Snowpiercer: The Best Science Fiction Film of the Year (that Hollywood wanted to fail)

snowpiercer_ver20_xlgIf you’re a fan of film, especially science fiction and film, you may have heard of this low budget “art” film, Snowpiercer. Describing it as an art film may insinuate this dystopian action-suspense film carries with it an air of pretension, but give me a moment here. Based on a French graphic novel, a South Korean director assuming the big chair, and featuring an international cast including Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Kang-ho Song, and Ah-sung Ko, Snowpiercer could be one of the most outstanding films of the year. Terrifying, daring, and compelling, this stunning work of science fiction, hailed by critics and science fiction fans, was initially released in eight theatres.

Yes. Eight. As in, not ten.

What. The Hell?!

At the end of this review, this dark tale—in its own way—offers you, the moviegoer, a happy ending. So read on. Continue reading

Tales from a Shock Jockey: We See Them Rollin’, and Hatin’…

truck_rollinCoalWhen I first heard about it, I was convinced it had to be a joke.

It had to be.

No, this is a thing.

On Facebook. On Tumblr. On Instagram.

And now, in the air.

As reported by Vocative, a new protest against President Barack Obama and environmentalists has taken to the streetsRollin’ Coal. The Facebook page reads as “for all the diesel lovers out there” but this community has apparently evolved into a statement against green drivers. How Rollin’ Coal works—keeping it to the basics here—is modifying a pick-up truck to intentionally spew thick soot either from massive exhaust pipes or smoke stacks. The Rollin’ Coal folks call this “Prius Repellant” and post both video and memes celebrating their “victories” on the road. The kits and the modifications, Slate reports, are legal (although the EPA disagrees); but as one Wisconsin vendor tells reporters:

“I run into a lot of people that really don’t like Obama at all. If he’s into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not. I hear a lot of that. To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving them the finger. You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

Modifying your truck to protest clean air initiatives? That’s about as smart as staging a protest of “I don’t like khakis, so I’m going to wear my blue jeans and fart in your face because khakis.” Such is this the latest protest against our President and environmentalists.

Okay, setting aside the American Cancer Society’s findings to diesel exhaust attributing to adverse effects to one’s health, let’s look at another possible reason why people choose EVs. Continue reading

Amazon v Hachette: Round Two (Featuring 100% More Monster Porn!)

20140515-161639.jpgI honestly thought I had said everything I wanted or needed to say about the current face-off between Amazon and Hachette; and when I read John Scalzi’s angle last week, I figured this discussion was done. 

Amazing what complete and utter absurdity writers can kick up within 24 hours.

It started first on Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds.com where he brought to light a petition making the rounds on the Internet.

Well, it’s not really a petition as a petition is defined as “a formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to authority with respect to a particular cause.” This it is more of an open letter to Amazon saying “You are a winner, bro! Keep that up!” with an appeal to independent authors everywhere to sign this, acknowledging why Amazon is so star-spangled awesome.

Here’s how the “petition” closes:

“It is fitting that Independence Day is upon us. Amazon has done more to liberate readers and writers than any other entity since Johannes Gutenberg refined the movable type printing press. With the advent of e-books and the ability to ship paper books to your doorstep in record time and at affordable prices, Amazon is growing overall readership while liberating the voices of countless writers, adding to the diversity of literature. A large percentage of the e-books sold on Amazon are from independent authors. You have validated our decision to write and to publish. Don’t let the wealthiest of writers convince you to turn away.

We urge you to support the company that supports readers and authors. Amazon didn’t ask us to write this letter, or sign it. Amazon isn’t aware that we’re doing this. Because in the end, this isn’t about Amazon. It’s about you, the reader, and the changes you’ve helped bring about with your reading decisions. You are changing the world of books, and you are changing our lives as a result.”

I was trying to process exactly why I would want to add my name to this when, later in the same day, I got a note from the Science Fiction Writers of America, announcing their endorsement of an open letter from New York Times Bestselling Author Douglas Preston. Here’s a selection from this letter the SFWA president is signing and the SFWA Board are inviting members to co-sign:

“Many of us supported Amazon from when it was a struggling start-up. Our books started Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)”

Seriously. This “Pick A Side” bullshit has got to stop. Now. Continue reading

Edge of Tomorrow: Concerning Tom Cruise, Pacific Rim, and Something Original

Last Thursday, Pip and I went to see Edge of Tomorrow, currently playing in theatres. This is the latest summer blockbuster featuring Tom Cruise in what may are calling a sci-fi spin on Groundhog Day. One look at the trailer might make you think that, but there’s also some influences of Starship Troopers, Aliens, and even a nod to D-Day.

hr_Edge_of_Tomorrow_9Yes, the Allies’ Invasion of Normandy. In a Tom Cruise summer science fiction blockbuster.

Edge of Tomorrow, based off the novel and manga, All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, follows Public Relations officer Major William Cage. Tom Cruise’s Cage is the Tom Cruise we know very well—very polished, brilliant smile, and slick in his approach and handling of situations thrown at him. He’s the “face” of the war against Mimics, alien invaders who seem to have an uncanny ability to predict exactly what the United European Forces unleash on the battlefield. This Tom Cruise graces the movie with its presence…

…for about ten minutes.

Much like Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Cruise’s Major Cage is suddenly thrown a curve that lands him in the middle of battle, something his Public Relations job allows him to avoid. After finding himself on the wrong end of a taser, he wakes up at Heathrow Airport, the training camp for the United European Armed Forces. Strapped into an exo-suit, Cage joins J Company in a massive amphibious landing happening on the western coast of France. Led by the inspiring “Full Metal Bitch” Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt), Cage stumbles through the battle only to find himself out of ammo and facing a Mimic up close and personal. The monster leaps on top of him, but (more out of futility and desperation than heroism) Cage takes the alien (and himself) out of commission with a landmine sandwiched between them… Continue reading

Barbecue Zen: A Life Lesson from a Cookout

(photos from Nutty Nuchtchas and Bruce F Press Photography)

10385393_10201495629506364_381941092020939126_nThe week following Balticon 48, my social media feeds could easily be broken down to two topics: retrospectives of the event (which was awesome, by the way, and if you weren’t there—think about being there in 2015) and a variety of perspectives on the #YesAllWomen hashtag. While nostalgic and contemplative the looks back to the Memorial Day Weekend were, it’s been equally disheartening reading stories from people I admire and hold in high esteem like Dr Pamela Gay, Jared Axelrod, Chris Miller, either being victim of or watching others victimized by people who think they are cast in a season of Mad Men. Sure, there are men who behave badly in our culture but I had no idea just how deep this dark, twisted rabbit hole reached.

In this post I want to talk about both. In particular I want to talk about that amazing cookout you may have heard Balticon talk about on Friday night, and what we all can take away from it. Continue reading

Tales from a Shock Jockey: Making EV Courtesy a Common Courtesy

Back in March, Pip and I pulled into the Omni Hotel of Richmond, Virginia for 48 hours of awesome with the James River Writers. I had no doubt we were going to get star treatment from the writing group, and also from the hotel. We have stayed at the Omni of Richmond before and it is a terrific hotel. What happened after I handed over Sterling’s fob, though, made the Omni my favorite hotel in Richmond:

Valet: “I see, Mr. Morris, that you drive a Volt. Would you care to have us plug it in to our charger for you?”

Me: “Why, yes, yes I would!”

Unbeknownst to me, the Omni Hotel had a Level 2 (240v) charger on the property and were offering it to me as a guest. It was a delight to get offered that little perk. An unexpected reward for driving green. Continue reading

You Wanna See Something Really Scary: A Fresh Horror from Tee Morris

twilightIf you remember back in 2012, Pip and I were engaging in an experiment. We never really mentioned what that experiment was all about, and that was on purpose. We wanted to step deeper into the waters of self-publishing and write outside our genres, see how works way out of our known expertise would perform in the wild frontier of digital do-it-yourself storytelling. I created for myself the pen name of “Jonathan Carter” and set out to write stories that—I hoped—would keep people up a night, make readers afraid of the dark, and check the house to make sure they were truly safe.

I’ve never been one for pen names but after two years and little-to-no activity, I went on and said to Pip “I think we’re done with the experiment. How about we go ahead and just kill Jonathan Carter, and I claim those short stories.”

So, I sat down with Photoshop, edited the eCovers, and re-released them into the wild. Within the first twelve hours of being live, one sold.

I’m thinking the loss of the pen name was a good idea.

How would I categorize my horror? I don’t think of myself as a horror writer heavy on the “squick” factor (if you are curious of what the “squick” factor is, think of the works from Clive Barker or film like the Saw series, or Hostel); but I would say the element of a setting or a situation slowly unraveling, and watching what the players do to try and solve or salvage it but wind up making the bad even worse, makes for good horror. It’s a feeling of helplessness, that wild tailspin of trying to make a situation right while knowing there is nothing that can be done, that I believe horror derives from.

While I have just opened up my own private shop here, you can find my works of horror on Amazon: Continue reading

Balticon 48: The Return to Hunt Valley and Revenge of #GymCon

Last year, Pip and I were not in attendance at Balticon, the premier weekend of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. We had been given Featured Guest status at Up in the Æther (now called Steamtopia) so we figured after years (a decade for me!) of attending Balticon, it was time for a change of pace. Detroit was a fantastic town with awesome people, and it was a good weekend all around…

…but yes, it was weird not being in Hunt Valley, Maryland, on Memorial Day Weekend.

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This year, Pip and I are excited to be returning. Unlike other literary events, Balticon offers a track specific to New Media (blogging, podcasting, Facebook, etc.), originally started up by Paul Fischer back in 2005. From that single panel on what a podcast is, the New Media track (which covers production, fan discussions, and live recordings) grew, even earning the nickname “The Other Balticon” which I think is a bit unfair as some of the most talented people — not just the writers, but the creative artists that also speak on the track — I’ve met are all on this track. Over the years, though, Balticon’s amazing staff have integrated the New Media track with other tracks; and this year’s 48th incarnation of the event promises to be a fantastic time!

Here’s where you can find me this weekend… Continue reading

Stranger on a Train: XXVII

After three days of coding and teaching, I’m still walking. I was kind of hoping for that Nick M.F. Fury rescue because, let’s talk real, moments of badassery like that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale are always welcome in life.

I can’t complain (though I did) about the class. Sharpened skills and money through the door, I guess. Not enough, though, for the trip to WorldCon, I’m afraid. Sucks, too, as I wanted to see some friends I’d not seen for a spell, show the Boom the Tower of London and the Globe, and just give Pip and me a moment’s peace.

Maybe things will change. It’s so damn close to call.

Next week is Balticon. Always a good time. I have a schedule in need of posting and I’ll probably get to that over the weekend. Since March, everything’s felt blurry, but Pip and I did all we could for that steampunk title of ours. Now we just have to hope people are still wanting more.

I know I do. I like this ‘verse of cogs, gears, and spies. I don’t want it to end. Not now, anyway.

Almost home. Ready to hit a weekend well-earned with family. Maybe a quick detour to Proper Pie Company on the way back home. And speaking of badassery, I’ve got my weekend off to a good start with this…

What about you? What’s your read this weekend?

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Stranger on a Train: XXVI

Exhausted. I am exhausted…but face a night of class prep.

Maybe I can pick up a few Zs on the way home, but a coding class is life-sucking to say the least. It is just HTML and CSS, and yet I feel like I’ve run a marathon. No, scratch that—I think I’d rather run a marathon than teach a coding class.

Fading, so if Nick Mother Fucking Fury wants to lean out of a military helicopter and rescue my sorry ass, now would be a great time.

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