Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Man of a Thousand Worlds



There once was a man
From a thousand different worlds
Whose feet had felt the sand of a thousand beaches
And whose face was kissed by the sun

Now please don't forget
He was not the fastest man alive
For that was Usain Allen
Whose speed was bar none

Nor was he the strongest ever
Brian Kent held that privilege
Strong as an ox and powerful to boot
He could easily lift a ton

Now please don't claim
He was the smartest man known
That was Albert Strange
For so many galactic mysteries, he had undone

He was not the best pilot
Nor the best shot around
Oliver Yaegar held both those titles
And he'd shoot you just for fun

He was not the most devout
Of that I have no doubt
Lady Constantine certainly knew best
Afterall, she started as a nun

No, this man had traveled
And seen and explored
He knew he was not the best at anything
Not by a long run

And yet, so many turned to him
So many asked him questions
So many wanted to know
Just how he'd begun

He had given Usain his first shoes
And Brian his first weights
He'd talked for hours with Albert
And given Oliver his first gun

He'd wondered upon the universe
about how it fit into a plan
While it helped Lady Constantine settle down
He was never done

No, he wasn't the fastest or the strongest
The smartest or the best
But everyone knew his sparkling eyes
His old grey hairs and his love of a pun

He might be the wisest
Or so many said
But he simply didn't agree
Surely he'd find another one

If anything, he was the most traveled
The man from a thousand worlds
He had experienced so much
More than anyone

But in the end, he was only a man
A man with a love of the worlds
He didn't care for titles
For their beauty could stun

So let the strong be strong
And let the fast be fast
It didn't matter if he had a title
He was already someone

===

(Hello Lovelies. I hope you enjoyed my terrible little poem. I intend to tweak it and play with it to make it a little more manageable, but I really liked the concept for this story. If and whenever I am satisfied with it, I'll probably commission my wife to help me make it into a children's book. I feel like pictures will make all the difference here. That said, I hope you have a wonderful day!)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

'Aliens' Movie Adapation Review


If at anytime you felt concerned or worried that the first 'Alien' movie to book adaptation set the bar for what was to come, let me assure you that it was the black sheep of the family. Sitting at the head of the table, on the other hand, is the 'Aliens' adaptation.

Whereas the first one ran far too slow in many parts, the pacing in this story is on the dot. Where there was too little or too much detail in any given scene, 'Aliens' paints a picture and lets you admire it without forcing your face to the canvas. When the original quoted a largely out-of-date screenplay for a movie so many were familiar with, this adaptation adds select scenes that were left out of the original movies but only so as to benefit the story and not confuse the reader.

To those unfamiliar with the 'Aliens' movie, this story picks up 50+ years after the original 'Alien' story. Ellen Ripley, the last survivor of the Nostromo disaster highlighted in the first story, is discovered and revived from cryogenic sleep. Despite briefly returning to Earth, Ripley is forcibly thrust back into the terror. Planet LV- 426, now known as Acheron, has since been colonized and begun to be terraformed in the interim, only to mysteriously go dark shortly after Ripley wakes up. Now, with a squad of Colonial Marines at her side, Ripley returns to LV-426 only to discover how truly unprepared even the military is to face the monsters that led to the Nostromo disaster. With time ticking down to destruction and aliens around every corner, Ripley and the few survivors must find a way off of Acheron before the clock hits zero.


To those who have seen the movie, easily some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences include the marines and seeing how the aliens function in a more natural dynamic. The book delivers well on both.

For the marines, the novel expands upon not only interpersonal relationships, but the marines are given more character then is even present in the original movies. Off handed characters like Spunkmeyer and Frost who are forgotten against big characters like Hudson and Sanchez are given more scenes and more personality versus 'stock marines'. Smaller, subtle interactions like Hicks training Ripley are given more personable details and help to show both of these people as human beings, not just survivors. And conniving little shits who are constantly searching for their next big meal ticket like Burke demonstrate their thought process in a way no movie can truly reveal.

The same mastery of omnipotence that can only come from a book delivers well within the context of the Aliens as well. Entire creatures, like the 'worker drones', that were left out of the movie make a sudden appearance and add clarity to several unanswered questions. Certain untold features about how the creatures hunt and immobilize their prey are also expanded upon; namely the creature's 'stingers' that only appear in the original script of the movie. Plus, you get just a taste of what the colonists truly faced when dealing with the scourge that overran them.

The only complaint I can make, and this is a minor one: the language. First, allow me to clarify: while I'm sure any of my regular readers are well enough aware that I can be a fucking foul mouthed motherfucker, I don't have some bizarre love of curse words. That said, one of the most iconic lines of the film is "Get away from her you, bitch!" which, in the adaptation, is altered to "Get away from her youuuuu!" Doesn't quite have the same ring. Pretty much all cursing has been removed, which just seems out of place. The book is by no means child friendly, particularly with people regularly being gutted and eviscerated, so it just seemed an odd choice to do this. While it doesn't truly retract from the experience, it just jumps out as being odd.

With that said, I highly recommend this title. Having read all four (with the other two reviews to come), Aliens was easily my favorite of the series of adaptations. It's well paced, fun, breathtaking, and engaging. It expands upon all the right things, makes addendums to small inadequacies that didn't quite add up, is overall exactly what I'd hope for when I think of a movie to book adaptation. If you enjoy horror and action, give it a read.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'm only Human...


Hello Lovelies,

The other day, I had an interesting question directed my way. I have actually had this question asked a number of times over the last few years, but it's one I never quite understood what the answer actually was. I've reflected on it for a while and think I've come to an answer.

In short: What is your obsession with Aliens?

First to clarify: For the longest time, I've had a veritable hunger for just about anything other worldly and powerful. The Xenomorphs from Aliens and Yautja from Predator are definitely two of my favorite 'big baddies', but I've maintained a fascination for as long as I can remember with monsters, demons, creatures, dragons, zombies, ghosts, vampires...you name it and I probably studied and or obsessed over it during some period of my life. That's not to say this is hugely uncommon, particularly for a literature nerd who reads, writes, and plays dungeons and dragons. But I never understood why.

At first, I thought my like of any of these given creatures, alien or otherwise, stemmed from a sense of power. Of seeing something strong or strange and so unlike those around me. But, after many years of playing with this concept, I realized that the concept of a perfect, powerful character was incredibly boring.

What made them interesting was using them as a foil. A twisted mirror.

I've realized that my love of different threats for lack of a better term, be it paranormal, alien, or otherwise, stemmed not from the creatures themselves but the reflection of humanity that was shown back. What are zombies without survivors that are making it against all odds? What is an alien loose on a ship without men or women fighting to regain the control that is rightfully theirs? What is a dragon without the knight who slays it?

One of my favorite stories as a child and still one of my favorite stories to this day is Beowulf. When introduced to it, I found I was one of three people in my entire class that even liked it and I was the only one who loved it. "I was too simple!" some said. "It's so black and white!" others said. But that was the beauty of it...it wasn't something twisted or strange. It was a story of a man overcoming a monster. The triumph of humanity over the wiles of the world. At least until he got eaten in his old age, but what is the act of being human if not being bound by mortality?

Surely, there are stories out there that expand against these basic concepts. Grendel is an excellent example compared to Beowulf. But I ask you: "Why do we empathize more with Grendel in his own book than we do in Beowulf?" In short, he is given his humanity. A state of being. Of thought and emotion and a scale that we can weigh ourselves against.

Now, I'm likely not saying anything particularly new. Plenty of people have come to similar realizations but there's one thing that I feel gets skipped over often. While it's very easy to paint the canvas with the brush of "reflection" based on observations of mortality, morality, and a basic man compared to beast motif, there's something that seems to be forgotten: imagination.

No matter the beast, the monster, the alien, whatever...all of it stems from the imagination of man. Many can argue that some stories and superstitions have a basis in nature (creatures like a Werewolf), a basis in true human monstrousness (like a Wendigo), and many more...but I ask: "How many of these things do we actually deal with?" Fiction, by definition, is outside of reality. Whether or not something turns out to be true is up for debate, yet everything supernatural, paranormal, alien, monstrous, etc. has a basis not necessarily in reality but in the power of our imagination.

Everything ever. Everything you've ever known and seen and loved and thought of and read and watched and imagined. Everything was born of and created on our little blue and green marble in the sea of nothingness that is space. While they might be formed from observations of worlds beyond, even those observations require leaps of imagination until we can actively get there. Nothing is from outside our own realm of creation. No matter what we find, similar or not to our 'monsters', everything we've ever known or imagined about the world came from us. It came from humanity and their understand of the world, the universe, and themselves.

And I'll be damned if I don't think that's the most amazing thing.

It's incredibly easy to be calloused and cynical; to let yourself swim in the rivers of hate, animosity, and ignorance that have been poisoned by a select few terrible people. But when you really stop and look around and consider what WE have done. We as a species have accomplished so much! We have built and created and helped and done more than you can imagine...more than you could even learn in a single lifetime. No matter what you believe, consider that humans have risen from the dirt and now have their eyes on the stars. On other planets and suns. On other places who have never heard of us or even considered creatures like us.

So, to come full circle: Why do I love Aliens so much? Because it shows me a distant reflection of that which we will become. Survivors. Explorers. Humans who will see the light of another sun and will bend the very fabric of space and the horror of the worst monsters we can imagine to our will. We will be greater than the sum of our parts and those monsters out there are nothing compared to us.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunburnt - Part 1



    With a heaving cough, Jeremiah spit up some of the recycled water. The tepid liquid sprayed across the hard floor of the bunker with an unflattering splat.
    "God DAMNIT!" yelled Peter. "For fuck's sake boy. We ain't got enough of that shit to waste."
    Bleary eyed and nauseous, Jeremiah glanced up at the big doctor. He was big, fat, and mean, but nothing compared to that smell of his. The man seemed perpetually sweat stained and his white coats were regularly tinged brown under his arms and across his chest and back. But that smell...
    "Sorry..." Jeremiah responded meekly, trying not to breath in.
    Whether it was the doctor's horrible body odor or the pneumonia that had made him cough, he wasn't sure. However, trying to choke down the recycled water didn't really help him much either.
    He actually hadn't minded it much for the longest time. But, arguably, he didn't have any other choice. It wasn't until he was in his late teens that someone had managed to find a package of "Arrowhead" bottled water.
    In an instant, his views had been changed. It had been so clean. So pure. While he hadn't been part of it, a scuffle had actually broken out between a few of the others when someone tried to steal a couple of the bottles for themselves.
    And now, drinking this dingy recycled stuff, all he could think about was that pure, clean water and how the stuff in his cup always seemed a little cloudy and like it had an almost metallic aftertaste.
    Peter retrieved a small orange bottle from one of the cabinets and dumped out a fistful of pills. Taking a moment to count them, the doctor turned back and slammed his sweaty, meaty fist into Jeremiah's palm and gave him the pills.
    "Here. Take these. Once a day for the next five days. Take more and you'll die."
    "But what about..."
    "Ain't nothin' I can do about the cough." Peter said shortly. "Suck it up. The medicine will make it go away soon enough."
    Jeremiah wanted to protest, but he didn't feel like he had the will to. Besides, if he opened his mouth and had to breath in the doctor's stink one more time, he just might cough up a lung.
    A few moments later, he was out in the hall and slowly making his way back to his quarters. His body felt heavy, his chest hurt, and he felt like someone had strapped a cast iron weight to his forehead.
    At least he didn't have to work for a week.
    Passing by the great recycling plant, he couldn't help but glance inside. He could see his other coworkers hard at work processing the facility's waste into something a little more usable. More often than not, it would be turned into compost for the farms. Sometimes, however, the more nutrient rich 'returns' were directly reprocessed into foods.
    Even after just a moment of smelling the putrid air, Jeremiah's lungs began to burn and he had to duck back into the hall. He had wanted to say hi to everyone, but decided it was better not to risk it.
    Being midday, the halls were mostly empty. His footfalls, weak and slow as they are, echoed hollowly off the metal walls. Each "clunk" of his steps echoed through his sick body and made his joints ache worse. It would be quiet in his quarters because of his carpet and rugs, but such was not a luxury afforded to the general walkways. They were nothing but bare metal.
    Jeremiah had just rounded the corner near his home when he decided to stop for a minute and take a wheezing breath.
    As he heaved, he glanced about and caught sight of the window. Outside was the same as ever: bright, sunny, and with winds whipping about violently. Sometimes torrential storms of water or ice would batter the barren landscape outside and help replenish the bunker's water supplies, but it was often years between any rain.
    No, the norm was just the constant, blinding sunlight. If it wasn't for the heavy tint and insulation, the windows would be too much and sometimes they were forced to lower the blast shields when solar flares became too bad. Still, it was strangely comforting to see outside, even if he'd never been out there.
    Jeremiah continued on, his mind having drifted to the thought of sunlight he'd never feel rather than the pneumonia in his lungs, and made his way to his quarters.
    Finally, with a heavy sigh, he collapsed on his bed and closed his eyes. Stretching ever so slightly, he set the fistful of pills down on his bedside table, save but one that he quickly and dryly forced down. Within minutes, he was fast asleep, his dreams a muddled mess of aimlessly wandering a sun scorched planet where his footsteps rang hollow off non-existent walls.

---

(Hello Lovelies. As you may have noticed, this is part one of what I expect will be a three part story...however I guess we'll find out as it comes along. Not much here except for world setup and a hint at character, but I promise there is more to come. )

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Queen



    I have a little problem.
    Emphasis on little.
    Being a fan of a certain Alien-related series, I decided to buy a toy for myself online. A 6-inch, vinyl action figure of an alien-queen. I was so excited when she arrived! I pulled her out and realized in an instant my luck.
    She was a misprint.
    Now, I know what you're thinking: "Why would you want a misprint?"
    Maybe it's just the collector in me, but I love misprints. They stand out. They're odd. They're weird. And, should I ever want to sell her, she'll be worth drastically more because of her oddity than a regular figure would.
    Initially, I thought the misprint had to do with the fact she wasn't colored quite right. That her teeth were the wrong shade of paint.
    What I didn't realize was that misprint extended to the fact she doesn't realize she's a toy.
    I first found out after I had taken her out of her box and put her on the mantle. I came home from work later in the day only to find her missing. I searched everywhere high and low in my house only to find her stalking about my laundry room.
    At first I was terrified. What evil voodoo bullshit have I unleashed?! I thought to myself. But then I realized she was 6 inches tall and made of vinyl. I could punt her bitch ass if need be and it seemed like she knew it too. She regarded me with the same level of care one might regard a particularly nasty bug, but perhaps for that same reason, she didn't antagonize me.
    I did some research, and I realized that it was probably because of a misprint.
    Little did I know, toys in their natural state know they are toys. They recognize that they aren't supposed to move about and they shouldn't be found sneaking around my ventilation system. But with misprints, like my little queen, sometimes things break. They don't quite understand and instead they think that they are what they represent.
    Meaning now I have to deal her being a little bitch.
    I really wasn't sure what to do initially. I was scared she'd do something terrible to me in my sleep or it would be some sort of horror-movie trope where I find myself locked in a dark room with it trying to get me. But once again, I remembered she was 6 inches and made of vinyl. Once again, my fear turned to mild annoyance.
    So now I just have to deal with her.
    Most of the times, I'll simply find her stalking about. She'll regard me with an angry hiss and I'll just slide her out of the way with my foot. Occasionally she'll go missing only to out herself by banging around my ventilation system. I think she's trying to be sneaky, but what can I say? She's got a big head and sucks at her job. Once in a while she'll try to make a nest.
    The nests are always the funniest.
    I came home once and wasn't greeted with my cursory 6 inch monster. Not only that, my fridge was left wide open for some reason and a number of my other action figures were missing. I immediately started looking around, worried that someone had broken in and robbed me.
    Instead, I found her tucked up behind my dryer.
    Using a great deal of scotch tape that she'd found, the queen had taped my other action figures to the walls around her. On top of that, she had used the dozen eggs I just gotten from the grocery store and set each egg up in front of the other toys. And then she just sat there waiting like she expected something more to happen.
    While it was hilarious, I also had to replace the eggs and she kept fighting with me when I tried to free the "cocooned" toys.
    And so that's what I have to deal with.
    More than once, I've considered just getting rid of her. Burning her or breaking her or something of that ilk. My girlfriend hates it; says 'she's an abomination', but I'm not sure I agree. I like my little queen and, for all intents and purposes, I think she likes me too. I can't imagine getting rid of her and I'd rather run the risk of waking up to a few pilfered groceries than not coming home to her at all.

===

(Hello Lovelies, as you're aware, I'm going to be posting reviews for all four Aliens books and, frankly, this just popped into my head because of a little toy I owned. It's simple and silly, but seemed like fun overall. I hope you enjoyed.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"I never studied Writing..."



Hello Lovelies,

I was speaking to a friend the other day and it really got my brain buzzing.

In short, the conversation had to do with a rather delicate social issue; racism in America and how its misconstrued not only by the 'bigoted' party but by the parties who try so hard to fix the problem that they essentially make it worse. I won't go into the finer details, but the friend in question was incredibly passionate and started talking at length about wanting to write a book on the topic as a means to help educate others on the idea. As I understood it, he'd already worked within a lecture environment a couple of times and wanted to put his thoughts on paper.

The question that I directed at him? Why didn't he?

There was some brief back and forth, but the cliche that we reached is the same one that I've actually started to hear more and more as the years press on.

"Well, I never really studied English in school/college.", or "I didn't take any writing classes.", and even "I'm not sure if I'd do any good."

I bet you know the point I'm about to make, but I feel it needs to be said.

Writing is a window into your soul; into your passions and your love and your hate. It gives a platform to stand on, a boom mic in one hand, and a flag in the other. Much as painting, drawing, singing, poetry, and any other creative expression in the world, writing is just another means of putting yourself out there, for better or for worse, for you and the world to see and understand where you're coming from. It can be done for a purpose, like I hope my friend will, or it can be done because your brain is often too full of nonsense and needs to be drained, like I often deal with.

However, what it does not require, is a Doctorate in English.

While I'm sure my older sister would disagree, as would any Doctors in the Subject, let me explain.

Writing, like anything in the world can be learned. There are classes that will help and there are people that can lead you, but that doesn't mean you are restricted to sitting at a desk listening to some professor drone on and on about the theory of subjective adjectives. Everyone learns in a different way and no two learning methods will be useful for any two given people.

I provide myself as example.

Now first, let me accept that I'm no Shakespeare. I don't doubt I'd benefit from classic training, but as it stands the extent of my "writing classes" are some high school English classes THAT I HATED WITH A PASSION. Everything else has been self taught. Hell, if you were really bored enough, you could follow that learning process just by going back and reading some of my old content and moving forward through time. You can observe my improvements (or failures) even over the course of a year with just an afternoon of reading and a large pot of tea.

The reason I bring this up though, is more and more recently, my friends refer to me as being a writer. Not that I mind, but I've realized they do this as a means of separation, not necessarily as a recognition. It's a means of saying "You know more than I do on this subject" and while I would love that to mean what it sounds like, it's meant as a degradation of their own character and capability rather than a reflection of my own.

In short, they feel that there is something special that they lack; some training or understanding that they never received that I somehow did.

This brings me nicely to my point: that's horseshit.

While I could probably write a book on WHY it's fucking stupid to degrade yourself into believing you missed some crucial college course to being successful in something you love; or I could simply sit here and stroke egos and spout cliches about 'just go do it', I'll just share how "I go do it" as an example.

One: I read. A lot.

But probably not what you think.

I do indeed have a shit-ton of books at my house. I have a lot on my kind and audible account too (as mentioned in my previous post). But writing isn't necessarily all about reading novels. I have read web comics religiously and I'm sure I will again in the future. I also read actual comics; Dark Horse, Marvel, DC...whatever. I read the news. I read blogs (as I'm sure plenty of you know). I read captions. I read letters. I read bills. I. Read. If there is written word, paying attention to what is being said and how it is said will give you an insight into writing.

To that point: Difficult reading DOES NOT EQUAL good writing. That's not to say there are classics that aren't loquacious and verbose as a dictionary smoothie; but always consider what those words MEAN. Why use "chronic periscapular hyperalgesia" when you could say "shoulder pain"? A well worn thesaurus isn't always a good thing.

Two: I write.

No shit, right?

But that doesn't mean I sit here punch out novels. Any of my normal followers can tout that I'm a horrible human being with an incapability of keeping a schedule.

No, instead, just as mentioned before, I simply let words flow. This wordy and astute piece of silliness is a perfect example. I will scribble down articles and content for no one in particular. I will write down a comment or question, just to see it. Hell, my biggest help is probably the weirdest: I host Dungeons and Dragons because it lets me concoct stories for my players to get through.

In short. I just write.

Lastly: I listen.

There are better writers. There are better authors and publishers and editors and people who HAVE studied and HAVE done things I will never accomplish. These people are not my enemy. I trust many of them to be professionally and painfully honest. I listen to their complaints and criticisms and I read their comments when they bleed the red-pen of death across the page and I consider it. Some might be mean and personal, but some might have astute information you've never considered.

So, in conclusion, just let yourself be. Let yourself read and write and or draw and paint or build a bike or whatever you want to do! Sometimes classes help, sometimes they don't. Sometimes you can teach yourself something, sometimes you can't. Be open to the experience around you and inside you and let yourself push forward. You'll be surprised by what you can do.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Audible


Hello Lovelies,

As you may have all realized by now, I'm a terrible human being. I'm constantly busy, I'm easily distracted, and I'm generally extremely self serving in that I often find myself more fascinated with little tasks and hobbies that are NOT writing when I should be writing.

One of those biggest distractions has and always will be Books.

Makes sense for a writer, eh?

All joking aside, I have a tendency towards reading A LOT. What I read is always questionable, but anyone who knows me knows that I'm inclined towards fantasy, science fiction, and many other fantastical settings that allow a level of creativity outside of everyday human living. But really, what point am I trying to make here?

In short, reading takes time and reading a LOT takes a LOT of time.

As mentioned before, I tend to be very busy and easily distracted. Books that interest me could be left on my shelf for months because I have other things to do. Like an of us, I have work, family obligations, a need to cook and clean, I go to the gym, etc. Given the opportunity, I'd love to be able to fill that time with a good book, but...ok, you get what I'm building up to here.

I'm sure many of you have heard of Audible, but I have to ask...ever used it?

I actually decided to try it a few months back; got the trial membership fully intending to just get a free book and then disable the account before my month was up. Even did...for a couple of weeks. Then I found myself going back. Again. And Again. And Again.

As a whole, the thing was just way too convenient. When would I listen to them, I asked? How about anytime I felt like it through my smartphone; most notably when I was at the gym, driving, or doing chores around the house. But I don't want to "stream" that much data, I said, thinking of my terrible wireless plan! Don't. Just download the book you want to your phone or computer whenever you're near WiFi and pound through it at your own convenience later on. But wouldn't it be weird listening to someone else read asked the narrator in my brain? Nah. If anything, some of my favorite ones so far have been good old fashioned audio dramas like they used to do on the radio some decades back. At the end of the day, many of the readers are very talented story tellers that add to the flavor of the book rather than take from it.

I bring all this up solely so you can give it a look if you haven't already. I actually had heard about Audible for years and just largely ignored it (primarily for the top three reasons mentioned above). I'm sorry I didn't check it out sooner. It's even inspired me to start looking into voice acting and audio books ideas for Xenophobia. If you love reading or stories and haven't checked it out, lemme be yet another person to encourage you to do so: it's definitely worth it to give the trial a shot.