not know by what weapons the next world war will be fought with, but I do know the one after that will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Ultimately, there are very few authors who envisioned what eventually came after their lifetimes. Victor Hugo (Submarine, Moon Landings to name a few) H.G. Wells as has been pointed out, but really there are none off the top of my head that I can point to that predicted future tech with any serious degree of credibility that wasn’t already being imagined in their epoch.

I’ve made this statement before, just not here, that the Spec Fic author is a captive of his time. Look at movies like “Metropolis”, or all the “Red Scare Sci Fi” of the 1950’s before the dawn of space flight. They were all victims of seeing the world through the lenses of the technology of that era. We too suffer the same problem, though we violate Clarke’s Law far more often or we now understand better the idea of technology so advanced it appears to be magic. All be it I’d call it dark magic at this point, and hence my first paragraph.

The older I get, the more I begin to realize that the world of “Thundarr the Barbarian” (pockets of super science and “magic” in the ruins of a world which suffered a global disaster) has almost as much chance to exist as Mad Max or 1984. We humans are too flawed to evolve a utopia. It may work on paper save for that one flaw of having humans involved. I also doubt very highly that AI or any other artificial life will be any more perfect beyond possibly having to eradicate all of humanity for its chance to survive.

The other elephant in the predictive realm is the “unforeseen outside factor”. What if aliens DO show up? What if Time Travel does get invented, or Faster than Light Drive? Things that are broad theory or fantasy that suddenly become reality. 50 years ago, the Internet was able to be predicted. So was nano-technology based on what was going on in that era. But that’s predicting one maybe two generations ahead, and mostly based on straight line predictions, which is ripe for much hilarity. Want proof? Look up the predictions from the first Earth Day in 1970. Cringeworthy. Mark Twain once told a parable on straight line predictions on how the passage from St. Louis and New Orleans by steamboat was shortening by a few hundred yards every year. In a few centuries, he “predicted”, the two cities would be neighbors.

But okay… if pressed, prediction time.
1. This assumes the west doesn’t collapse and technological advancement continues.
2. It also assumes Islam does not win the current 13th Jihad it is waging via immigration and the west somehow pulls it’s head out of its collective ass.
3. That the Deep State Technogarchy remains in power.
4. That Generation Snowflake and self loathing SJWism dies out thanks to objective reality being stronger than subjective madness (see Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings).

A- Advanced nations will begin to devolve as their people, addicted to the internet and social media drop out into VR societies in an attempt to give the yearning for meaning a harmless outlet.
B- Automation increases, driving humans out of the workplace, requiring “A” to control them lest they destroy the powers that be due to idleness.
C- Human civilization grinds to a halt, replaced by AI control, reducing itself to cattle.
D- A slim chance that there will become a symbiosis between man and machine as cyborgs do become the next stage in “evolution”.

Nanofabrication will become household level tech. You won’t have to go to the store. Just buy and download the schematics, and have your home “nanofab” unit which will be the size of a refrigerator or garage workshop size tool, pour in the ingredients like a cake and make it there. You will have freebie apps and plans, as well as name brand sellers. Designing may become the only place left for human employment as men and women are reduced to nothing more than the creative thought processes of a new species. Good times, right?

“I have never seen a miracle of science
that did not turn from a blessing to a curse.”
Sting.

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The Expansive Themes, Subtle Complexity and Luscious Spectacle that is Blade Runner 2049 *No Spoilers*

I just went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and could not help but share my reaction since it sort of relates to us here. I saw it on a regular screen in 2d. I would say upgrade to DLX or whatever super screen you can get. IMAX is never worth it though. 3d? Nothing… and I mean nothing is there to make it worth that price premium. But I don’t like 3d so YMMV.
First off, I’m a huge fan of the first movie.  Favorite movie all time bar none.  I’ve done a previous dissection of the film here.  The Breakers: Blade Runner.  It’s worth a read I think.
Visually it is everything you ever wanted and more. If Rodger Deakins does not win the Oscar, no one this year deserves it. He out does the first film in so many respects but always pays homage.  It is luscious like I said.  You can go from the Film Noir high contrast to the subtle grays and smoke of French New Wave to the loud noisy spectacle of 80’s action films.  All integrated and cohesive.  None feel wrong.  Neon, Fluorescent, “natural” light all his servants.  This is cinematographer porn and your eyes will thank you.
Pacing is slow at times, but it doesn’t drag. It’s very dreamlike, which fits with the first film, seamlessly.  There are long slow shots that just fill in the world so well, you are thankful to have the time to breathe and think on what reveals were brought up.  It was also good to see the world in daytime and in the varied environments of the “Greater Los Angeles” area.  It’s not all just arcologies and wasteland.  You have to see it to understand the scope, and boy is it something!
Themes and subtext… brilliant, staggering and poignant. This move is PACKED with so many concepts and that spawns questions.  I can see why they are not giving away spoilers or trying to explain it. It will pigeonhole and distort what it’s all about. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s about. There’s too much there to think about.  They are layered, deep and sometimes very personal.  This film relies on many conventions of film noir as well as what can be found in cutting edge Japanese cyberpunk Anime (think Masamune Shirow though he’s not a visual influence, just spiritual though it all hearkens back to the themes of Fancher’s take on Phillip K. Dick).  It does not just appropriate from others who followed in the genre it created nearly single-handedly (at least for cinema it did), it evolves and brings it forward into the era it once called the future.
The story is excellent in encapsulating all the above, but has one painful flaw: It’s the first movie of an obvious trilogy. But… at this quality that’s like complaining about “The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Two Towers” needing a third movie to wrap up the trilogy. I really look forward to the expansion of the universe beyond this sequel.  The story itself does stand on its own, but at the end, you have more questions than answers, and I don’t want to give away the biggest question of them all, because it will color your own ideas of the film all the way.  And trust me, I’m fighting really hard to not say it.  Oh… and as a HUGE positive:  no SJW influence.  That’s right.  They didn’t dip down into trendy current political fads or preach any of the current dogma, just like we don’t hear dogma preached from a 1980’s perspective it would be out of place, so that works in big big ways.
Acting, superb. There is obvious chemistry and very well played scenes that draw the emotion out of you if you understand the contextual depth of what is going on. They are subtle, poignant scenes, so don’t overlook them.  I should also say that the interplay between Ford and Gosling made me laugh outloud at times.  They do have some great moments together.
The music pays suitable homage to Vangalis. Never outdoing him per sey, but expounding and enlarging what he did. BUT… I had one complaint in this regards. There are a few scenes where you cannot tell if the music is diagetic or not and it’s very loud and distracting. This was done in the first film to great effect:
…but at the same time, here… it’s hit and miss.  The use of the film’s opening and closing music themes are perfect.  To be fair even the original has two solid misses in it’s musical lexicon: the love theme and the credit theme.  This film does not make those mistakes.  The added music, (much like the 1920’s style ballad in the street corner bar after Zorah’s death, “One More Kiss”) is extremely well done, but using real era stuff.
The material taken from the first movie to be incorporated is incredible. I literally gasped at one of the reveals. I’m super happy with how they accomplished it, and the technical achievements in this manner are marvelous and Oscar-worthy. It’s not what you think either.
A little more nudity (none would have been better) and cussing than I’d prefer, but tolerable.
I should also point out how well it follows the first film.  The violence is never glamorous.  It is sudden, gritty and intimate.  I cannot say it is not gratuitous… but it’s always appropriate and actually the “overuse” in one scene makes you realize the scope in which poor Agent K finds himself is far greater than just looking for a rogue replicant.  The final conflict is thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat.  In many ways this movie is a series of intimate portraits between people in the middle of a grand scene.  That helps keep the movie tight and connected with the audience.
As a semi-spoiler, I did have one thing confirmed that should send raves throughout the nerd community: “Soldier” starring Kurt Russell *IS* set in the Blade Runner universe in the off world colonies. If only they had Ridley Scott producing that film, it would have been much better. If you know the film, you’ll get it when you see it. It ranks up there with the Alien skull reveal in Predator 2.

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Ultimately, this is the sequel Blade Runner deserved.  It is like watching “The Godfather Part 2” in some respects where it fills in the world, expands upon it and makes so many more things whole and important.  Although it is not necessary to see the three attached shorts you can find online, they do help elaborate how we came to the world of 2049.  This is a deep thinking film.  You will ask yourself some questions that most people never even consider.  Do not expect shallow fare to kill two hour and forty-some minutes in idle popcorn puffery.  That will turn off many audiences who aren’t attracted by the nostalgia.There will be many reasons of why this film will be labeled a “flop”.  It can only be considered one if using the mega tent-pole blockbuster measuring stick which has to tick all the focus group boxes that make them thundering bland flash for cash grabs.  This is not for what Blade Runner 2049 is.  Nor is it just self indulgent hipster-poseur art-house pseudo-intellectualism.  So don’t let the inner life of this film pass you by.  It raises some interesting points on where our civilization is going and who we are as individuals, not in a preachy way, but in curious introspection and possibly even a distant warning like storm clouds on the horizon.If I had to encapsulate it all, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10.  Fractions taken off for the nudity, cussing, the fact it is a sequel set up and that little sound issue.  This is a solid R rating too, like the original was (Technically unrated, but that’s quibbling).  Despite these points, he film stands on its own as a wonderful and possibly important piece of art.  It might even aspire to being considered a “great” film some day.  We’ll see.  Not many sequels get a chance to be considered that way.
This one does and is so worth seeing on the big screen.Don’t cheat yourself, go while you can, and bring someone with who can have a long discussion with you afterwords.

 

Kjudoon’s Cartoons 4

MWO Silliness “O is next to P”

A little explanation.  This is raw footage shot for my video “Cry Liberty”, a recruiting video for the Seraphim (www.seekhim.com).  The commentary was just a lot of fun, so I put this to some music and let it go.

 

Kjudoon’s Cartoons 1

As a hobby, and to blow off stress, I play online videogames.  When I have a particularly good time of it, I often have video of it and cobble together a short film about the exploits.  Sometimes I make a Machinema (a short video made from videogame clips to tell a story) or just footage with overlayed music and some special effects for fun).

It’s a nice diversion from my writing from time to time, because it gets me thinking in a different creative vein, with the editing of footage.  I figure I may as well start sharing some of these videos from my Youtube channel.

You will find videos from Mechwarrior Online (MWO), World of Warships (WOWs) and DC Universe Online (DCUO) currently.  I may find time to include some Guild Wars 2 stuff, but that doesn’t seem to make as exciting videos.  I dunno.  We’ll see.  Maybe I’ll do some running commentaries about life when playing that some day.

But I figured I’d start linking to them here for those who want to be entertained by something different.
Here’s one of the videos I posted.