The Signal Goes Dark: RIP SFSignal

SFSignal has been an important part of my morning routine for years now. It was my go to site for everything science fiction and fantasy since I first encountered it many years ago. On Thursday, SFSignal published its last post. The signal has gone dark.

SFSignal will be deeply missed by the community. But I am confident that the spirit of the site will live on as John DeNardo and all those who made it possible go on to new horizons.

Spectre: The Review

Last night, I finally watched Spectre. This surprisingly complex film has quickly become one of my favorite Bond films.

I write surprisingly complex because one does not expect much complexity from a Bond film. Bond gets briefing, uncovers villain’s plans (of which some inkling may or may not be known prior to briefing), and foils it soon after being assigned the mission. Most bond films do not go far beyond that formula. Spectre is far more than that.

Of course, there is the standard plot formula, it wouldn’t be a Bond film without it. But there is more.There is the further exploration of Bond’s history (which only the Craig films have tackled). There is the M driven subplot in which he tries to preserve MI-6 with both Bond and Max Denbigh trying to shutter it. Moneypenny and Q are pulled by their loyalties to both M and Bond. Madeleine Swann confronts her past and her complicated relationship with her nefarious father. Said father has his own private war with you know who using Bond as his proxy. There is so much going on. I love it.

With such complexity, one would fear that director Sam Mendes would get bogged down and the film would become too busy. No. The film never struggles with juggling so many plots.

The acting is very good. From Craig’s always outstanding performance to Dave Bautista’s amazing physical presence, I think the entire cast did a marvelous job.

I love this movie. I want to buy it. Like now.

But the movie isn’t without flaws. Spoilers may be ahead. You are warned.

I, personally, am not fond of many of the nostalgic call backs. Ben Whishaw’s Q is markedly different from Desmond Llewellyn’s Q. Why put Q (BW) in the lab producing gadgets when his true talent lies in his computer skills? (In fact, I wonder why Q could not have taken on Denbigh’s role as the creator of the Nine Eyes program.) And do not get me started on Chrisoph Waltz cosplaying Donald Pleasance. That may be the most iconic rendering of Blofeld, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid.

Those annoyances aside, I really loved this movie. Like I said, I want to go out and buy it now.

 

What I’ve Learned

What have I learned in the almost three months since my last post?

Writing is a year round endeavor, not a stressful thirty day slog in November with an army of writer’s blocks to contend with.

I am a planner. But my planning is by the seat of my pants.

I have a lot of ideas. These ideas could develop into any number of stories. Finding the right one is a pain.

Patience is a virtue for a writer. It sometimes takes a long while to get a needed insight into an idea or work in progress to make it actually work out.

A project that looks easy at first glance is often anything but in the actual writing.

I need to learn not to be so rigid when it comes to my projects.

 

Defeat

National Novel Writing Month is a bust. I didn’t even get off the ground.

I intended to write The Journey. But challenges rose up that forced me to rethink my plans for the project. And, in a further bit of pain in my rear, I’m questioning my overall plans for several of my projects. Theme of my life, it seems.

So, where do I go from here?
That is what I’m working on.

I still want to write The Journey, but I also want to limit any “actual” portal fantasy to just the multi world epic I’m planning. I really don’t know what to do, here. Yet.

The Magic Project has gotten bigger and bigger, assimilating more and more projects. I don’t know if I like this. Do I want to write a mammoth series or limit myself to smaller works (if you can call about 1,500 pages for a trilogy small)?

The truth is I really need to go back and figure out what I want to do. Maybe I’ll have better answers before the year ends.

 

October Plans

I’m not going to be doing “31 Days of Post” this year. Instead, I want to prepare for participation in National Novel Writing Month. Will I post during the next two months? Yes, hopefully. I plan to write about my progress in writing my first novel. And I plan to blog and rant when I feel the urge.

Turmoil For the Studio in My Mind

I am shocked that I haven’t posted anything in almost two months. Life has been very hectic these past few months (I’ve grown to hate summer vacation and having to deal with rowdy nieces and nephew). Thankfully, school starts next week, so I’ll be free of my nieces most of the day and I can get some work done on both the blog and my various writing projects. Speaking of my writing projects, I’ve been frustrated at the lack of progress I’ve had over the past few months. I have ideas. I know where I want to go with several projects. But getting down to writing? No such luck.

As I get ready to finally get some writing done, the mental studio I have in my head is in turmoil. (As always happens when I feel ready to start the writing process). I struggle with the need to write short stories. I don’t know if I should write novels, series, or super novels. Characters are wanting to move to other projects, And I’m likely a grimdark writer.

The portal fantasy(ies) have returned to being a bane for me. There are three project ideas I have: a sword and sorcery/ planetary romance type story that could be a standalone or expand into a series of (maybe) standalone novels, a definite standalone novel that is rather literary, and an epic fantasy that features a (rather) contained multiverse of a few worlds. I like ideas one and three with idea two being jettisoned as something I’m not sure I want to write, too literary I think. The sword and sorcery/ planetary romance project is more personal and deals with some issues I have with the genre. The epic project is more colonial in theme. For a while, I didn’t see the two ideas melding together well. One project has Earth as home to the protagonists, but I want Earth nowhere near the colonial story. I know I’m being skittish. And I have found a way to work the two ideas together. I just don’t know if the combined project will become to unwieldy.

Furthermore, Honor Gale looks to jump ship to the portal fantasy from the magic project. Why exactly? I don’t know. Time will tell, I think.

With Gale moving to Project Portal, I need to find something to do with Jett and Tyler.

Which leads me to Project Redwind, Project Magic, and Project Epic(?).

An epic fantasy featuring superheroes is far more difficult to write than I imagined it could be. I want to emulate, as much as I can, a long comic book run (like Wolfman on New Teen Titans or Claremont on Uncanny X-Men). The problem with this idea is that there are a lot of stories forming a, perhaps not coherent, whole. Can this be done in novel format, even with multiple novels? I don’t know. Furthermore, I want to try and differentiate this epic fantasy from any inspiration it may accrue from Marvel or DC. I know what I want to do, I just don’t know how to do it.

Project Magic is going well. I’ve hit upon where I want to go with this project. I just need to stop myself from researching myself to death. That comes from wanting more realistic and multicultural magical traditions. I also need to decide exactly how realistic I want to be.

Project Magic spawned out of a secondary epic fantasy I’ve wanted to write for years. For a time, I thought Project Magic supplanted the earlier project. That does not seem to be the case any longer. Project Magic has become, perhaps, more traditionally epic than Project Epic (I need a better name). I won’t go into too much detail with this project at the moment. Maybe some other time.

But where should Tyler and Jett go? I don’t know. I need to figure out where each project is going. I’ve already written how Tyler and Jett would fit in Project Redwind. I’m not sure how I’d fit them in Project Magic. And Project Epic will be, honestly, a home coming for the two (under different names, of course).

This is just a small sample of the turmoil going on inside my mental studio. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get everything back on track soon. Time will tell.

Outing Iceman

It has been a few months since the younger time displaced version of Bobby Drake/ Iceman was outed in the pages of All New X-Men. The resulting controversy is notable not so much for the fact that Iceman is gay (even though there was and is some of that) but the handling of Iceman’s outing. I wrote about this issue briefly in my last post, but I’ve decided to expand on some points. The important thing, though, is that I still have problems with how Iceman’s outing was handled.

There are two main problems at the moment regarding Bobby Drake’s outing (besides Jean Grey’s involvement): One, the lack of a parallel narrative regarding the elder Iceman. Two, the abruptness of the younger Iceman’s outing.

It is important to remember that LGBT people come out at every age. (Having come out at seventeen, it is something I myself often forget. See my issue with Mark Matthews’s coming out in Coming Out on Top for an example). Iceman comes from (if my memory is right) a very conservative background. It would not be surprising that he would be closeted and in denial for a significant part of his life. This is equally true of many other gay and lesbian superheroes and supervillains who have come out like Obsidian and Rictor.

Personally, I feel that the elder Iceman should start the realization process (if not the coming out process) concurrently to the younger Iceman’s journey. Yes, the elder “straight” character confronted by his “younger” gay self is an interesting story. But it is also fraught with narrative danger. Especially given the general abruptness of the storyline.

Again, Iceman’s outing should either have been foreshadowed or explored in more depth as a subplot. This is one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to LGBT characters in comics. Creators who genuinely want to diversify their casts tend to out with little buildup or fall out. Characters come out. They don’t start the realization process or build the courage to accept themselves and come out. LGBT characters also rarely get to be explored after acceptance when the weight of the closet has been lifted.

The abruptness of declaring or outing a character as gay with little buildup or fall out leads, I think, to a general trend of pushing LGBT characters to the background. Has Bendis done anything interesting with Benjamin Deeds yet? Has Anole been featured more besides a recent oneshot? Has Striker appeared recently? (I could also ask where the hell the Young Avengers are).

Maybe I’m being too harsh here, I can admit that. Perhaps the push to the background has more to do with which characters the creative teams wish to work with. Maybe no one wants to work with those characters? Maybe in the future a creative team will? (Thinking back to my own Teen Titans idea, I would have favored Gear pretty hard. And I would have raged if I had to use Superboy or Bart Allen’s Kid Flash).

Another problem may be the fact that Marvel, favoring team books, has a general problem characterizing all of the cast members in the various titles. Especially given the nature of contemporary comic book writing.

Regardless, it is ultimately the choice of the creative team to decide who they write about. The buck stops with them and the editors.

I just hope Iceman’s story doesn’t fall to the background. Given the events of All New X-Men 41, I don’t hold out much hope.

Updates: Potpourri Style

It has been a while since I blogged. I should probably update. Many of the updates in this post should have their own, larger, posts, but I’m watching my nephew and step niece at the moment.

Avoiding the Puppies

I wish I could say that I have not near obsessively followed the latest fight of the recurrent plague that afflicts science fiction and fantasy fandom. But I have managed to keep my fingers from writing anything about it. Too many pixels have already been wasted on this seemingly never ending fight.

The only thing I will say is that I am wasting my time on this. I should be writing.

That is all.

Late to Iceman’s Coming Out Party

A few months back, the younger version of Iceman from All New X-Men was dragged out of the closet by Marvel Girl. The revelation did not come without controversy. Thankfully, the majority of the blowback originated from criticism of how the story played out, rather than the revelation that Iceman is gay.

It has taken me quite a while to get around to reading the issue at hand. I follow All New X-Men through the trades as provided by my local library. So, I’m way behind.

Personally, I think Iceman’s outing could have been handled better. It needed foreshadowing. It needed build up. And it needs to go somewhere. Not at the end of a run with the future of the character (not to say the least about the X-Men as a whole) uncertain to say the least.

What I want to know is: what has happened to Benjamin Deeds since his coming out? Anything?

This is one of my problems with LGBT characters in comics. What happens after coming out? Do the characters continue to be interesting or do they fade to the background while other, straighter, characters get more attention?

What has happened to Benjamin Deeds, Anole, Striker, and all the others?

I’ll stop myself now before I go into a full blown rant. But I should return to this issue again, soon.

Primary World Epic Fantasy?

I want to write an epic fantasy set in the real world. I have two options for this: an expansion of my magic project and a return to my superhero project.

Expanding the magic project should not be difficult. I already have a good idea of how I’m going to do it.

My only problem is that I don’t want to create a “real” magical tradition and force all magic into that provincial box. I want to use as many traditions as possible. Which means I’m going to have to do a lot of research in order not to fuck up.

As for the superhero project, I want to write it. I just don’t know what I want to write. I’m not happy with my original plan. But I am, actually, fond of what my Teen Titans idea could lead to.

World Building Modern Fantasies

As much as I want to write a primary world epic fantasy, I also want to write an epic fantasy set in a more modern secondary world. I like ancient history a lot. Indeed, my portal fantasy is set on a more “ancient” inspired world. But I prefer modern history far more (when I wanted to be an English professor, I intended to focus on modern and postmodern literature). So it goes as no surprise that I want to write fantasies inspired by the times I love. Now what ideas do I have. . .

The End

This is it for now. But I’m going to try and post more regularly.

Checking Out on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

I am of two opinions regarding Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale. My initial opinion, buoyed by the action, was one of “holy shit!”. However, after contemplating the finale over the course of the night and morning, my opinion has changed to one of “this is terrible.” This change may even be enough to make me question whether or not I want to return for a third season.

The biggest problem I have with “S.O.S. Parts One and Two” lies with the character of Jiaying. When she first appeared, she gave off the appearance of being a strong and caring mother figure for generations of Inhumans. But with the final three episodes, she becomes more and more the love child of Magneto and Selene. Her personality changes so radically and drastically, with so little foreshadowing, that one wonders what the show writers were smoking.

I understand why Jiaying is made an ever increasingly more monstrous villain. It is the only way of keeping Skye/ Daisy in S.H.I.E.L.D. and not joining the Inhumans. It is still an example of terrible storytelling.

Rather than the simplistic good S.H.I.E.L.D vs. evil Jiaying and her misled Inhumans we get (mind you the two S.H.I.E.L.D.s story arc has the exact same problem), why not craft a more nuanced and problematic conflict?

The B plot is marginally better than the A plot. My only problem is that Ward is still alive. The show really needs to move on from him. Ward is no Angel. Nor is he Spike. It is time to move on.

Will I be back for season three? I don’t know. I didn’t care for the first season until the HYDRA arc at the end of the season. I’ve watched the whole second season and feel incredibly let down. In the end, I’ll see if I care enough to keep watching.

A Short Update on Works

I have two major flaws as a writer. One, I have a lot of story ideas that demand immediate attention. Two, I, for whatever reason, dislike the possibility that I may repeat myself even in the slightest degree. I have been crippled by an inability to focus on one project to see it through to fruition. Those projects that manage to hold my attention never seem to escape massive textual reconstructive surgery. The perfect example is the portal fantasy I have been struggling with for months (years really). I have had several ideas that I have toyed with. But there can only be one. . . Thank you, Highlander. I am working on the problems I have. I hope I can at least no longer be debilitated by them.

I believe that I have come to a workable solution to my “Portal Quest Frustration.” Each of my ideas are interesting and worthy of exploration. I am going to write two portal fantasies. One of them will be more sword and sorcery/ planetary romance while the other is firmly epic fantasy of the multiple volumes sort. I will start with the ss/ pr story because that one is far better to start a career with. It can be a one and done novel with the possibility that I can expand Tyler and Jett’s adventures. (I may also incorporate some of my comic book ideas into this story as well.) The epic story will be set aside to develop because I recognize that I need to create several worlds’ worth of cultures (that won’t include Earth). This future narrative will incorporate some elements of my Two Cities idea (especially the anthropological focus).

The contemporary magic project has also been giving me problems over the past few months. I have the idea. I know where I want to go with it. But I’m not passionate about it. It is too literary and lacks adventure. There are ways I can make it more adventurous, but I don’t know if I really want to give this project the possibility of a series (though I do think there is an original take on the occult in the real world here). Time will tell, I think, with this project.

Maybe I’ve been so bound by a desire to map everything out that I’m causing more personal harm than good? Why the hell am I even thinking about trilogies and series when I haven’t even gotten off the ground yet? Perhaps I should just write novels that may or may not be expandable sequels. Let the market decide, ultimately.

I like where I’m at. I can’t wait to get started.

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