The Lowdown on Stuff I Like. Starting with 9.

Last week, I decided I’m going to blog on occasion about stuff I like. It’s the censored version, in the sense that there won’t be a lot of swear-y bits, but at the same time it’s not the “I’m kissing butt” or the “I’m boasting about stuff I’ve worked on” variety. (If you haven’t met me, well…I’m very bad at those two things. HAH!) I think of this more as a window into my world: how I research, what I respond to, why I’m analyzing a piece of work. And in the effort of FULL disclosure, yes the links will likely be affiliate-related — but as I am not in the top tier of wealthy writers yet? So it goes.

PLUS, there’s a mega-ton of negativity out there, and really…less of that please. I mean, the entire reason why I wanted to write in genre is because it was fun — not because it felt like a chore or made me want to cry. Eesh. I’m also of the belief that if you (or I) love a work that much, it can be inspiring to apply the lessons learned to works of our own. Fans are the reason why I write, but the inspiration and the creativity I have doesn’t come out of thin air. It originates from everything around me: exhibits I go to, paintings I like — even books I consume or movies I inhale. Now, I might bore you with some of my comments about art or music in general, but I got the movies, comics, books, and games thing down.

So today, I start with a movie that came out nine years ago: 9. There might be some spoilers here, but as it’s been NINE YEARS (she says, unironically), anything I say is in service to my overall point. This didn’t air nine minutes ago (*coughs* Game of Thrones)!

9 Cover

9 was a problematic movie for me when I first saw it, because it debuted with a lot of hype. When I go into a film, thinking it’s going to be the next what-have-you, then I have a certain set of expectations. Here, this wasn’t a Tim Burton film persay. Not in the same way I was already expecting, mind. Not in that Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, or Beetlejuice operandus modi.

This movie begins with a short film by the creator, Shane Acker. The long form version originated out of a short form film by the same name, and you can find the original movie at the publisher’s website. 9 was groundbreaking animation at the time, and those visuals can dazzle me, but as I am married to story? There was a part of me that got suckered in to how great the film would be based on the chugga-chugga of the marketing train. When I saw it, I did enjoy it, but the experience was lessened by the hype.

Fast forward to today, where this movie was translated into Blu-Ray. I watched it again, this time paying attention to story. Animation has dramatically and significantly increased in production value since 2005, so the SFX and the hype are long gone for me. The story, to me, was about alchemy. That field, in an allegorical sense when applied to Western alchemists, as alchemy can be found in many different cultures, has elements of the Corn King or Christ myth. Sacrificing oneself to be resurrected later is a powerful theme, and here the scientist takes an action that allows that to happen.

In some ways, the main scientist’s character arc parallels Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Here’s where they are different: the Scientist created something new and wondrous, and that science was co-opted by those who’d abuse it. Voldemort, on the other hand, has been presented as a boy/man unable to escape his fate, because of his lineage, his family. He never fights what he is, and he gets aggressive, manipulating other Hogwarts professors to split his soul *wink, wink* into Horcruxes.

That said, there are similarities between the two that I see. Voldemort’s pieces of soul both were and weren’t sentient. Contained in objects, each Horcrux had a kind of survival instinct. They chittered. And, when opened, the full brunt of his nasty soul came to bear. The journal, too, is possibly the best example of a sentient part of Voldemort’s soul, for when it was opened, a “shade” of his personality came out. How those shades manifested did vary somewhat, but they were all evil. In part, because the Horcruxes were made by committing acts of murder so that he could survive.

The Scientist in 9, for purposes of comparison, did something similar. Instead of acting on malice, his self-preservation was bound to his desire for redemption and to restore humanity to the world. When the Scientist split his soul, it was with the intent to save humanity. Each of his “Horcruxes” were rag dolls, with their own unique personalities, shapes, and — more importantly — motives. The conflict in 9 isn’t just an outward one, between the Matrix-like robots and the rag dolls, it’s also inward, too. The Scientist, in some respects, is fighting himself to survive.

What I liked about the film now, was the layers of storytelling present in the visual effects. Color, for example, is very important to this movie, as is texture and light and the shape of the rag doll’s eyes. There is a very specific attention to detail here, and I’m appreciative of that. I also really love the way that the alchemy was presented, because the whole point of this film is that the Scientist didn’t know if he was going to be successful. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know where I’m coming from if you watch the ending again. Too, that ending scene? Hugely important. Even the shape used — which forms a pentagram — is important in the overall scheme of things. (e.g. Fibonacci sequence, five wounds for the Christ figure on the cross, etc.)

For all these reasons and more, I feel that 9 is one of those movies where it’s worth watching again. If you see it on the first time, sure there’s a story there. But watch it on the second or third time, and more details come to light. The main plot IS clear; it’s not reinforced over and over and over again like some movies today are. I will say that if you’re watching on the first time, though, put down your phones, tables, and instruments of distraction. It’s a movie with an interesting message, and I’m glad I’ve added it to my collection.

New Release: Bucking the Tiger

Bucking the Tiger

Out in the black, a friend who pays back what they owe is as rare as a fresh strawberry. The Crew arrives on Renao just in time to witness the life drain out of Annie Foy’s body before she could settle up her debt. Sheriff Leonard Cao suspects the murderer is taking part in a high-stakes game of cards at the Shenandoah Rush casino and needs the Crew’s help to crack the case. Was it Sharklip Shen, the Triad gangster who controls the casino? Was Big Cassie Sagira, the Companion with a secret, responsible? Butch Guying, a known killer and Browncoat raider? Or perhaps Annie ran afoul of the mysterious Alliance officer known only as The Colonel?

New today, Bucking the Tiger is a brand new Echoes of War Episode for your gaming table. I developed this adventure, and Rob Wieland wrote it. Shiny!

Mo*Con and Writing the Other

Galactic Starry Space

Mo*Con is a gathering of writers and fans in Indianapolis that’s put together by my friend Maurice Broaddus. This year’s theme was writing the other. I had a wonderful time and was anxious to have the discussion about writing the other, because it directly impacts my original work. You see, this has always been important to me for many reasons, and I’ve struggled with the conversations that have been happening on the internet. There’s a lot of anger, hurt feelings, and strong opinions that come from many different perspectives in circulation, and few solutions. There are people who believe that I (meaning writers who share a similar background to myself), can’t and shouldn’t write characters who hail from different ethnic heritages or cultures. There are folks who think that I should step back, and just let a person of color write the story I want to write, and take a safer route.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments against writing the other. Too many. It’s forced me to freeze up on occasion, because what if I get it wrong. What if I piss somebody off. What if… And that anxiety that I have comes from a very personal, very challenging set of experiences that I have with the subject in general. Experiences that spur me to write about all different kinds of people, to spend the time on research and reading, to read and continue reading unique perspectives in storytelling, to pore through lots and lots of history books. Though all that may be true? None of that means anything because the most important thing — in fact the ONLY THING — that matters is how the other is reflected in the stories I write. All the research in the world doesn’t mean crap unless I’m applying that and, in the absence of telling stories, that’s what I do. Obsess and research and obsess some more.

What Mo*Con did for me, was to say: “Yes, write the other. But be considerate.” Okay, I’m pretty sure I have the considerate part down. “And, that includes thinking about your audience.” That little gem, which came from Chesya Burke, really nailed it for me. Who your audience is explains a LOT about the response. It isn’t just a story, mind, it’s a story that different people will identify with. This is what the internet has done. It’s highlighted that not all readers hail from the same demographic. If I am writing, and I picture my audience is mostly readers like myself, then I don’t have to worry necessarily about how an Italian-American woman will respond to a Jamaican character. I do, however, need to worry about how a Jamaican reader might react to seeing a character like her in my stories. To figure that out, it’s as simple as finding beta readers who can read those stories and tell me what I did right or wrong.

Avoiding stereotypes, to me, is just common sense because that’s the least I can do. But the idea that I shouldn’t write other and diverse characters because I don’t share someone’s cultural background is ludicrous. I am not afraid to write the other. I am afraid, however, to get it wrong — and guess what? I will. I will screw that up, just like I’ll screw something else up in my stories. Maybe I get a fact wrong or a translation or a character description. I’m not writing to be perfect, mind, I can never be that. Never. And I’m okay with that, really. I just don’t want to deeply offend anyone, but at the same time I’m not going out of my way to piss people off.

Having positive, supportive people around me does help, too, which is another reason I am deeply grateful for the Mo*Con experience. If anything, that’s quite possibly the most important thing to take away from this. It’s having the right people around me, to support my efforts and my writing, to not be so negative or dismissive. The internet can be a wondrous thing, but especially when it comes to topics like this? Comments (from both strangers and people you know) can introduce insecurity and more reasons not to write — and I think there’s quite enough of those, thank you. Instead, I seek reasons to say “YES!” starting with one story (and one reader) at a time.

    Mood: Blargh.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… Well, there was that one.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Snoring.
    In My Ears: Noise-cancelling headphones are glorious.
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: A book I put down. It suxx0red.
    Movie Last Viewed: Nine
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

Packing Up the Office

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

I am back from C2E2. Back from Mo*Con. Two new releases are debuting shortly, and I’ve got more in the hopper — but my free time is now occupied with packing, working out (after airport debacle starting a running program titled “YOUR CONNECTION IS IN 15 MINUTES”), and not getting burned by the day star. (Also, sending “Thank Yous” and other manners of social importance, for I am pre-occupied with many things that have nothing to do with the human space, but everything to do with story-based obsessions.)

To make light of this move, which requires going through my books and comics and games and toys and important worldly possessions? I shall post pictures of THINGS IN MY OFFICE.

To be super-timely… This poster of the Millennium Falcon has graced my walls since I first HAD a personal space to write. Yes, this is the original Star Wars Insider poster from longer-than-I-care-to-admit-ago.

1993 Star Wars Insider Poster

I have many other things on my walls, but as I am lazy with Real LifeTM matters, decals allow me to avoid this thing called “painting.” Keith Haring is one of my favorite artists, and I picked up some wall decals from IKEA a few years back. Here are some iterations that are currently available for sale: Apartment Therapy’s Keith Haring Decal Recs. I can, however, vouch that IKEA’s Wall Decals do in fact stick. The space invaders kinda rock; although I’d like to see Tim Burtonesque scrolls on my walls.

That’s it for today. But yes, the next few months are FLASH! WHOA-OHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

    Mood: I’m back in the saddle again.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I didn’t count. There may have been a martini or two.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Airport shuffle.
    In My Ears: WHO IS SKYPING ME NOW ZOMG?
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: A book I put down. It suxx0red.
    Movie Last Viewed: Scratches head. Cannot remember.
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

New Release: Mortal Remains for Hunter the Vigil

Mortal Remains Cover

As the Prey Evolves…

Everywhere you turn, a vampire eats some poor factory worker. Werewolves shred cars. Witches curse the innocent. Serial killers devastate communities.

But what about the stranger aspects of the World of Darkness?

Mortal Remains picks up where we left off with Night Stalkers, Spirit Slayers, Witch Finders, and Slashers. In Mortal Remains, we explore the Vigil as it pertains to mummies, changelings, prometheans, demons, and sin-eaters.

So Too Must the Hunter…

Inside Mortal Remains, you’ll find:

  • Fiction and ideas for bringing these strange monsters into your Hunter: The Vigil chronicle.
  • New Dread Powers to represent their fearsome arsenals.
  • New Compacts and Conspiracies.
  • Conversions to adapt Hunter: The Vigil’s rules to be compliant with The God-Machine Chronicle’s rules updates.

Mortal Remains is available in digital at DriveThruRPG.com. The print edition will be released soon! I got the chance to edit this supplement and write/design the interstitial fiction for it. WOO!

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