Dec 272012

I should really write this post later today, but since having had some time to digest the 48fps experience of The Hobbit, I have revised my opinion somewhat. When we stopped in to visit my parents, en route to see Cody’s parents, we went to see the standard 24fps version of The Hobbit with them. It seemed the logical choice, since the point was to share with them the experience of the story, not the novelty of the “new” cinematic format.

Throughout the entire thing, I found I sorely missed the doubled framerate. It felt far more difficult to track action, frame stutter seemed far more evident, and on the whole I actually wanted the increased framerate back.

I’m curious to see if this holds true this evening, when we plan to go see The Hobbit (for our fourth screening!) with Cody’s family.

In any case, I thought the before/after/before comparison was eye-opening.

Nov 022009

The full Avatar trailer popped up recently. I’ve been wary of this movie since hearing about it for a number of reasons, not the least of which seemed to be its status as yet another big-budget movie with amazing visuals, but a dubious story. It seems to me that movies that are visually impressive, with a vaguely pseudo-naturist/spiritualist bent to them, tend to be lavished with undeserved accolades. I don’t care how much money you dumped into it; if you’ve got a crappy story, you’ve got a crappy movie.

That aside, what worries me more about Avatar is the plot element that seems to suggest a technologically primitive group poses a credible threat to a technologically sophisticated group. Throughout history, major technological disparity has meant absolute defeat for the more primitive group. I’m not talking about a scenario like Vietname or Afghanistan, which involved guerilla fighters. They were still using modern weapons. I’m talking about something more like the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in which less than two hundred British soldiers fended off several thousand Zulu warriors.

That’s more or less what the situation in Avatar seems to be, but from the trailer it seems as though the Na’vi actually pose a credible threat to the humans. There was, of course, another movie that tried to pull this stunt, and has been universally mocked for it to this day: Return of the Jedi.

Jedi, though, can kinda-sorta get away with this in ways that Avatar’s own trailer prevents it from using. In Jedi, the Imperials had no inkling that the apparently-harmless natives would rise up against them. They had very little heavy firepower on hand (a handful of light armor units, a single heavy armor unit, and infantry), and the heavy firepower they did have was not well-suited to the terrain. It was a simple security detachment, whose sole purpose was to oversee an ostensibly secret installation (the Emperor’s claim that it was “an entire legion of [his] best troops” not withstanding; sorry, Palps, on screen evidence does not jive with your pomp).

From the Avatar trailer, though, we already know that the humans consider the Na’vi a threat (strike one), acknowledge that they are hard to kill (strike two), and are mobilizing their forces specifically to deal with them (strike three). The Ewoks’ cuddliness aside, if the Empire went into the situation with these three points established, those shield bunker personnel would have been dining on Ewok stew.

So, yeah, I’m going to reserve judgment until I see what the film actually does, but if this really does turn out to be a premise of the film, color me disappointed.

Writing Professionally

 Posted by at 10:20  No Responses »
Apr 072009

The first career path to which I gave serious consideration was authoring fiction.  The driving motivation behind this idea — telling stories — drives a disproportionate number of my hobbies: independent film-making, movie/TV-watching  and game-playing (on the receiving end of told stories, in this case), role-playing games.  Every other career I entertained the notion of pursuing held storytelling as a key component: acting, directing, visual effects for film, and now game development.  Within the last year, I decided that having a “day job” by no means precluded professional writing.  Author John Scalzi, internet-famous for his Whatever blog, cemented this decision by restating my own conclusion in as many words.  This led to my involvement in NaNoWriMo 2008, which I completed within the designated timeframe.  Though the resultant short novel is not something I feel is worth publishing (contrary to prior statements I’ve made about it), the simple fact that I wrote it armed me with the confidence that I can write a novel.

Pursuant to my goal to be a professional writer, I decided yesterday that I would take another page from Scalzi’s playbook and try to write a blog entry every day from now on.  My morning routine includes perusing a number of websites (a task made much simpler thanks to Google Reader and the wonder of RSS), which often have several interesting stories worth pointing out.  My hope is that readership here will grow beyond the small circle of friends that now read it and that it can become a community unto itself.

What do I mean by professional writer?  I don’t mean quitting my day job.  Scalzi (yeah, you’re going to see him name-dropped quite often) makes the observation that unless you can guarantee annual income from writing that’s 30% above what you make at your current day job, your financial situation will be worse if you quit your job to focus on writing.  The only reason to quit your job for writing is that if holding the job impedes the income you could otherwise make from writing.  

Professional writer, in this sense, is synonymous with Stephen King’s definition of a talented writer: if you wrote something and someone paid you for it, you’re talented.  It doesn’t matter if the writing was technical, analytical, editorial, or fictional — if you wrote something and got paid, you fit the definition.  Take it as a forgone conclusion that my ideal world would have me waking up at noon to eat breakfast and surf the internet for an hour, writing fiction for the next five, eating dinner with Cody, and then spending the evening on entertainment, all while making much more than I make now.  It’s not an unrealistic fantasy, but it’s not one that will come without time and effort.  

Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to elect to do things you otherwise might not choose to do.  To that end, I stopped procrastinating last night and bought myself a copy of Writer’s Market 2009.  This book is the ultimate go-to resource for writers, listing every publishing outlet for every topic available.  I plan to find a small outlet that publishes articles I might be able to write about with some intelligence, and submitting.  Without some incredible luck, it won’t be fiction.  I would be more than happy, however, to be paid for writing movie reviews, technical reviews, game reviews, or any other number of topics on which I tend to pontificate anyway.

As with every other industry, you first need to get your foot in the door.  Prove that you’re publishable in a small way before you can hope to hit big.


 Posted by at 16:55  No Responses »
Jan 092009

It’s been a while, so it seemed high-time to talk about some of the things I’m working on.

Novel: Gold (tentative title)
This past November, I participated in and “won” NaNoWriMo by completing a 50,000 word manuscript.  It’s the story of a young woman that wakes up in a strange, burning office with an unfamiliar voice in her head urging her to jump out of the window…to save her life.  Once I completed it, I sent it to a number of people for a first review.  I haven’t touched it since, taking the advice of Stephen King to let the first draft sit in a drawer for a while before returning to it.  My parents have recently finished reading it and are going to be sending me their feedback this weekend.  I’m still waiting to hear Cody and a few others’ thoughts as well.  Once I have the combined feedback of everyone, I’ll set to work writing the second draft.  My hope is to publish it sometime this summer.

Film: Wec: The Sequel
Wec 2 has been in stasis for a while, superceded by work, more immediate hobbies and diversions (Xbox games, Fallout 3, novel-writing, etc.).  However, I do still plan to finish it.  It’s hard to bring myself to work on it specifically because it’s a film that deals with an entirely different era of my life.  I’m not that guy anymore, and so the movie’s personal relevance to me is greatly diminished.  However, with Ron’s help, I still think the movie itself is salvagable and will actually be interesting.  I recently showed Wec: The Movie to a co-worker of mine in preparation for a new project (see below), and I realized (again) how inane that first movie is.  I want the second one, as silly as it is, to actually be enjoyable for more than the sheer lunacy value.  I think it can be.

Film: Untitled Star Wars Fanfilm
I’ve played with the idea of doing a Star Wars fanfilm many times in the past.  A few weeks ago, an image formed in my head that caused inspiration to strike: an X-wing, floating “hidden” behind an asteroid, and then maneuvering like a real spacefighter (a la BSG).  This prompted the idea of creating a film based on a some X-wing pilots, in the vein of BSG.  It would play with established SW conventions (i.e. X-wings would actually maneuver like space fighters) and make a more “hard” sci-fi version of Star Wars.  

Co-worker and fellow SW fan Steve was intrigued by the idea when I told him about it and with a bit of convincing I’ve gotten him pretty enthused about the project.  We recently asked Ron to help us with the writing, and the last week has had us working through the first draft of the treatment he wrote up for us.  He’s now busily working on the second draft that Steve and I will use to write the first draft of the script.  Once we’ve done that, it’ll go back to Ron for a dialog polish (George, why didn’t you do this?) and we’ll start material pre-production (set building, costumes, etc.).  So far, the film will star Steve, Cody, and myself, along with a cameo by Steve’s wife and children.  

Other Novels
I have several other novel ideas that have been banging around in my head, begging to be written.

  • A mostly-hard science fiction novel dealing with the rammifications of space warfare after the advent of practical defense shields.
  • A science fiction novel dealing with the setting that I’ve had in my head forever, first implemented in any practical form as the UEDF Illustrious Defender e-mail RPG.
  • A sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel wherein a character joins a guild of assassins and uncovers a plot that led to her father’s murder.

There are more, but those three are the most fully-formed.

RPG: Vampire
At some point in the near future, I also plan to resume my Vampire game.  I’m not totally sure when this will happen, though it is likely to take place on Saturday evenings.  The timing is up in the air right now because many of the players are currently in unstable situations (as it pertains to regularly meeting on IRC, that is).

So, that’s about it from my neck of the woods.  Going to be a busy year!