Thursday, March 30, 2017

Galactic Worship



Hello Lovelies,

I was recently reading an article with regards to the UAE considering building a city on Mars. While the consideration is definitely interesting and there were more than a few comments leaning to either side of the argument, one question that was asked grabbed my attention.

"How would Muslims in space face Mecca to pray?"

While I don't know if the question was asked out of venom and spite or if it was a genuine intellectual curiosity (as many, many individuals were taking their time to bash the UAE for nothing more than being non-American/non-Christian), it did raise a very real question for me. How would they? My understanding of the religion is that individuals must face Mecca while doing their prayers, so how would that work within the context of galactic travel and/or colonization of other planets within or outside of our given solar system.

Just dwelling on it, I imagine space travelers that are actively in a ship wouldn't really have an issue so long they're pointed in the right direction (provided they know what direction Earth is); but what about those colonists on another planet. Let's make the equation easy and say we're on Mars and Earth is directly 'above' us. What then? Does the individual find some inclined method to face our home planet or do they do something else?

This really got my brain buzzing about the possibility of different religions in space. Really thinking about it, the recurring religion portrayed in most Science Fiction movies, books, and games always seems to be Christianity. I'm not sure if this is out of ease or simply out of the commonality of the Christian faith.

Depending on what concept you follow, the concept of religion in space can go one of two ways. Some feel that religion will be done away with as man explores the stores; the need for belief in a high power stripped away by the intricacies of the universe. Otherwise argue the exact opposite: that being lost among the stars and seeing the wonders of space travel will only give birth to a belief that some larger force is at work.

While I won't raise the argument in either direction, it really does make me wonder how space travel and exploration would influence a given religion. Christians definitely seem the easiest to visualize overall, as they would basically just expand their faith to include that their God created all they see...no matter how vast or large. I imagine Muslims to be the same, but they obviously face the aforementioned prayer issue. The Jewish faith seems equally similar, only touted by the issue of 'don't light your minora on a spaceship'. All together, I think the Buddhist faith presents the most readily spaceworthy since they already acknowledge the existence of other worlds and yet they consider the existence of all worlds inconsequential in the great scheme of things.

All in all, this is little more than an open forum...a way to get your brain boiling for interesting concepts that might influence your own writing or creation.

What can you think of with any given religion that might present an interesting challenge or development based on space travel?

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.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review - Alien: The Official Movie Novelization


Getting started, first let me say that I'm definitely a bit conflicted with this book. As with any adaptation, the author must take certain liberties to conform the what works in a movie to what works in a book (as the reverse must be done when adopting a book to movie). You're always going to have things that someone liked better one way or another, so reviewing definitely comes with a grain of salt.

If you are unfamiliar with the original film, the story of Alien revolves around a crew of 'interstellar truckers' hauling a massive tug of petroleum through space back to Earth. The ship is unexpectedly redirected when it receives an emergency beacon from an unsurveyed world. Upon descending to the planet, they are unfortunate enough to discover a new form of life that stows away onboard in a rather unorthodox fashion, only to get loose later on and because wreaking terror on the crew. One by one they are each picked off, sometimes by the Alien and sometimes by each other. It ends in a claustrophobic, heart racing showdown that I won't spoil here but I'd encourage you to check out for yourself.

So let's start at the beginning.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, the greatest strength in this book has to be its descriptions and overall writing. The book, for all intents and purposes, would make an English teacher very happy. Grammatically it's perfect and it's loquacious to boot. Why should a button be green when it can be verdant? Or why simply push that button when you can depress it down with a satisfying click and a hum of machinery that comes to life after doing so.

Well...

While it will definitely win first prize at the spelling bee, it does bring us nicely to our first hit and miss: Pacing. As any horror author can tell you, pacing is important. It's hard to do but absolutely integral to the tone and atmosphere of the story. This is our first hit and miss.

The beginning of the story is slow. Very. Very. Slow. I actually started this book sometime back and eventually gave up 10% in because I just stopped caring. The author speak ad-nauseum regarding every little nuance and subtlety. Every clink of a machine, every light that blinks, everything that even vaguely occurs in the beginning of the book is so drawn out that it I very likely could have invented hypersleep before the characters woke up from their cryogenic stasis.

To the stories defense however, the author gains a better control of the story's pace once the alien is onboard and wreaking havoc. He begins to understand that not every whir of a machinery's hard-drive needs to be documented and, instead, uses the slower pace to build tension. What's better than slowly realizing something's out of place? That something is behind you? That something is waiting just around the corner? There are one or two scenes that are amusingly enough blown by that shouldn't have been, but overall the second half of the book is much better than the first.

In short, the author is very decently able to capture the tension and horror in these scenes that really made the original movie such a standout piece.

This brings us nicely to the next point: the adaptation.

While not necessarily good or bad, the actual adaptation and how a potential fan might react is subjective. Anyone that's seen the movies more than a few times can probably tell you in gruesome detail their favorite scene of the movie. They could probably tell you exactly what the creatures look like in their dark, sleek, and hideous black chitinous appearance.

What if I told you that had been changed?

While I've heard conflicting stories, a number of details, large and small, have been altered in the telling of the story. I've heard that it might be based on a very early version of the earlier script, but it definitely raised a few eyebrows. Did you know that the aliens all had enormous bulging eyeballs? I sure didn't. How about the fact that no one in this horrible, messed up situation ever feels the need to use a curse word? What about several completely skipped over scenes that add a great deal of context and understanding to the narrative as a whole.

Overall, the book is just ok. Of the four move adaptations, I definitely feel that it was the weakest however. Getting through the beginning of the book is just so gut-wrenchingly slow but it definitely makes up for it in the panic of the climax. I would give it a 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Adventurers in ReWriting



Hello Lovelies,

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I've started rereading and rewriting Xenophobia so we can have a nice, concise story.

Not gonna lie: kind of glad I decided to.

In starting the process, I've noticed a hilarious number of inconsistencies right off the bat that I  wanted to share. Obviously part of the issues stem from the fact that the original Xenophobia concept was never meant to be a novel. In fact, the original idea was just a quick short story that examined humans/Earth as just being scary as all get out. I.e. Humans are the big scary aliens, not the aliens themselves. However, just going back and reading, I felt the need to share a few glaring inconsistencies that just tickled me all too much.

====

- Cherryl
Let's be honest, I completely forgot about our innocent, little Celestial Commissioner. While starting off as an integral character in the original chapters, she's just kind of...gone away. And for no real reason! Totally just absentmindedness while I explored other characters. I've considered if the story REALLY needs her...and I think it does. I think she could fill in some gaps in the story quite well.

- Ferris and Darrian's Personalities
Another oddity that happened over the course of writing. Maybe it can make sense if I actually INTENTIONALLY make it character development, but somehow Ferris switched his personality with Darrian and Darrian...well...he just got old-man tired. Ferris was originally bubbly, bouncy, and a joker and Darrian was a horrible cynic. Somewhere along the line, Ferris became the cynic and Darrian just slowed to a crawl.

I had already intended to rework Darrian to be less of a pair of eyes and more of a character, but I didn't realize how badly I screwed that up til I started reading. Ferris will definitely remain the joker, just less giddy overall and more like how we ended. However Darrian needs to become more rounded and less a rolling dumpster fire full of glue.

- Harris
Not gonna lie...Still love Harris. He's probably the one who's stayed relatively the same overtime. The exception was he was a lot more excitable and a lot less of a smart ass at the beginning. Minor tweaking to adjust for character changes and all...but I just have to say I still adore him as a character.

 - The Council and the Galactic Consortium
Easily the biggest miss. The Council and the Consortium were never overly fleshed out, got completely jumbled in their appearance, and consists of constant back and forth that was clearly never thought out enough until way to late. This is going to be SERIOUSLY reworked.

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And that's all for now, lovelies. I just wanted to share some incite as to a few things that I've immediately noticed and fill your head with the possibilities of the changes to come.

One additional note, I'm trying something new: Scheduled Posts. I've realized that I'm a terrible human being with a terrible capability to post WHEN I want due to work, fun, exhaustion, and/or lack of motivation. Moving forward, I'm going to try to blow out posts in advanced, schedule them, and then give myself time to work on Xenophobia in between. Hopefully this works better.

See you later!

-RB

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

All the Lonely People - Part 2

    The door turned to splinters under the force of the Hunter's boot. The termite riddled, rotten wood blew forward to reveal the oddity inside, exploding with more force than he had meant. The remains of the door ripped from its hinges and slid across the floor.
    Despite the decrepit exterior, the inside of the church had been decorated.
    White streamers lined the walls of the abandoned building. Great baskets of flowers ran the length of long forgotten pews and a single red carpet had been rolled out along the aisle. Rice was scattered about the ground, leading up to the altar. At the far end, a double set of candles burned dimly in the dusty darkness.
    Their lights highlighted it.
    It was disguised as the same young woman he'd seen so many times looking through her windows. She was dressed in a long, flowing white wedding dress and had her back to him. In any other instance, he might have approached her; maybe attempted to help her or even check why this seemingly innocent young lady was standing in the middle of this hall of horrors.
    He knew better.
    Pulling the hammer back on the revolver in his hand, a satisfying click echoed the derelict church.
    The slight twitch of her head told him it had heard.
    She turned around to face him, a soft smile playing along her lips. She had been beautiful before it had gotten to her. Blue eyes, rosy cheeks, blonde hair, and a slender figure. Now, staring at that same visage, he knew it was just a facade.
    "Hello, Father." it said with a growling voice that surprised him.
    There was no pretense here. Despite wearing its victim's face, it knew that he wasn't going to be fooled.
    "Hello, Demon." he responded in turn.
    "Demon? Now is that anyway to talk to a lady?" it asked with a smile far too big and viscous for girl's dainty mouth. "Especially on her wedding day."
    The Hunter glanced around briefly at the macabre display. His thoughts drifting to the poor young man who would begin desperately searching for his lost love; if he hadn't already.
    "You haven't killed him yet." he said.
    "No." it confirmed. "But it won't be long. I want to let it set in first."
    "Set in?"
    "The loneliness." it said with a smile that now cracked the edges of her mouth, splitting it into a hideous clown-esque appearance. "I can't help but enjoy all of those lonely people."
    "You're a monster."
    "AND YOU'RE A FOOL!" it snapped with sudden force.
    He brought the revolver up to bare; focused dead on the creature before him.
    "After all," it continued, bleeding back into its softer tone, "This wedding is for us."
    The creature extended his hand and he felt himself tighten. Felt his strength drain away as he was lifted from the ground as if by an invisible force. It wrapped around his body, held him still, and dragged him forward towards the altar not a foot from the creature.
    "Tsk tsk. And what groom forgets to wear a suit?" it said with hideous intent.
    This close to the creature, he could smell its rank breath. The scent was heavy with rot and decay and he could plainly see every needle point little tooth in her mouth.
    With tender, gentle hands, it reached up to start unbuttoning his collar.
    "I should tell you," it began. "I'm often quite accommodating."
    The next few buttons.
    "I often kill them quick."
    A few more.
    "Clean."
    The coat came off.
    "It's no fun to let them die screaming. It ruins the flavor of the meat."
    It reached for his shirt.
    "I don't think I'll afford you the same luxury." it said with a hiss.
    Peeling away the first button of his shirt revealed the silver cross he wore around his neck. The result was an instantaneous roar as the creature dove backward. It was a defiant, sickened noise that matched the hideous sight as the creature bent backwards in a fashion that would have broken a human's spine and leaped against the nearest wall.
    But his hands were free.
    The gun came to bare a second time and he had emptied the revolver into its chest even before he could feel his fingers again.
    With a heavy thud, the creature hit the ground.
    It did not get back up.
 
    As he went about burying the creature in the graveyard behind the church. The Hunter considered removing its damaged visage, but decided against it. While the face it had stolen was cracked and broken, he had no interest in seeing what it really looked like now. Plus, he didn't think the dead cared much one way or another if her face was buried with it.
    He gave it its last rights all the same.
    With a sigh, he wiped the dirt from his hands as he walked from the grave. With the exception of the fresh mound, Father McKenzie had left nothing to signify that the graveyard had a new, unaccounted corpse.
    He would call in the death in the morning to the local police department. An anonymous tip, like always. There was no point in letting the poor boy, or the police, continue their search. Eleanor Rigby was dead and she had been for weeks; she just finally had a grave to go with it.
   

Sunday, March 5, 2017

All the Lonely People - Part 1


    With a grunt, the Hunter drew out the heavy leather satchel from the trunk of his car.
    Like him, the satchel was old, worn, and dirty but stronger for it. Built for another purpose, but molded to its new life with surprising capability. It was filled with hard things, pointy things, and enough destructive power to rain death with the force of a hurricane. Still, hope existed within its folds.
    Setting aside the stained bible that rested atop his instruments of death, the Hunter drew out a long and slender knife. It found its sheathe with a ring of the blade.
    Soon, another.
    And another.
    Knives, blades, flechettes, guns, ammo, explosives, trinkets of all shapes and size, and even a good old silver cross. Each one found its pocket, its holster, or its home. Each one was snug and secure, able to withstand a beating should the need arise, but ready to be drawn at a moment's notice.
    Many of his kind found the weight of the weapons cumbersome and restrictive. He didn't agree. If anything, if made him feel more centered then any other time. He felt bald and exposed otherwise. Cold.
    The satchel was back into his trunk. A moment later, a newspaper clipping fell to the street below. He quickly gathered it up and tucked it into his pocket before closing up.
    He didn't need to read what was in the clipping. The Hunter could probably recite the first lines from memory.

BRUTAL MURDERS CONTINUE!

After months of searching, police still have no leads for the terrible
serial killer that has terrorized Maple Brook county since early October.
While police assure residents that they are hot on the trail, one off duty
officer revealed that they have yet to find anything substantial. The victims,
three separate young women,all engaged, were each found with their faces 
removed  with surgical precision. While leaving the muscle and bone beneath...

    Staring up from his parking space on the abandoned road, the old church before him appeared empty. He knew better.
    Its windows were cracked and broken in many places. Several shutters hung loosely. Some local jokers had spray painted a number of foul words across one side. Chunks of wood had split here or there, giving him the impression that the building could collapse at any moment. Not far behind, the old graveyard sat as dead still as the corpses it housed.
    The Hunter's boots made loud thunks as he walked up the rotting steps. He didn't care. It knew he was coming anyway.
    He'd watched the thing for the last several weeks. It wasn't until the day before that he realized it had been watching him back.
    Disguised as a young girl in her early twenties, the Hunter had started watching her under the presumption that she was the thing's next target. While he didn't introduce himself, he also didn't make a point to hide either. Every now and again he'd see her sitting at the large bay windows of her apartment, watching the world go by. Or, as he discovered, watching him.
    It wasn't until the girl hadn't come home that he decided to look a bit closer.
    Breaking in was easy enough. Her apartment didn't even have a deadbolt.
    At first glance, it hadn't been anything out of the ordinary. He found everything he would have expected to. The kitchen was stocked but not overly. There was some dirty laundry but there was a basket of clean ones needed to be folded. Glasses on the night stand, TV in the bedroom...nothing strange. 
    It wasn't until he was on his way out that he noticed the small bookcase in the landing.
    There was no seam between the bookcase and the wall.
    The Hunter gingerly touched it and tried to move the bookcase forward slightly. No give. He tried harder, not overly worried if he knocked the whole thing over. Still, it didn't move. Now, glancing inside, he could see the notch in the back that indicated the false backing.
    Tearing away the books, the backing was removed easily. Behind it lay three jars.
    Even with years of monsters and mayhem under his belt, it was hard not to grimace at what was inside.
    Each jar was mostly empty. A clear fluid filled them but the Hunter was confident that it probably wasn't water. Floating inside the jar was a skinned human face. They would bunch up and stretch out as if flowing with some unseen current, but every now again they'd take shape.
    And that shape would be a silent, soundless scream of pain and horror.
    He'd kept the jars. 
    With them hidden in his trunk near the satchel, he pushed the thought of the tortured souls in order to steel himself for the monster to come.
    Drawing an old revolver, he lifted his foot and caved in the front door. What he found inside was far from expectation...

[Read more in Part 2! Coming Soon.]