Monday, December 31, 2012


In my current work, The War of the Worlds and Fairies, fairies cross over from their realm to ours pretty much at will. 


Their realm is called Faerie, pronounced FAY-uh-ree.  What surprises me is a lot of contemporary fantasy writers use the word in an archaic sense, where it denotes an individual fairy.  But I’m pretty sure that men like Tolkien and Lewis used Faerie to mean the realm itself. 

Which brings us to the main characteristic about fairies:  Whether they have wings or not, whether they are our size or not, they must be from a different realm.  This realm may be far off geographically, or as in my story, it coexists with ours.  

Here is how Ashley, my main character, describes it (our realm is the Mundane): 

Yet so vain are the people of the Earth, and so blinded by vanity, that no writer up to the very end of the nineteenth century expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed on Mars at all, or indeed beyond our earthly level of intelligence.  Such a realization should not have taxed the imagination of either man or fairy, since the realm of Faerie had so recently discovered the realm of the Mundane, and the Mundane the Faerie:  The Faerie a realm of silver webs and golden pixie dust, the Mundane a realm of steam engines and cold iron.  Why should it be so hard to realize intelligent life existed on a different world? 

I’ll have more posts on the fairies in the future on this blog.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Presents

Happy St. Stephen’s Day 

 My presents (lit by dragon fire or a Martian heat ray) included: 

-The Thorin key, which will be handy if I ever come across a certain Lonely Mountain on Durin’s Day. 

-The soundtrack to The Hobbit.  The dwarves’ folk song on the Misty Mountains is stunning.  Tolkien, of course, knew what folk songs were like when he penned the lyrics.  Now, people who have a true sensitivity to that art have put it to music.  You can listen to a sample here. 

-The book is The Martian War by Kevin J. Anderson.  It’s his retelling of The War of The Worlds.  If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I’m doing a mashup of the same story. 

I became aware of Anderson’s version after I started writing my own, and I knew I would have to get it at some point.  That does NOT mean I wanted to copy ideas, just the opposite:  It’s important that I don’t write a scene that looks just like a scene in Anderson’s version.  Since his does not have fairies, that’s fairly unlikely.  And—just to be official—I will not read Anderson’s version until I have finished the first draft of my own. 

This is an important concept:  Have enough confidence in your own writing that you know you will not copy if you read something similar.  This does not just apply to mashups—if you’ve written a science fiction novel about space battles, read something by John Hemry.  If you’ve written a historical fantasy set in ancient Greece or Rome, find one of those to read.  Benefit from the experience, but make sure none of your scenes accidentally look too similar. 

Anderson originally published The Martian War some years ago under a pen name, so I didn’t know how hard I would have to search for a copy.  Fortunately for me, it’s been reprinted—and with this nice cover.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miss Venezuela

What did she say?  Remember, Miss Venezuela chose to speak in English. 

I think that any leys there are in Constitution or in life, are already made. I think that we should have, uh, a straight way to go in our similar, or, eh, in our lives as is this. For example, I'm a surfer, and I think that the best wave that I can take is the wave that I wait for it. So please do our only, eh, law that we can do. Thank you Vegas!

She didn’t win.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review of The Hobbit

If you really must see every movie based on Tolkien’s novels, then see The Hobbit.  Most other people can give this a pass.  The Hobbit is a big disappointment after seeing The Lord of the Rings.

(But not really.  You must already know that Middle-Earth has elves, dwarves, wizards, etc.)

What weakens The Hobbit the most are irritating attempts to bring in actors we’ve seen in The Lord of the Rings.  This has the effect of making The Hobbit less of a story in its own right, and more like an expensive piece of fan fiction.  Especially in the latter part of the movie, Bilbo feels like a minor character.

The desperate attempt to make the this movie look like just a missing piece of The Lord of the Rings starts with an unnecessary prologue where Frodo appears.  As to why prologues are unwise, see Kristin Nelson’s vlog on the subject.  For The Hobbit, everything before the words “An Unexpected Journey” appear on the screen should have been cut.  It should start with Bilbo sitting around, enjoying the air, when Gandalf walks up to him.

Another excuse comes from the end of the book, where Gandalf makes a short reference to how the White Council drove out a fellow named the Necromancer.  This becomes a major part of the movie, so the dwarves end up seeming like puppets who have no idea how they are being manipulated as part of a more important plan.

As for the rest of the movie, it has a slow plot, punctuated by battle scenes.  In particular, the underground battle scene with the goblins looks like impossible CGI animation, to the point of silliness.

I may be biased, having read The Hobbit eleven times, but the best parts of the movie are where they stick closely to the book:

The unexpected party, where the dwarves almost eat Bilbo out of hearth and home.

The folk song of the dwarves“We must away, ere break of day”—which tempts Bilbo to go on the quest.   

Bilbo’s distress over not having any pocket handkerchiefs on the journey.

The ethereal, elvish beauty of Rivendell.

Bilbo’s sparing of Gollum, when he could easily have killed him.

An awesome scene involving eagles—if you don’t know which side they’re on, they are really scary.

So if you do see The Hobbit, despite my criticisms, you’ll have some gems to take away with you.  And if you agree or disagree, please leave a comment.

Just be polite when you comment

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trailer for Mortal Instruments

The trailer for Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is out, and it is a beaut! 

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Fairies may be the next big thing.  Vampires and werewolves have had an astonishing run, and will continue to have respectable chunks of the market, but fairies are coming on strong. 

So this is a strategic time to reveal the nature of Ashley, the main character in my reimagining of The War of the Worlds that I’m currently writing.  I’ve been somewhat coy, revealing that Ashley has wings, without saying what she is.  The reimagining will be The War of the Worlds and Fairies, and Ashley is a fairy who has crossed over into our Mundane realm and become human-sized.   

I’ll have more on the nature of fairies in future posts.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: Argo

Argo by Antonio Mendez is his true account of strategic points of his career at the CIA, interspersed with moments from his exfiltration of Americans from Iran, popularized in the recent movie of the same name. 

His career began inauspiciously, as a young artist recruited by the CIA—he had never heard of the CIA before!  Mendez and similar people in the agency used their talents to forge passports and other documents to infiltrate and exfiltrate people to and from foreign countries.  They became so good at it, they would visit Moscow to see if their latest techniques would work! 

For those of you haven’t seen the movie, during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981, several Americans were held hostage at the American embassy in Iran.  What the world did not know was that six of the Americans had escaped and were hiding in the private homes of Canadian diplomats.  Mendez had to go in there and get them out, knowing that any minute now the Iranians would put together documents that had been ineffectively shredded at the embassy and figure out these six were somewhere out there. 

The crazy idea he had was to pretend they were a movie crew scouting out locations for a science fiction movie named Argo.  He reasoned that only Hollywood types would be so crazy as to visit Iran during a hostage crisis, so it would make sense.  No fiction movie would be so audacious, but this is a true story. 

For those of you who have seen the movie, the book does not have as many action scenes.  Much of the tension came from standing or sitting around, trying to look convincing while hoping the Iranian guards would not figure them out and haul them away.  Other times, they combine together different incidents.  For instance, the movie shows a scene at an Iranian bazaar where the six are surrounded by shouting Iranians.  This did not happen to these particular six, but to a different group of six Americans who also escaped the embassy, went the opposite direction down the street, and were surrounded and returned to the embassy. 

In an interview, Antonio Mendez said that Ben Affleck, who played him in the movie, was spot on.  Did he succeed in getting the six Americans out?  Watch the movie or buy the book.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red Dawn

If you liked the first Red Dawn, you’ll probably like the new version.  If you didn’t like the first one, you’ll probably won’t like this year’s version. 

photo by Ronald Woan

The main difference is the 1984 version was about a rural group of teens who attacked any foolish occupiers who stepped outside of the city, and they ambushed supply convoys.  This old version was in touch with the gun/knife culture, and they traveled by horseback. 

This year’s version is about urban warfare, with the teens sneaking back into the city and shooting at occupiers from windows or alleys.  They seem to walk into the city, and one scene features a skateboard. 

Fans of the original will be glad to know the new version did not go politically correct:  Jed (Chris Hemsworth) and the others do not show any compunction about killing the occupiers.  And Robert (Josh Hutcherson) still cries “Wolverines!” but in a different context. 

photo by Slackerwood

What’s interesting is to see Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson before they were famous.  The most famous actor who was cast at the time (who shall remain nameless, since this blog does not flame people) had his claim to fame from Nickelodeon, and he’s not that good in this movie.  But they surrounded him with talented unknowns, and it’s interesting to see who has gone on to fame. 

I liked both versions of Red Dawn.  Of course, the main weakness to both is this ragtag band of teenagers get into and out of bad situations too easily. 

To see an Australian version of the same concept, rent Tomorrow, When the War Began


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