2020 and the Heat Death of the Universe

We are minute specks in the unfathomable immensity of the cosmos, living a fraction of a second in universal time. We exist on a tiny dot travelling at 67,000 mph through a solar system that is moving at 490,000 mph through a galaxy that is moving at 1.3 million mph through the universe, pulled by an unknown entity we call the Great Attractor, powerful enough to drag a hundred thousand galaxies towards it. But the important thing is that we’re about to complete one more spin round the sun.

Once again, the end of the year has arrived and we’re supposed to share messages of hope. Comic geniuses this time are able to swap their calls of ‘see you next year’ with calls of ‘see you next decade’, and then guffaw with delight at their hilarity, cleverness and, above all, originality. It’s time to pretend that the world will magically improve overnight because our calendars are new. It’s 2020. It’s the future. We’re supposed to have world peace, a utopian society, hoverboards. Instead we have war and terrorism, hate crimes, and glorified plastic skateboards with batteries that catch fire.

What are we ushering in the new year with? With fireworks while Australia burns, an area bigger than entire countries devoured by flame, leaving people dead, millions of animals dead, homes destroyed. While the men and women we sent to fight, to kill, to die in a war we’ve quietly agreed to forget was started because of the lies of warmongers try to cope with that gunfire in the sky, because of course our right to see pretty lights is more important than the PTSD we gave them. With news that, despite these unprecedented wildfires in Australia and California, environmental policies won’t be changed, because what does science know. With grown adults attacking teenagers for caring about their future. With an increase in bigotry, hate-fuelled attacks and murders, school shootings, and the devastating lies that cause and encourage it all. With the election of world leaders who will put children in cages, strip citizens of rights and basic medical care, assassinate foreign citizens in their own countries. With savage brutality against civilians and journalists by Hong Kong police while Western media stays as quiet as possible. With the assurance to our children that we don’t give a shit about them or their future. With the assurance to women, minorities, and those underrepresented in every walk of life that we still don’t give a shit about them.

As always, people will do whatever they want, but perhaps instead of hiding behind warm and fuzzy feelings that everything will be okay because it’s a new year, instead of burying our heads in the sand, we’ll pull them out and look. And perhaps looking will lead to seeing. And perhaps seeing will lead to doing.

Or perhaps all our tiny dot’s latest spin round the sun will change is the number on the calendar.

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The Rise of Skywalker

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Continuing my fine tradition of filling my author blog with ramblings about films, here’s some ramblings about the ninth and final (until Disney wants to cash in again) film in the Skywalker saga.

I won’t be writing too much about it for now, as I haven’t had time for it all to sink in (and I left the cinema actually liking The Last Jedi, so I’ve learned to think for longer before giving much of an opinion). So there won’t be spoilers.

JJ Abrams was left with an absolute mess to try to tidy up and bring into order in just one film, whilst simultaneously delivering a finale to a more than forty-year-old saga. He did okay. He could have done better in some areas, but he could have done a lot worse. It seems like he went into it with the resolution to just ignore TLJ where he could and flippantly dismiss it where he couldn’t ignore it. This resulted in a film that didn’t entirely feel like it was a follow on, but did feel like a return to what the trilogy was originally supposed to be.

The downside to this is that it seems painfully obvious that Emperor Palpatine was never meant to return, and only did so because a certain director wanted so desperately to ‘subvert expectations’ that he off’d the main villain without thought for the next writers and director. Sidious does little and never feels like a threat. If anything, it weakens his character overall to have him back just for this.

Because of the time jump between the two films, Rey has actually had time to train and learn from the Jedi texts, so when she uses the Force, it actually seems like she has done something to earn it, and it makes sense. This is welcome departure from how, in The Force Awakens, she goes from not knowing for sure that the Jedi are real to suddenly doing a Jedi Mind Trick on James Bond out of nowhere. Revelations regarding her are a little weak and predictable, but I would almost say that doesn’t matter if it weren’t for the fact that it is at the core of the story. She is less two-dimensional this time, and actually feels more like she is driving the story rather than just sitting in for the ride while stuff happens.

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There were more surprises in terms of what wasn’t in the film that what was. Expected scenes, characters, and lines not being there was a minor disappointment, but by the end of the film, any unanswered questions and issues I had were mild and pretty unimportant. Only one thing happened that I was certain I did not want to happen, and that will remain a black mark on the film/trilogy. But it wasn’t enough to make me unhappy with the film overall. And, for me, the final line in the film is perfect (even if the character it’s delivered to makes no sense).

So, while I need to think about it more to really form an opinion, I think overall the trilogy and the saga ended pretty well. You could say it rises to the occasion…if you want people to roll their eyes at you. Not as well as Star Wars deserves, but well enough.

(EDIT: My brain was obviously thinking about it while I slept, because I woke up with a lot more questions starting with ‘why the hell’. A lot more issues came to mind, and things that happened just for story convenience, typical Abrams style. But nothing (yet) has changed my mind overall.)

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Also my book is out, so…there’s my authorly duty.

Uplifting of Starkiller

I didn’t intend to stay up until 3am to watch the new Star Wars trailer, but when Twitter was full of ‘only 2 minutes until the trailer’ for an hour, it just happened. And it was good. Ticket sales already beat out everything including Endgame (although they opened at a more reasonable time of day than Endgame’s, so there’s that), and The Last Jedi -prompted boycott of Star Wars seems to be going well…

Rey exudes a goodness that can’t be turned to the Dark side, Kylo Ren still looks like a moody teenager with an unstable lightsaber, and the others are also there. C-3PO’s line is beaten by Carrie Fisher’s single word as the biggest punch to the heart, and Po says some stuff also.

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The Last Jedi was bad. Objectively, bad film-makingly bad as well as subjectively, bad writingly bad. Rian Johnson’s need to ‘subvert expectations’ at any cost subverted our expectations of a great Star Wars film and left many hurdles for JJ Abrams to clamber over. There’s no telling if he is up to it. Force Awakens was very good (I thought), but not without its own problems. Not least of all R2D2 waking up at the end just…because. Abrams couldn’t be bothered to think up an actual reason for it, so it just happened out of convenience. That kind of lazy writing will not save this trilogy, so who knows. I look forward to it, anyway.

Aside from the unknowable issues that may arise in the film, there are only two things I know for sure I don’t want to happen. I don’t want Rey to turn to the Dark side, and I don’t want the teen girl ‘Reylo’ obsession to come about. Both would be awful writing, and the former would be insulting to the other characters and to the whole ‘I won’t be the last Jedi’ thing.

But the latter would be real-world problematic. Kylo Ren is a mass murderer. He killed Han Solo, whom I argue became a surrogate father of sorts to Rey in the short time they were together in TFA. He tortured Po. He abducted Rey, invaded her mind, tried to kill her. He emotionally abuses her. And that’s the issue. Kylo Ren is Rey’s abuser. Disney wants this trilogy to appeal to a younger, female audience. ‘Shipping’ ‘Reylo’, as the young, hip people say, and the message of ‘sure, he’s your literal abuser, but he’s troubled and you liked him without his shirt, so it’s fine’ would be extremely problematic and irresponsible far beyond the fictional world.

Also, you heard it here first: Palpatine stole Anakin’s body and fused it to AT-ST legs and now they are a zombified horror. Definitely, no question.

December!

Pre-order Ghosts of the Fallen

Ghosts of the Fallen is now up for pre-order (ebook version only) on AmazonSmashwords, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will be sent to you the moment it is published on November 24.

This is a direct sequel to Blades of the Fallen, so if you haven’t read that, you can use this code to get it for 75% off ($1): TU36E.

Pre-ordering goes a long way to helping the book’s visibility on launch, so any pre-orders would be appreciated.

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Four inquisitors, four paths. The path of justice. The path of vengeance. The path of love. The path of fear.

The Vanguard is still reeling from Bane and his master. There are still scattered remnants of the Fallen to hunt down. But so too are there unknown elements moving in the shadows. A cult whose path to their god of war is through the death of inquisitors. An empire on the path to something terrible. And meanwhile, a familiar darkness rises anew.

The little girl with accelerated ageing asked only one thing before she died: don’t let them do this again. It was a promise they could not keep.

Ghosts of the Fallen, coming November 24, 2019

Ghosts of the Fallen

The sequel to NEXUS book 3, Blades of the Fallen, Ghosts of the Fallen is coming soon, and it is time to reveal the cover! So…here is the cover!

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As you can probably tell from the cover, Blades secondary characters Mara and Tillann take the lead this time. It will likely change multiple times before release, but here is the current version of the blurb:

Four inquisitors, four paths. The path of justice. The path of vengeance. The path of love. The path of fear.

The Vanguard is still reeling from Bane and his master. There are still scattered remnants of the Fallen to hunt down. But so too are there unknown elements moving in the shadows. A cult whose path to their god of war is through the death of inquisitors. An empire on the path to something terrible. And meanwhile, a familiar darkness rises anew.

The little girl with accelerated ageing asked only one thing before she died: don’t let them do this again. It was a promise they could not keep.

It will be up for pre-order very soon. In the meantime, now would be a good time to get up to speed by getting Blades of the Fallen from Smashwords or Amazon (or other places that are too numerous to link).

 

The Writening IV…With A Vengeance

It makes me cringe every time I check my site and see that the last time I wrote a blog post was in…wait, I need to check, which you don’t need to know because we’re not writing and reading in real time, but now you do know and you feel more engaged in the whole process…June last year. So here’s that update you’ve all been clamouring for (don’t check my social media for proof of this).

Fountain PenI have a mostly finished novel waiting for a last edit, which will come after I finish the novel I’m nearing the end of now. These will be, respectively, novels 5 and 4 of NEXUS. Yes, I wrote them in the wrong order. Book 4 is more space opera like the existing books, but book 5 will be a little more grounded with a thriller-ish feel, while still being part of the series. And also I want to do more of the Writer’s Guide articles. They amuse me – probably more than they do anyone else.

As well as that, I’m writing two screenplays, holding myself back from writing a thriller series, continuing notes for a fantasy series, and wondering how long I can stay away from my short story series before the government declares it dead.

The writing of book 4 seems to be speeding up as I near the end, so I think it will probably be ready for a summer release, with book 5 coming reasonably soon after, rather than the years of waiting we had between books 2 and 3. I’m looking forward to putting these out as they are the best things I’ve written, and book 5 in particular has led me on to something compelling I want to get on with.

Playtime is over for the NEXUS characters and the galaxy is getting a lot darker.

Of Thanos and Polymer Clay

I should probably have written this right after I actually saw Avengers: Infinity War, but…I didn’t. But I have seen it and it was fine. Nothing overly special but vastly better than Age of Ultron and Civil War – each tied for worst Marvel film.

The spoilers start here, so if you haven’t seen it, skip to the superman head!

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I was wrong-ish about who would die, because I completely forgot that there was a second film, originally pitched as Infinity War Part 2. I said Iron Man and Captain America would die. I stand by that, but obviously with a conclusion still on its way, that’s the one where it will happen.

Speaking of dying, we might as well jump straight to that. It was bad. Does anyone actually believe that Spider-Man is dead? Or Black Panther? Or the entirety of the Guardians? Of course not. We know they have their own solo films on the way. Then again, the way Black Panther goes, off-screen, makes me think that the Russos never actually intended for us to believe that these heroes are all dead. Rather, I think we’re just meant to wonder how they’re going to get themselves out of this situation. The answer will sadly probably be alternate timelines or time travel, neither of which I’m fond of. But really, I think the problem is that it’s an issue at all. I know the fact that Thanos actually clicks his fingers is meant to be a shock, because that’s the big finale that the heroes are meant to prevent, but all that death doesn’t make for a sad ending. It’s too much and it’s too obviously temporary. If anything, the very last scene of the film should have been the click. Then cut to black. Leave everyone wondering what it meant and who died.

Otherwise, it was decent. Absurd that right after they find out that their friend is dead, along with an entire race of people, Iron Man and chums are cracking jokes. But that’s just the Marvel way of desperately trying to cram comedy into every gap. There are a lot of heroes to keep up with, and mostly it’s balanced well. Perhaps too much Thor and Vision, perhaps too little Black Panther and Captain America/Nomad, but generally, it was well done. Other than how they chose to make Peter Quill fairly unlikeable and Gamora little more than a token sacrifice.

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Thanos himself was good. I liked the way they made him less bloodthirsty than they might have. He talks to the heroes, rather than monologuing at them. He understands and respects – to a degree – their efforts to fight him. Even when he has defeated one of them, he doesn’t kill them. He knocks out Nomad, but then just steps over him. He reaches down to the defeated Scarlet Witch, but just holds her head in an almost comforting manner. He might be mad, but he’s not 2D, cartoon evil. This is, of course, contradicted by the earlier parts of the film, where he slaughters every last Asgardian and murders both Loki and Heimdall. But still…

And then there’s the after credits scene. Nothing too special, other than A) I don’t think Fury will be one of the ones to come back, and B) She’s coming! I’ve been looking forward to the solo Captain Marvel film since it was announced, and I’m looking forward to seeing her arrive in Avengers 4. The colourful logo on Fury’s pager seemed a little over the top though. I maintain that, rather than the logo, a shiver-inducing, exciting end would have been:

…CONNECTING…

…CONNECTED…

Fury?

I’m coming.

And also that she should be in his contacts as ‘The Other Cap’. But that’s beside the point. It was good, I’ll watch it again, but I hope Avengers 4 will be better.

And now Superman:

Superman head sculpt

I mentioned before that I tried my hand at sculpting in polymer clay, and Superman was the result. I then tried sculpture 2, the main character of the book that I’ve just finished and am now editing.

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It includes this weird, Winston Churchill-looking baby. Better than the original ET-Yoda hybrid look it had before. Alex herself, on the other hand, didn’t turn out so well. Confirmed by the number of times people called her a he.

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But the finished product turned out well enough. Plenty of issues, as with the Superman head, but I at least have an idea how to avoid those issues next time.

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As for the book itself, even when I’ve edited it, I still need to finish writing another book that has to come out before it, so it will still be a while.