Saturday, May 18, 2024

Norwescon III—Supplemental

As usual, Norwescon featured some Roman Legionnaires:


They just can’t help but get in fights.

I did not take many pictures this year of people in their costumes. I did in 2022, and took me an immense time to crop and post them all. So with apologies to people who put so much effort into their cosplay, here are a few examples.

This couple just looked too good to ignore.

And we had an impressive swordswoman.

To my delight, Captain Kangaroo made a surprise appearance.



And what do we think? With the blonde hair, is she half Human, half Vulcan?

Here is Torrey Stenmark in her competition costume. To see her floor costume, click here.

She seems to be a female Han Solo. Agree? Disagree?

So with a blaster in the holster and a light saber held high.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Norwescon II--Supplemental

Ken Scholes and Kristi Charish held a workshop where, among other things, they answered common questions. I asked whether it is considered fair to let an agent who sold a novel to keep getting the proceeds from it, even if the author leaves the agent. They said it was not a matter of fairness; it is part of the agreement.


Jessie Kwak writes science fiction detective novels.

By the way, there was a Dalek at the convention.


It was autographed by Peter Capaldi! He was the Twelfth Doctor. He was definitely my favorite. (Actually, I don’t watch Doctor Who much. It was his standoffish look that intrigued me.)


Torrey Stenmark was also there in her floor costume. Serious cosplayers often have one costume for walking around on the floor of the convention, and another one for competition.


Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Paycheck for Short Story

My short story “Flash of Brilliance” was published in Abyss & Apex. You can read it free here for at least a month.

They sent me a nice card.

Here is the thank you side. It shows a tiny sliver of the check they included.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Norwescon I—Supplemental

Norwescon is the biggest science fiction/fantasy convention in the Pacific Northwest that has a good emphasis on writing.


First of all, each session has chairs at the front set aside for people who have difficulty walking. The chairs have a variety of signs on the back. Here is one example: 

A number of authors had small sessions wherein they read portions of their latest works. Try to make time at a convention to go to at least one. It boosts the morale of the author to have an audience show up. Here is D.L. Gardner, a fantasy author. 

One of the most instructive sessions was “Young Adult vs. Middle Grade” with authors Marta Murvosh, Camden Rose, and Tom Llewellyn. Here are some of the highlights:

MG is more about saving the world and family.

YA is more about the individual and identity.

MG  has MG characters that targets 4th to 6th graders.

YA has high school to college-age characters.

MG coming-of-age involves realizing one is part of a community.

Extended YA is a real industry term for college-age protagonists.

Marta Murvosh, Camden Rose, Tom Llewellyn

click to enlarge

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Movie Review: Spy x Family: Code: White

Yes, that made for a lot of colons in the title.

This will not be a detailed review of Spy x Family: Code: White. Imagine mashing Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Spy Kids. The father, Loid, is actually Agent Twilight. The mother, Yor, is actually the assassin Thorn Princess. Neither knows the other’s true identity. They go by the family name Forger. Anya is their pretend daughter, who was actually an orphan. But Anya is secretly a telepath, so she knows her parents’ true identities.

The story starts out in a fairly credible manner. Anya needs to make a dessert as a school assignment. Loid has inside information that the principal likes what looks like a meringue, so they go on a trip to a restaurant in the town the principal was from.

Then everything turns into kooky fun. Anya accidentally swallows a chocolate that contains something crucial for Cold War-esque tensions, and it’s off we go. It alternates between serious and childish scenes, but there is never a dull moment.

The background seems to be an alternate Europe, with much of the plot taking place in what looks like an alternate Switzerland. The story is pre-cell phone: There is even an old-style rotary phone in one scene.

Spy x Family: Code: White (the x is silent) is rated PG-13 for violence and occasional foul language. There is also an extended “poop god” dream that would be unimaginable in an American-made film, but is run-of-the-mill in Japan. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

My Short Story is Published

My short story “Flash of Brilliance” has been published! It is a science fiction story set in space.

Abyss & Apex is an online magazine of speculative fiction. You can read my story on their website free for a couple months here.

Happy reading. Please share any comments on their site, beneath my story. Of course, you always make a duplicate comment on this blog. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Dune 1984

I recently saw the 1984 version of Dune in a movie theater. It was thrilling to see on a big screen Princess Irulan introduce the story, House Atreides emerge onto Arrakis, blue-eyed Paul Atreides speak in a declamatory voice, and of course, the worm riding.

The main difference in terms of characters from the more recent movies is that 1984 Paul Atreides is clearly a hero. It is easy to sympathize with him as he struggles to free people and fulfill his destiny. The 2021-2024 Paul is more of an anti-hero.

In terms of plot, the main difference is the weirding way. In the 1984 Dune, this is a form of marital arts, but they also have weirding modules. Paul and others can shout into a weirding module, and a pulse of force emerges. This was almost inevitable after other science fiction space movies had ray and beam weapons. And it was shown as crucial in going up against armies with automatic weapons. The 2021-2024 Dune has the weirding way remain a form of martial arts, which is closer to the novel.

So without casting aspersion against the new version, I still have great affection for the 1984 movie. One needs to see the expanded version shown on TV to see the widow of Jamis, and also the wacko source of the water of life.

Instead of showing a typical trailer, here is funny story by Patrick Stewart, who played Gurney.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Two-Sentence Movie Summaries

I don’t remember who came up with the idea of two-sentence movie summaries that are both accurate and sardonic. Here is my take on this concept.

The Last Samurai: An American soldier decides Japan is more spiritual than America. So he joins a rebellion against the emperor.

The Wizard of Oz: Trying to get home from Oz, Dorothy almost dies on a mission to steal a witch’s broom. Then she finds out she only had to click her heels.

While You Were Sleeping: A woman pretends to be the fiancée of a man in a coma. After he wakes up, she leaves him at the altar and marries his brother instead.

Aliens: A platoon of Colonial Marines gets wiped out fighting the monstrous aliens. Ripley emerges triumphant by using a forklift.

Saving Private Ryan: A small group of soldiers goes behind enemy lines in World War II to retrieve Ryan, whose brothers have all been killed in the war. He decides not to go with them.

Titanic: A couple falls in love on the RMS Titanic. The ship sinks.

Pride and Prejudice (1995): Lizzy must decide who is truly guilty of pride and prejudice as she contemplates the seemingly hardhearted Mr. Darcy. When she sees him wet after a swim, she takes off.

Shane: The gunslinger Shane hangs up his guns to live a peaceful life with a family, including a little boy. He shoots a couple men to death in front of the boy.

The Lord of the Rings: Frodo must destroy the great ring of power to save Middle Earth. He claims the ring for himself, but his finger is bitten off, so happy ending.

Romeo and Juliet (1968): Although their families are literally feuding with each other, Romeo and Juliet decide to marry for love. They both die.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Movie Review: Freud’s Last Session

Freud’s Last Session. Directed by Matt Brown. Written by Matt Brown and Mark St. Germain. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Goode, Jodi Balfour. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual material, bloody/violent flashbacks, smoking. Runtime 2 hr. 2 min. 

Freud’s Last Session is a fictional account: What if C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud met each other on the eve of World War II? This would be just weeks before Freud’s death, and after he was awarded the prestigious Goethe Prize for intellectual achievement. And this was before Lewis’ radio lectures on Christianity during the war, which became the basis for his famed apologetic work Mere Christianity. 

Those who are looking for a shootout between the atheist and the Christian will be disappointed. Freud (Anthony Hopkins) does most of the talking. Lewis (Matthew Goode) mostly listens. And thereby hangs an interpretation of the title. 

Freud unloads on Lewis tirades not just against Christianity, but often on his personal life. He strides around, gesturing with his arms, dogmatic and arrogant. Lewis listens cooly, sometimes sharing about his personal life when relevant, and giving mild rejoinders. In the third act, Freud occupies the famous couch in his office, while Lewis sits at the desk. Yes, this is Freud’s last session, with Freud as the patient. 

The movie is disjointed, with a rejoinder from either man sometimes much later than the question, and with vivid flashbacks interrupting seemingly at random. So the following is a stitching together of scenes that may not have been shown consecutively. 

Lewis shares that after his mother died, his father did not know how to deal with Lewis and his brother, so he sent them off to boarding school. Freud concludes that the distant father led Lewis to his superstitious longing for God. Lewis responds that actually, he reconciled with his father. He then points out that Freud hates his father, so perhaps that is why he rejects God. Freud dismisses that with a wave of his hand. 

Towards the start of the movie, Freud criticizes Lewis for being late, seeing that as a flaw. However, Lewis was late because of trains shipping children away from London to the safety of the countryside. The compassion shows plainly on Lewis’ face as he sees the children, and later when they both hear on the radio that twenty thousand are dead in Poland. Freud shows no such reaction. But Freud is concerned about those close to him—a daughter and grandson who died. He shows Lewis a photograph of them. Freud asks about their deaths and his own pain and suffering. Why does God allow it? And frankly, that is the question that most non-intellectuals feel is most important about God. 

At first Lewis says, “I don’t know,” and Freud thinks he has a victory. But then it becomes apparent that Lewis was talking about the particular suffering his family has gone through. Lewis goes on to say that if pleasure is God’s whisper, then pain is God’s megaphone. 

Freud constantly says Christianity is just superstition, an "insidious lie," and at the start he says he is surprised an intelligent man like Lewis believes in it. Later, we briefly see a flashback to Lewis’ writing group the Inklings, and we are shown an achingly short glimpse of a page of Tolkien’s work. Tolkien witnesses to the then-atheist Lewis, saying the Gospel is different from the world’s mythologies. He challenges Lewis to study this. We then see Lewis doing so, going back to the original Greek of the New Testament. 

Fans of both Freud and Lewis will be disappointed at some truncated versions of their arguments. Lewis says that all the religions that Freud denounces teach about doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. It leaves out Lewis’ argument that one can only know what is wrong from a sense of right, can only know what is bent from knowing what is straight, and that knowledge is what God puts in everyone. Freud gives a brief mention of his belief in the stages of sexual development, but it is so garbled by his oral cancer, it is hard to understand. 

Freud is portrayed as getting the better of Lewis over fear of death. During an air raid alarm that turns out to be false, they go to a church basement for shelter. Freud not only shows no gratitude, he is rude to the clergyman. But Lewis has a bad moment, which he says was a flashback to The Great War. Freud needles him about that moment, saying he showed no joy about meeting his God, and therefore Lewis had a lack of faith. Lewis looks stunned for seconds, and he has no reply. Later, on the train home, Lewis looks afraid again at distant lights that either remind him of war or show the preparations for war. 

Overall, Freud’s Last Session has an unsavory air. Freud’s daughter Anna, considered the founder of child psychoanalysis, is accused by more than one person of having attachment disorder towards her father. This is shown in a series of flashbacks that turn out to be beyond creepy. And the movie implies she had a lesbian relationship (which is shown briefly in a hallucination), for which there is no evidence and which Anna always denied. 

A lengthy flashback show the pact between Lewis and a friend during The Great War, which Lewis did write about. They both had single parents. If the friend were killed, Lewis was to take care of his mother for the rest of her life, and if Lewis were killed, the friend would take care of Lewis’ father for the rest of his life. The friend is killed. In the most horrific scene of the flashback, hunks of shrapnel are pulled out of Lewis’s leg without anesthetic. But when one puts together a few scenes in the movie, it clearly portrays Lewis as having a sexual relationship with his friend’s mother. There is no evidence for this.   

So because of these and other scenes, I cannot recommend Freud’s Last Session. Is this a biased review? Perhaps. But were we all meant to interpret the movie the same way? Unlikely.



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