Monday, March 26, 2018

Way of the Dragon (Awards)



Well, my first post on the awards was "Enter The Dragon," and I tripped over film on DVR recently, so...

Last year, I promoted the Dragon Awards so often, even I got sick of discussing it by the end. And, since they had 8,000 votes for the final ballots, I don't think they're going to need my help this year.

So, this year, I may end up discussing it every two months or so.  I would have waited for April to make it a full two months, but I didn't have anything to blog about today. So you're out of luck.

First of all, before we do the Dragons...



Yeah, this one is still here, and all votes must be in by the end of April

This one is a book blogger's award. They have two categories: short and long. Click on this link for the instructions on how to vote from your blog onto their award.

But yeah, if you have a blog and write about books, knock yourselves out.

.... Come to think of it, I should probably vote for this as well. Oops.

This year, Good to the Last Drop, book four of Love at First Bite is nominated.

It's going to be interesting. I don't know an awful lot about the award. And, since the book was pulled for rerelease by Silver Empire, campaigning would be odd. I don't think my publisher would appreciate me handing out ARCs of the book before he gets to edit a new version.

Oh, and while I think about it, I'm also up against Nick Cole and Robert Kroese. So, I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Once again, votes are due in at the end of April. If you have a book blog, time to vote. If you don't have a book blog ... now might be the time to start one.





Technically, this has been open since October, 2017. In part because everything eligible for nomination is first published between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

You can the click above in order to start voting.

Technically, I've got a single book that is eligible: Good to the Last Drop, book 4 of Love at First Bite....

This, of course, will be a problem with having Silver Empire rerelease Love at First Bite: Good to the Last Drop will not be available for purchase until the votes are already in.

We'll see what happens. Anyone who has read the book and thinks it deserves another Dragon nomination, feel free. Fire for effect.

If you have not yet read Good to the Last Drop .... sorry about that.

If you want my thoughts on the Dragons, they're not many. My reading speed this year has been severely compromised by nonstop work. Remember how, last year, I said "Please leave suggestions in the comments so I can remember what came out last year"? Pretty much goes double this year.

Best Science Fiction Novel
Karl Gallagher: Torchship Captain.  Yes, really. I haven't enjoyed a book series so much since David Weber's earliest Honor Harrington. I reviewed that one here

Robert Kroese: Dream of the Iron Dragon -- I can't give this a full throated recommendation, since I haven't read it. But Kroese puts out good stuff... I'm almost afraid to look to see if I have a Kindle copy somewhere (my Kindle died a few months back, so everything I haven't bought from Amazon is probably down the tubes).

Nope... that's it. That's all I have. Most of the others that I mentioned for the Planetary award aren't available for the Dragons, that I know of -- they were too early in the year. Karl's book came out in September, a week after my novel, so I know he's eligible. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who will correct me if I'm wrong.

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Since Larry doesn't want it for Monster Hunter International, I don't have anything offhand. The only fantasy that I recall reading offhand in the last year has been Monster Hunter Files. That's it. I think I read Terry Goodkind's The Nest, but that's from a few years ago.

Now that several series I used to read have wrapped up (Kim Harrison, Carrie Vaughn) I'm starting to wonder how much fantasy I actually read boils down to being just Jim Butcher.

If you want a suggestion from me ... perhaps Good to the Last Drop if you want it for fantasy instead of horror?

Also, there is War Demons, by Russell Newquist, my editor and publisher over at Silver Empire books... It's another book I have yet to get to, in part because my Kindle died, and he sent me the ARC.  Take a look, tell me what YOU think, and we can have that conversation.

Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel
 
The Awful Truth About Forgetting (Rachel Griffin, book #4).... seriously, can we get Jagi an award for this series already? I reviewed it here, but really people, just do it already.

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

I want to say David Weber. But I suspect that this might sooner go to Timothy Zahn for the Honorverse prequel novels. Just a guess. Again, I can't recall track when their books came out last year.

I know Jon has got a space opera, The Star Entwined, so you might want to check that out. I'd say Steam and Country, but it was eligible last year.

Now, since they removed best Apocalypse, you may also which to consider Daniel Humphrey's A Place Called Hope. Why? Because book 1 received the Dragon Award nomination last year, and Dan mentioned online that it's actually MilSF.

Best Alternate History Novel
 
.... Someone tell Lou Antonelli to hurry up and finish his sequel to Another Girl Another Planet already. Other than that...

Hans Schantz,  A Rambling Wreck. I reviewed this one a while back. It was solid. It's a book two, so you've been warned. I'd link to the review, but I can't seem to find it at the moment. Huh.

Best Media Tie-In Novel


Well, this is new.

Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by [Zahn, Timothy]The category probably opened up as a good way to avoid having a flood of Star Wars or Star Trek books flood a category.

What I would like to happen is to nominate Timothy Zahn's Thrawn book of last year ... but that came out too early for this year.

Don't worry, there's a sequel!

.... Except that Thrawn: Alliances is coming out in July.

Argh.

Well, at least it's eligible for NEXT year's Dragon Award.

But now that we have a Media Tie-in category, can we have a best comic book movie now? That way it's not a Marvel Vs DC knock down drag out every year?

There is only one problem: This category replaced best Apocalypse. Huh. I wonder if everyone hit peak Distopia fatigue all at the same time.

And yes, you'll notice that, no, I don't actually have a nominee for this one. I have nothing. If you have something, comment below.

Best Horror Novel

And we're back to this.  Sorry, but the only horror I go near is what I write.

So, there's Good to the Last Drop. Again. Yes, sorry about that.

Now, I could argue that Good to the Last Drop is the culmination of the previous three novels, two of which were nominated for Dragon Awards. I've got demons, Vatican Ninjas, vampire hordes, shapeshifters, and anti-Vampire "civilians" (a collection of police, street gangs, and the Mafia, because welcome to New York, you bloodsucking bastards).

Personally, this might be more Urban Fantasy than horror, but the last two were in horror, so I guess no one at the Dragon Award committee objects.

Best Comic Book  & Best Graphic Novel
 
I am so far behind on comics, don't even ask me.

I know that Jon del Arroz is interested in something called XO Manowar, so there's that. I may have to ask Alfred Genesson if he could do a post on this, that way I can link to him the next time this blog is updated.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series, TV or Internet

Going down my list of TV shows...

iZombie ... did it win last year?

Midnight Texas was fun, and Charlaine Harris has a solid fan base.

Lucifer is interesting this season. Not sure if it's good enough for the Dragons though.

Arrow ... not this year. I'm getting fed up with it.

The Punisher I haven't seen it yet, and the reviews are tipping the scales towards "AAARRRGGGHHH."

The Defenders ... meh. It ... was.

The Orville. Probably the best SFF show out within the time period. At its worst? It's just mediocre. But those are only two episodes that made me wonder what was going on with Seth MacFarlane at the time.

So, probably The Orville.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

Justice League?  Eh. No

The Last Jedi: Hell no.

Thor: Ragnarok ... maybe.

Spider-Man: Homecoming ... not out of the realm of possibility. But I haven't seen it yet.

Bright ...? I don't think was that good. It had some nice worldbuilding, and a lot of great little touches, but they could have cut 15 minutes from the film and missed nothing. In fact, they would have done so much better had they used that time to build up the story more.

It will probably go to Black Panther or Thor 3.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

This is a problem when you have so many games doing loot boxes that I have urges to just tell all of the games to go screw themselves.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War? Depends on who you ask.
X-Com 2: War of the Chosen -- ditto
Cuphead
Super Mario Oddessy.

There are, of course, Persona and Yakuza games that came out this year.... just don't ask me when. and Nier: Automata I've heard great things about, but it came out in January or February, and thus aren't eligible.

So, if you liked any of these, look up on the release date and make certain I didn't just suggest something that came out too early.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

Middle Earth: Shadow of War: Yes, I liked the mobile game. Move along.

Best Board Game Best Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

Another category I'm useless in. Calling Alfred is also more useful here than I am.

Anyway, the Dragons are coming. Knock yourself out. 

And remember the Planetary Awards, if you're a book blogger.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Red Pill Religion: Human Spirituality & Science Fiction

Tonight, at 9PM Eastern, prepare to be Red Pilled.

Yes, I'm going to be on someone else's radio show for a change. It's been a while, but you get to hear my dulcet tones once more.

... You have my condolences. Heh.

Luckily for you, I'll be on with Brian Neimeier.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Another birthday, another year shot to Hell


Looking back over the past few years of my birthday posts, I note I usually do one of two things.

First, I ask about if readers would like to vote for me in the Planetary Awards. Or even the Dragon Awards ... something that, this year, I should probably devote a little more time to in the coming weeks.

Second, I look over my life and decide that it's not too terrible. I have two publishers, sixteen things coming out this year, and more projects to fill my time than I know what to do with.

So ... yeah, this should be fun.

So, if you have the time, look at my Dragon Award post, and see if there's anything there of interest to you. I hope to work on it again soon. Maybe in April, after the Planetary Awards

Be well all.




Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Writing "Death March of Cambreadth" for Mars

When Superversive announced the Planetary Anthology, you'd have to figure that Mars was right up my alley.

I've only broken, destroyed, trashed, and blown up any number of vehicles, places and people that I take one look at John Wick and see it as a challenge.

So Mars, god of War?

Blow crap up?

Count me in.

Strangely enough, I went small for this one. Don't ask me why I did. But there was still plenty of violence. Don't worry about that. Because if I have any message in any of my books, it's Orwell's "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

In my collection of various and sundry people I collect, I've known two women who were divorced, and under fairly odd and bizarre circumstances. How bizarre? Well, in one case, one had a husband who worked for a federal agency, and he thought he had leverage over her because he had made a sex tape of them without her knowledge...

Yes, because a federal employee has NOTHING to lose by releasing a sex tape online. Sigh. Yes. He was that stupid. He did exist. And he was one of those federal employees who carried a gun. (Which doesn't say much given that even the Department of Education has a SWAT team-- yes, really).

So I took this guy, made him psychotic as well as moronic, laying a trap for a fictional heroine who is actually modeled on a completely different woman.

Then I set it on Mars, in 2340, added cybernetic limbs, laser rifles, and a catchy tune to kill people to.

I added a main character designed to look at this situation and consider "How many different ways can I think of for this entire situation to go wrong?" His name is Paul Murphy, and he's had some experience with this type of situation. There's a reason one of his arms is cybernetic. It's been years since he's been in a good fight, and he misses it. So when his friend Carrie comes to him with her little problem, he comes up with a plan when everything goes to hell.

And then everything goes to hell.

But Paul has a plan in his mind and a song in his heart.

And the song is March of Cambreadth.


So, Planetary: Mars is out. Might want to look into it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

NEW RELEASE: Planetary Mars

Welcome to book 3 of the Planetary Anthology: Mars.

Three down, 8 more to go.

Though I'm starting to wonder if we should at least try listing some of the authors in the description -- they almost never appear in their entirety on the main amazon page.

Anyway, the description du jour.


Mars, the red planet and our closest neighbor. It has haunted our imaginations for centuries, inspiring tales of heroic deeds and courage. . Mars is also the god of war and the father of fear and panic. Here are 18 tales of war and adventure set in and around the red planet. 
Planetary Fiction explores the themes associated with these heavenly bodies as well as their astronomical, mythological, and in some cases even alchemical significance.
Featuring stories from
  • Pulp great Jon Mollison
  • Bestselling author Julie Frost (Monster Hunter Files)
  • Dragon Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah
  • Dawn Witzke (best known among my readers as an awesome cover artist)
  • A.M. Freeman (editor: Venus)
  • Dragon Award Finalist Lou Antonelli
  • David Hallquist (editor: Mercury)
  • Comics genius Chuck Dixon (he created DC's Bane)
  • And of course, New  York Times Best Selling author Kevin J. Answerson.

And I'm in there too.

And of course, the editor is Jon del Arroz, making Science fiction great again, one war at a time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pius Tales is Being Rereleased

You heard it here first.

My collection of shorts for The Pius Trilogy is coming back. 

Originally when I wrote these shorts, they were basically meant to promote the series. Usually when I design characters, shorts like these gave me background material to work with.

The characters evolved enough during the short stories that I actually had to rewrite parts of the novels in the Trilogy itself. Scott Murphy's origins shifted around a little. I was able to show off Matthew Kovach a bit more without needing to write the novels I've had outlined for him since 2000. Background characters ended up in the Trilogy, even though I had never planned for them to be there when I finished the first few drafts.

There is even a good chunk of the novel that used to be in A Pius Man. One bit on the first months of Pope Pius XIII, because it was ten pages of background material. I also cut out an example of Father Frank Williams' operating in the field. I really wanted to use them, and they worked. Who knew?

The stories?

Tinker, Tailor, Goyim, Spy -- what's a good Catholic boy like Scott doing in the Mossad? Answer? Beware the wrath of a patient accountant.

One Way to Stay out of Jail -- if you've read It Was Only on Stun! you've read this story. It's the origin of Sean AP Ryan's security team.

Mile High Murder -- There's a murderer on board a transcontinental flight. No one and nothing will stop him. And no one will want to.

We Have a Pope! -- deleted from A Pius Man. I parodied the media quite a bit here, largely stealing from their flip-flopping coverage of Pope Benedict when he was first elected. I then go into how the Pope tried to drive the media insane during his first months in the papacy, from canonizing Thomas Dooley as "Patron Saint of Spies" to installing a North Korean priest with a grudge as the Papal Press Secretary.

Swiss Family Mafia -- this was actually a story I first wrote in high school, starring Jonathan Koneig. Yes, the character is that old.

The Boys of the Old Brigade: A Twitter Tale -- This is largely the events leading up to It Was Only On Stun! If you remember Stun!, I had several IRA rejects go after Sean. This is why.

Erin Go Boom -- terrorists on St. Patrick's Day. The only thing standing between them and their goal ... one Catholic Priest.

See Something... -- Two guys are planning a terrorist attack while in the observation deck of the new World Trade Center. Then the cops show up. Then the fun begins.

Let Freedom Ring -- Scott "Mossad" Murphy went home to Boston for vacation. It becomes a busman's Holiday.

God Hates … Superman? -- Cult protesters come for Comic Con. Comic Con wins.

Deck the Maul -- Sean AP Ryan ... at a mall ... on Black Friday.

O Little Town of Bethmayhem -- Terrorists are going to attack Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and nobody is going to stop them. Thankfully, there's a nobody on hand.

Coyote Christmas -- the bully of a small California neighborhood tries to hire Sean Ryan for protection. He doesn't like bullies.

Other contents include memos by the Pope, Sean AP Ryan's resume, an an essay on how this insanity came together. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amazon War II

Here's the good news.

It seems that all of the reviews that I've written have come back.

No warning, and barely a notice from Amazon.


.... Okay. Thanks. That's nice. I guess.

Would any of you f**kers like to tell me WHY IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

In other news, I've been looking into the rest of the situation, with the reviews posted to my books. Using Honor at Stake as a baseline, I've gotten four back. Looking at the rest of my reviews overall, of the 77 that went up in a puff of smoke, I've had nine restored overall.

.... That's nice, but can I have the rest back?

Right now, the best guess I've seen has been from CF yesterday (in the comments) that suggested Amazon might think I was a paid reviewer. If you applied that to everyone else I run into, that would be interesting ... also, highly suspicious.

I don't think the remaining missing reviews are all from acquaintances, or even Facebook people -- in fact, I'm certain they're not. Either way,

Dear Amazon, just explain. If it's a screw up, explain it. Finn's law states one should never attribute to malice what can be adequately attributed to stupidity ... but in this case, malice is a serious concern. And since we haven't seen this happen in a wide circle OUTSIDE of CLFA, stupidity seems unlikely.

I would ask once more if anyone could report here about any reviews of theirs that have been purged. I would like to know the extent of this problem. If this is a glitch, Amazon should be aware of it. If it's malice, and they'll only put reviews back when their hands have been caught in the cookie jar, when Amazon should be made aware that people are paying attention.

The Final Stand

It's occurred to me that I haven't written a lot about the writing of A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller, even though it came out for rerelease this month. Looking back over my blog, I never really discussed the construction of the novel the first time through, either. As I tend to write more about writing than anything else (after all, I will only discuss politics if I'm pissed off) I'm a little surprised.

As Stand is book three of a trilogy, there are, of course, some spoilers.

When I first started on The Pius Trilogy, my thought process was fairly linear. The solution was cui bono: who benefits? In the case of A Pius Man, who benefits from destroying the Catholic church? I can come up with a list of nation states, a few dozen dictators, and every Left-wing organization in America, and that's before I even start writing the fiction. In choosing the villains for book one, Russian mercenaries with old Soviet ties felt right -- jihadis aren't organized enough for what I had in mind, and Russians have just the right level of Byzantine thinking. And after 80 years of old Nazis being the only acceptable villains, I think it's time that someone looks at the Soviets as actual bad guys for a change.

Keep in mind, A Pius Man was written in 2004, before Trump, and before everyone decided that Vladimir Putin was a James Bond villain. It was also after Afghanistan fell apart in a few months, and Saddam's regime crumbled in must a matter of weeks. Jihadis definitely felt like wimps.

A Pius Man is basically a nice little self contained story. And it probably would have been the end of it if the damn bad guy would have just stayed dead. But no, he didn't, so there was a backup plan.

Enter: A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller

When the first plan of the villains fell apart, the next reliable ally for them was easy: The United Nations. After all, (again at the time) I'd listened to 5 years of anti-Catholic BS with nut cases around the world declaring that RICO charges should be up against the Vatican! Genocide! Abuse against women! And that's only for being against abortion. You can only imagine what happens if they attempted to do anything about it.

So it wasn't difficult to create a UN "resolution" that makes every "charge" leveled at the Catholic church an actionable offense, with the end goal of confiscating every bit of church property and liquidating it... It worked for Henry VIII.

Since even the USSR gave lip service to due process during their show trials, there was only one thing for my fictional UN psychos to do -- put on a show trial for the Pope himself. And it's not really dramatic enough if it the man just hands himself over when asked....

Let's kidnap the Pope!

Obviously, Legacy was largely political. A lot of time had to be dedicated just to make the UN a believable villain .... Okay, given everything we've heard about UN forces as rape gangs or slave traders or sex peddlers, it's easy to make them villains. But I needed them to try doing vile things in plain sight, and justify them under real world rules. It was even more disturbing when I had the UN lodging complaints against the Vatican the week I first published it.

And then there's A Pius Stand.

Yeah, that was fun. Largely because, well, how does one address a full scale assault on the Vatican, during peace time? When I wrote the first draft in 2004, I was hard pressed to juggle it so that America would deliberately stay out of it. In fact, the US became a deus ex machina at the end. I wasn't impressed with it, but I couldn't imagine the US staying neutral against such a blatant display of grand theft Vatican. At the time, I couldn't imagine a single President between 1970 and 2004 saying or doing nothing about it.

Then we met Barack Obama and my imagination improved. Between encouraging the "Arab Spring" (IE: the Muslim Brotherhood), arming ISIS, letting Libya turn into a terrorist state while ignoring the 2009 Iranian protests, I could see an American President sitting on his ass while the entire world burned.

Which left .... everyone else.

Let's face it, even the most virulent anti-Catholic Protestant or Evangelical would be unnerved by nations of the world banding together to all but reduce a religion to rubble. Jews would go "This feels disturbingly familiar." Every Catholic cop would just say "No, this ain't happening."

After a while, adding up all of the people who would object and become volunteers, I was worried that this would look too much like a fair fight. The NYPD alone has over 35,000 members.

But on the other hand, there were all those idiots who joined Occupy Wall Street (which, when it went international, broke up Catholic churches and statues), anarchists, and every Leftist group that smashed up a church in the past 40 years, Socialists from "feminists" to Anti-Fa variants.

Adding up those psychos, even without nation states deciding to say "The UN said I can confiscate churches, let's go," there would still be a fair number of street-level nuts wanting to tear up property and beat on priests.

Once I redistribute all of those in law enforcement to protect churches world WIDE, the number of the Vatican defenders become far less optimistic.

Leaving two heavily-armed private Catholic organizations.... the Mafia, and what's left of the IRA.

.... Yup. They're in trouble.

Anyway, the trilogy is out and it's complete. Enjoy.



Sunday, March 11, 2018

Amazon's War on Users

Has Amazon declared war on authors?

It would seem so at first pass. Last week, I had 315 reviews spread out over my various and sundry projects. Honor at Stake, for example, had 63, 68 reviews.

Today, I only have 238 reviews over all of them. Honor at Stake in particular having only 45 now. When I ask Amazon via email, they know nothing. Could I be more specific? It's literally EVERY BOOK. They need a road map?

The mystery depends when I looked at reviews that I myself have written. They're all gone. Poof. Vanished.

What the Hell?

And I'm not the only one. In fact, one writer's group I'm a part of has had a lot of the same problem.

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance.

Funny that. And the one person outside of CLFA who had also had problems is friends with three of us.

However, I'm not about to declare enemy action just yet. For that, I need your help, that of the average reader. Because there is a problem. We can't ask people outside the group, that we don't know, if they have the same problem. Why?  Because if we don't know them, it's hard to ask. And if we know them, it can be construed as guilt by association.

So, is this a political attack by Amazon on POCs? (People of Conservatism). Just a glitch?  Or had yet another "woke" Amazon employee gone rogue, like when someone messed with Castalia House's Scalzi parody?

Honestly, I have no idea. But I do know one thing. Amazon prefers that authors have 50 reviews before pushing a book. Honor at Stake had over that,  and I expected it to have over 60 by the rerelease in May. Removing JUST enough reviews to eliminate that edge might constitute restraint of trade, as well

I'm going to talk with Amazon today (Monday) possibly with a tire iron. But if anyone else had seen this, please let me know.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Video Games: The Latest Scapegoat

There they go again.

Every time there is a shooting under the age of 25 (sometimes even older), there is a cycle to the pattern of blame.

Blame the NRA: They don't even sell guns, and have been adding suggestions to "gun safety" for as long as I've been alive.

Blame Republicans: Because "They haven't done anything about guns." Ignore that all of the shootings happen in gun free zones, and more laws won't stop anybody who is already committed to a spree killing.

Blame Video Games. "Because Video games are violent."

Oh please. These are the people who will usually never blame the shooter. They will never blame the pharmaceuticals that the shooter is on or should have been on. They will never blame the permissive environment created by public schools that allow bullies to torture the freaks / nerds / geeks / outsiders without any recourse. They'll blame guns, they'll blame Republicans, then they'll eventually blame video games.

This is getting to the point where I should put together a "shooting press pack," starting with all of the arguments against all of the usual stupidity, and just repost it on the blog every time someone mouths off.

Even without a shooting, every few years (or every few months, depending), there is someone out there who spends a lot of time and energy trying the place the blame of the world’s ills on video games.  Right now it's President Trump and Matt Walsh, two people who I usually haven't disagreed with.

But now it's back. “Oh no! Video games are violent and will warp the brains of poor little children! We must ban / control / destroy them!”  Didn’t you hear? “Studies show” that video games turn your kids into werewolves, or some such nonsense. I suspect these are the same people who declared that “90% of Catholic women use contraceptives!”

If you believe either, I’ve got a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you if you like.

In Halo 4, a human in a battle suit fights "aliens" who don't even have blood spatter. They disintegrate. If one were to believe this incredibly stupid theory, I should be a mass murderer. I have been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight-years-old and the game was Super Mario Brothers. The amount of aliens I’ve slaughtered in Halo easily number in the hundreds, if not the thousands. Mysteriously, I manage to go to Mass every Sunday and eight holy days a year, and other strange and abhorrent things in this society – like believe most, if not all, of your standard Baltimore Catechism (I put in “most“ because I skimmed it a little).

Half of Hitman is going from point A to point B without being seen.Now there are modern games that deal with much more mature themes.  The premise of the Hitman series is obvious by the title, but they are mostly a matter of, well, murder puzzles. Think of it as playing through an episode of Columbo from the murderer’s perspective.  I’ve played it, using it mostly as a thought exercise before I go back to writing.

The Mass Effect series is one that combines an epic storyline (violence) with the option for a love story (sex), but with surprising amount of character thrown in for fun. For the most part, that last bit is the real fun for players.

mass effect

Mass Effect — an epic science fiction choose-your-own adventure where your morals are your character’s morals.
My body count? 300,000. I’m still sane. Ish.
It is, at its core, amoral when it comes to the romantic aspects – in this case, it’s a moral as you allow it to be. That actually caused a bit of a stir a while ago, with religious groups condemning the game for allowing same-sex relationships.  The response from the game designers was simple: If you don’t like that option, don’t play that option, have a nice day. The entire premise behind the series is that the whole universe is dictated by the player’s actions, where you can show apathy, interest, or utter disdain.

Are there video games that are too violent? Sure. Look at a recent Mortal Kombat game, if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind people being decapitated or cut in half. But I’m not that big into horror movies either. Are there games that focus too much on sex? I’ve heard that they exist, but I think they’re only available in Japanese.

They’re just video games. They are what you make of them – and if you don’t like the content, don’t buy them. They're, as a whole morally neutral, they are what you make of them, and the violent, profanity-ridden video games are clearly labeled for your protection. Now please shut up and let me violently murder these alien hordes, okay? Thanks.

But there are always, ALWAYS two objections from the knee-jerk cliché department. “Well, I played video games and there are no positives. It makes you anti-social.”

And where we are now: “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” argument.

You're Stupid

Both arguments are so full of inaccuracies, it is obvious that neurons have died just reading those words – some of those neurons are mine, by the way.

VIDEO GAMES MAKE YOU VIOLENT.

I love this argument. I truly do. I've been killing turtles with fireballs since I was eight and the game was Super Mario Brothers. I have yet to find time to plot out my murder spree between going to Catholic school from K-PhD, and going to church every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.

First, a constant issue in discussing video games is that people seem to think that video games are still for children. I was the first generation to play the first Nintendo Entertainment System. In fact, I still have it. Guess what – my generation grew up, and we're still playing.

As of 2011, the average gamer is between 32 and 37 years old.

Now, 82% of gamers are adults, and 72% of American households play video games.

42% of gamers are women – in fact, 30% of all gamers are women over 18 years old.

Hmm, 72% of American households. So that's 72% of 300,000,000 people means that … over two hundred million people in America play video games (Yes, I rounded down).

“Yes,” says the critic who may have a clue, “but how many of those are family games, like Wii games?” Well, the top ten best-selling video games for 2012 were violent, rated M(ature) games for gamers 17+ only.

So, to say that “video games are a prevalent factor in mass shootings” is roughly the equivalent of saying that “having the ability to speak English is a prevalent factor in American mass shootings.” When nearly three quarters of the country plays video games, it is almost certain that you're going to get a crazy or two in there.

If video games make you into a psychotic mass murderer, we should be hip deep in blood and the planet should have looked like the book of Revelations sometime after the first Mortal Kombat games were released.

The usual counter is to say that it will bring out the inner crazy in people … so might a commercial for Mountain Dew, does that mean we unplug all the signs in Times Square? Or shut down Las Vegas? Either of those might be a good idea, but I can make better arguments than inspiring one or two people with sociopathic tendencies.

Guess what? The ECA – the Entertainment Consumer Association -- released an open letter to the Vice President in 2010 entitled “Policy Considerations post-Newtown, CT School Shooting”. (You can see the full letter here.)
Studies show that media does not cause violence. Christopher J. Ferguson, Chair of Texas AM International University’s Department of Psychology &; Communication, has shown through his work that there’s no link between violent video games and real world violence like mass shooting, bullying or youth aggression ….
Media consumption has risen as the number of violent crimes has dropped. While video game sales have increased, violent crime has been steadily decreasing according to FBI statistics. In 2011, video game sales increased to over $27 billion dollars and violent crimes nationwide have decreased 3.8% from 2010. Since 2002, violent crime has decreased 15.5%. This is all during the time when games like Call of Duty and Halo have dominated sales.
Oops. Someone should check their numbers.

Luckily, I already checked it for them. So there.


Not Impressed Larry Correia

Now, of course, there is the argument that:

VIDEO GAMES ARE ANTI-SOCIAL
gamers-get-girls

Oh, for the love of …

Usually when I have this discussion, I'm not sure which is more fun, being told that I was using only my personal experience, and my argument was therefore garbage, or if someone told me my argument was garbage because of their personal experience.

I'm going to limit this to a format that everyone can understand – the infographic on your right (click to enlarge, otherwise it will take up half the column length).

When eHarmony, the #1 dating site in the world, isn't as successful at bringing people together as World of Warcraft (WoW), telling me that video games make you anti-social and isolationist is the punchline to a bad joke.

The argument that “well, I played video games and it was a waste of time and kept me from talking to people” only tells me either 1) the person saying this is a liar who just wants to score points on the internet or 2) a statistical abnormality.

Another point I've heard, this time on a Catholic website,  was that "video games can't be used for evangelization."

Really? Playing WoW can people one player in touch with over twelve million fellow players. If someone really wants to spread the Word, I'm sure they can figure out something. Otherwise, they just suffer from a lack of imagination.

If you don't believe me, then I recommend you read Infinite Space, Infinite God II for some ideas – particularly “Otherworld,” by Karina Fabian.

This of course, assumes that everything one does must be to spread the Word.

THE WORST TYRANNY

At the end of the day, this entire argument comes down to your standard, boiler-plate thought control. Even the “discussion” on guns -- which consists of a gun owner being yelled at for a period of time before having his property taken away – is a joke in itself.

I mean, heck, the guns least likely to kill anyone … happen to be the ones everyone talks about banning.


guns


Banning video games – that have nothing to do with violence – or banning rifles that have even less to do with mass murder, is just playing to the ignorance of people in general. It's one part Orwellian thought control, and one part finding a scapegoat – be it video games, media violence, rock music, bullying, etc. The Sandy Hook shooter was also Catholic, so I guess we all dodged a bullet on that one.

As C.S. Lewis once noted, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Ironing out A Wrinkle in Time

The novel A Wrinkle in Time is a classic of children's literature. Perhaps the proper new term is "Young Adult," but, as with Narnia, they are books probably too good for children. In my estimation, while they are not Narnia or Middle Earth, author Madeleine L'Engle is right underneath, if not side-by-side with, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.

It is the story of Meg Murray and her little brother Charles Wallace, and the search for their father, a scientist who vanished. Joining them is the popular kid in school, Calvin O'Keefe as well as Weird Sisters (TM, Will Shakespeare) Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which. These three are older women -- one as very old, one as plump, and one as a ball of shimmering light / traditional Margaret Hamilton.

To find their father, Meg and Charles must travel to an alien world via folding space and time (hence a "Wrinkle"), fight an IT that makes Stephen King's alien clown look like .... a clown... and his henchman, a man with glowing red eyes who looks like Satan's understudy.  There's good versus evil, saving those you love, sometimes through the power of love, and while there are Christian themes, if they didn't bother you in Narnia and Tolkien, they won't bother you here -- assuming you even notice as you're reading.

Now, I read this book over twenty years ago, and I should probably reread it. I've given you much of what I recall off the top of my head. The concept of folding space and time stuck with me, especially as I tripped over several other SFF worlds that also used it. Little brother Charles is the one who I remember most fondly, since I identified with him the most. I recall him being nearly deus ex machina -level smart, and perfectly charming. Meg happened to have the same name as my sister.

All in all, a wonderful, enjoyable novel.

Then Disney came along.

Okay, to be honest, this is probably less the fault of Disney than Oprah and Director Ava DuVernay, but one thing at a time.

Now, I'm not a stickler for films adhering perfectly to novels. Some things you can do in books you can't do in films. Simple as that. But at the very least, I would like the filmmakers to at least have made a production that tells me that they at least READ the original novel, and understood what was enjoyable about it. At a bare MINIMUM, I would like it if I could look at the characters and say "Yes, I can tell just by looking at X that s/he is Y from the novel."

You've seen the description above of the Weird SistersTM.

So of course, they cast the old / fat women as Oprah, Reese Eithersppon, and Mrs. Who is now play by (checks IMDB page) what looks like a relatively slender Indian girl named Mindy Kaling....

Are we serious?

No, really, take a look at these images.

This is Reese Witherspoon as Mrs Whatsit ... because she looks old, and covered in layers of clothing.

Yup, she looks old, don't she?
And it gets even worse as time goes on. This is a still of her from the trailer.



..... Are we kidding? Is she playing Mrs. Whatsit, the old woman? Or Poison Ivy cosplaying as an elf?

Then there's "Mrs Which," who is either Margaret Hamilton, or a shiny ball of light.



Oprah as "Mrs Which"
No, seriously, what the Hell? Why are they dressed for the Halloween Day parade down in Greenwich Village? In fact, I'm relatively certain there are better dressed, perhaps even more tasteful, people down in the Village. Granted, they would be X-rated versions of the costumes, but you'd at least be able to figure out the costumes.

Of course, making things even dumber is what has been done to Mrs. Who. She in particular, tended to talk in quotes -- great philosophers, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, even the Bible. How? She now quotes the great philosopher ... Jay-Z.

And oh, by the way, remember when I mentioned the henchman that looked like Satan's understudy? If I look at the cast list correctly (assuming that "The Man with Red Eyes" has been shortened to simply "Red"), our dastardly villain is played by ... Michael Pena. That's right. The comic relief sidekick from Ant-Man. Because sure, he was intimidating.

And looking at the trailers (I will not even link to that drivel) is so bright and shiny and bouncy I want to vomit. Sure, Wrinkle never really goes as grimdark as some YA, but it's nowhere near the bright shiny happy people crap we've seen in the trailers.

Oh, and another problem with the trailers .... no Charles. At all. He's only, oh, THE SECOND CENTRAL CHARACTER. But details! Details! This is f**king Hollywood.

Three of the producers worked on the new Pete's Dragon ... because that worked out so well, no one saw it.  For another, it's her first gig. The director, Ava DuVernay's major successes include Selma, some hip-hop shorts, and a Jay-Z project.... At least we know what happened to Mrs. Who.

I have to ask, considering how old, and how well loved A Wrinkle in Time is ... who did these people have to sleep with in order for all of these relative amateurs to be allowed within spitting distance of a project like this?

The only real answer I can come up with is with Ava DuVernay, and that is ... she was probably the flavor of the month at the time. Given how long it takes to make a movie, she was probably first offered the film fresh off of Selma (2014). She was confirmed to direct in 2016, so 2015 was probably the negotiating period.

And looking through Ava DuVernay's directorial experience, I'm certain there was a fair amount of politics in this decision. Everything she's done is either a documentary, or tied in with racial identity politics, or both.

Now, one thing that people familiar with the book and the ads for the new film will note one thing that I've left out. The new film makes the Wallace family black instead of Caucasian. Frankly, that looks like the least of the film's sins. Hell, their Meg at least has glasses, something I thought Hollywood didn't allow on women unless they were also wearing lab coats at the time.

No, the race swapping is less offensive to me as it is confusing... especially when they've made everyone in the family black, except for the missing father, played bizarrely enough by Chris Pine. Because, you know, Chris Pine as a scientist is just so convincing.

Not to mention that if this were any other director, I would probably just say someone in casting saw Chris Pine and said "Sure, why not?" Given the politics of the director, it wouldn't surprise me if she wanted to slip in an absentee white dude as the father because having an absentee black father would be too on the nose for what I'm sure DuVernay considers "her" audience.

Actually, the more I look at the project, and I hear what they've done to certain aspects and characters, the more offended I am by DuVernay's racism. Yes, racism. Her casting choices are obviously directed towards making the roles racially diverse. Under any other director, I would think that it was their shot at making it more identifiable to a wider range of people. But with DuVernay's directing history, I'm certain she wants "her" audience to be one specific group.

Also, having Mrs. Who speak in quotes of Jay-Z just feels like talking down to said audience. I'm sorry, but if DuVernay's casting is obviously trying to get a good percentage of Afromericans to the theaters for this schlock, then why is she dumbing down the material? Is it because she thinks that blacks are too stupid to understand Shakespeare or the Bible? It's right up there with the Black Panther trailers featuring majority hip hop, yet none of it appearing in the principle soundtrack.

In short, it's pandering. Bad director. No cookie.

Sigh.

Of course, it gets even better. You'll notice I've given no credit to the writers. Because in film, writers are nothing and nobody. The screenplays they write are usually mere suggestions to whatever megalomaniac is put behind the camera. The writers of the screenplay are responsible for, on the one hand Bridge to Terabithia (ugh) and on the other ... Frozen and Zootopia. Yay. So you can imagine what the starting screenplay looked like.

So, like with The Chronicles of Narnia, Disney has taken yet another beloved childhood novel, and proceeded to wreck it. I won't even see it in theaters. You know it's bad when even the cinematography is making me wary of the project. The casting of the Weird SistersTM is atrocious, character dialogue (if not the casting) is geared towards pandering towards (or just looking down on) a specific section of the general public, and the vibe of every trailer is perfectly tone deaf or atonal to the original novel.

Pardon me while I go out and watch Death Wish or Red Sparrow.