Remembering Alan Rickman

Alan-Rickman-zv-alan-rickman-6916293-1280-1024I honestly have no words.

No, wait. I do.

Fuck cancer.

I am still processing the life and death of David Bowie, and then this morning I saw it pop up on Facebook. I was trying to confirm it before I said anything to Pip, but then it downed on me: the news was just breaking. Alan Rickman, star of stage and screen, had died of cancer at 69. Identical to David Bowie.

I’m going to say it again. Fuck cancer. (#becausePGH)

I’ve been a fan of Alan Rickman’s work for decades. He raised the bar for villains in Die Hard, and sure, that’s what everyone knows him best for; but I still recall watching him in Sense and Sensibility and thinking, “This is Hans Gruber…and this time, he’s totally stealing this movie!” As I recall, Sense and Sensibility was marketed more as a vehicle for Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. The movie also gave Kate Winslet a lovely introduction to American audiences. It was Rickman’s Colonel Christopher Brandon, though, that completely won over hearts everywhere. Any movie Rickman appeared in could be promised at least one solid performance; and when you read his biography and see the amount of accolades he received for his work over the decades, it’s no surprise whatsoever as to why we loved him.

This is really too much. I’m at a loss.

So I’m going to let Alan Rickman speak for me… Continue reading

The Stars Look Very Different Today: A Tribute to David Bowie

IMG_5998Usually when an artist, actor, or celebrity of note dies, the alert gives a quick one line explanation of exactly why you should know this person. “John Q, backup singer for the Flying Wallabees…” or “Adele McManohan, artist of the painting Godzilla in Spring…”—something like that.

This morning, I looked at my phone and read the alert.

David Bowie dies of cancer aged 69.

No preface. No lead-in. No explanation as to what he was famous for. Just—boom.

And not under “Entertainment” but “Top Stories.”

That’s how big Bowie was. The man lived a life in the arts for five decades. He pushed boundaries, lived a life both dangerous and glorious, and he continued to do what he loved right up to his death.

And yet I have not always been a fan of David Bowie. Continue reading

Don’t Make Resolutions. Make Commitments.

 

iStock_000013954253_LargeHere comes the end of 2015. How was it? I’m hoping the year was kind to you. I know that, maybe, there were highs and lows; but I hope the highs were up there and lows not too shallow.

Right now, you’re seeing a lot of blogposts either looking back through 2015 or looking ahead to 2016, and as we close in on the countdown, I wanted to ask you all a favor: Knock it off with the New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s focus on getting shit done. Let’s make commitments for 2016. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Star Wars: A Spoiler-Free Reaction to The Force Awakens

 

Tee-70sHi, Star Wars. It’s been a long time since I’ve reached out to you like this, so I don’t know if you remember me or not. I was that pudgy nine-year old kid who met you back in 1977. The trailers (although back then I just called them “commercials”) scared me a bit because there was this terrifying guy in a black mask that looked like a nasty piece of work, so I wasn’t sure if you and I would get along. My older brother told me I had to see you, so I did.

I went back to the theatres another 39 times in the year you were in Richmond. I saw you at Cloverleaf Mall. I saw you at Chesterfield Mall. I saw you at the Ridge Cinemas. I saw you at the Capitol Theatre. The best time, though, was at the Bellwood Drive-In. At the drive-in, I made a great audio recording of the movie (so I could play it in the background while playing with the toys) and I saw previews for this thing called a “sequel,” The Empire Strikes Back. I have memories of my mom dropping me off at an afternoon matinée and Christmas shopping while I sat through two showings back-to-back. I collected the original figures, all twelve of them. (The Jawa was the toughest find.) I sent in the proof-of-purchase seals to Kenner for my free Boba Fett. I got the toys all the way up to Return of the Jedi. (Too many toys to try and collect.) I remember getting you on VHS and watching you over and over. I knew the dialog. I read every issue of Bantha Tracks. And I remember in May 25, 1983 when my dad (completely out-of-the-blue) took me out of school and bought us tickets for your first showing of Return of the Jedi.  Some of my best years were spent with you in a galaxy far, far away.

If you remember me now, you’re probably surprised by this letter. I’m writing to say “I’ve missed you.” Last night reminded me of that. And what we’ve been through. Continue reading

I’m a “Real” Fan of Star Trek…and That’s Not a Good Thing.

I ranted on Chuck’s Facebook thread (sorry, Chuck…) concerning yet another dust-up over Star Wars. Thing is, this brouhaha brought up a few memories worth sharing. These are memories about me being a hardcore fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, and about hardcore fans of Doctor Who

…and how that can sometimes be a problem.

See, what’s happening within the Star Wars fandom—in the wake of other “real fan” movements—is nothing new. It’s just more public. “Real” fans who draw lines in the sand, piss all over a movie poster or toy collection (mint-in-box, of course), and claim to be the Keepers of the Sanctity of Insert-Your-Favorite-Science-Fiction-Sacred-Cow-Here, thanks to social media and the Internet, are making their voices heard; and are exhorting to extreme measures to protect their Precious.

To understand just how dangerous a mentality this is, you can take a look at my own experiences. Experiences where I was on both the receiving and the giving end of this kind of “real” fandom.

Let me take you back to the 1990’s. I’m thinking the summer of 1996. Yeah, that sounds about right… Continue reading

The “A-ha!” Moment in Writing

 

You see this?

BrickWall1

If for some reason you don’t, this is a brick wall. I sometimes come across them when I’m writing. Nothing—and I mean, nothing—is more frustrating than knowing the direction you want a story to go, but you are staring at this instead:

BrickWall1

This sucks.

I felt like I’d been staring at one of these with The Ghost Rebellion. Don’t get me wrong. I have an idea of where Pip and I want to head with this next Ministry adventure, but I found myself staring at that wall, thinking “All right, I know where I am at presently. I know the next point I need to reach. How do I get there?” I am working the grey cells, running bullet points from notes, setting up scenes, asking questions I’ve written on the white board again and again… Continue reading

4 Things that Star Wars Fans Should Be More Upset About than Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath

 

chuck-wendig-aftermathSo, if you might have heard, author Chuck Wendig released a book.

Chuck is the author behind Star Wars: Aftermath, the first (of three) books bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Since its release, both Jedi and Sith alike are losing their midichlorian-laced shit over this book.

The common threads amongst haters are:

  • Chuck wrote the story in 3rd person present tense. Very different from previous Extended Universe books.

    • In Aftermath, we meet a character that is gay.

    • This is Star Wars done in the style of Wendig. If you have not read some of his other works like Blackbirds or Zeroes, this is a very different approach.

    • There is an unexpected crossover between new Star Wars character Norra Wexley and Marvel favorites, Rocket Raccoon & Groot.

Okay, I might have totally made up that last one, but those other gripes are what a lot of panties twisted in special knots only learnt at Jedi Summer Camps. After reading thinly-veiled attempts at hiding homophobia or anti-Disney sentiments behind various “This is bad writing…” comments, I’m a bit stunned. Star Wars fans are pissed over a gay character and Chuck’s style? Seriously? After everything we’ve dealt with across six movies?

Over the decades, we fans have weathered some serious missteps. And no, I’m not talking about:

  • Midichlorians
  • Jar-Jar Binks
  • The feeble attempts to have Han Solo appear to shoot in self-defense

We’ve talked about those (and continue to talk about them) at length. What I’m talking about is the kind of writing or direction that should have made fans call them out to the center of the octagon, but I’ve rarely seen happen. If you really want to be pissed off about something in the Star Wars universe, have you considered… Continue reading

Post Mortem: The Unsolved Mystery of True Detective, Season 2

True-Detective-Season-2-Vince-VaughnI’ve really been struggling with this.

I am trying to get my words down as eloquently and succinctly as possible. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

When I come to this blog, I bestow advice, make commentary on the world, and express opinions in such a manner that is professional (or at least represents my professionalism) and reflects this command over the English language that I have been blessed with. However, I find myself really having a tough time with this.

There’s really no other way to put it…

Sweet crap, that was terrible.

Maybe some details are needed at this point… Continue reading

Watch That First Step: Starting New Projects (and Yes, It’s Okay to Be Scared Shitless)

TheDiamondConspiracyI’ve been writing in The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for almost five years now. Five wonderful years. Every time I sit down at the keyboard to reconnect with Eliza, Wellington, Bruce, Brandon, and the crew, it’s like reconnecting with old friends from high school and college. No time has passed. We’re cracking jokes. It’s a real synergy that—I won’t lie—is a tad addictive. I feel as if this world has become my port in a storm, an oasis in the desert; and I genuinely love these people and this world.

Here’s the thing, though—Pip and I are starting something new. Amidst a flurry of D.I.Y. projects undertaken while the Boom is away at summer camp, we started a title that is a complete departure from steampunk. Yes, that is what people know us for, but a solid writing career isn’t based on hitching your wagon to one series and then you’re done. Do you want to be the writer known for that one series, or do you want to have one of those careers where people love your work no matter what world it is set in? This is why Pip and I have taken those first steps in developing a new series, and I am scared shitless. Continue reading

Sometimes, It’s Not About Making the Sale

New York City at nightNext week, my wife of infinite awesome and I are heading up north to New York for a writer’s conference. It is the Writers Digest Conference, and we are heading up there to talk about two things we do very well:

  • Steampunk
  • Social Media & Content Marketing

Now, here’s the thing. There are going to be a lot of writers at this conference. This is an event where writers of varying backgrounds—fiction, non-fiction, beginners, seasoned veterans—go to pitch their ideas and perfect their approach to business. This isn’t really a “con” like RavenCon or Balticon, but this is an honest-to-God, professional, industry conference. No cosplayers. (But we will get punked up for the Steampunk panel, sure!) No panels on who would win in a fight—Batman or Superman. (Supes.) Less fans of our writing and more people who want to be professional writers. (Awww yeah, it’s business time!) This is a very different dynamic than a book event at a teashop or a steampunk convention. This is an event where writers are learning about the business of books. Continue reading