Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Law of Superheroes

If you haven't guess by now, I'm a colossal geek. That applies to my recreation choices (mostly videogames), the TV shows I watch, and the movies that I gravitate towards. And that also includes my interest in all things superhero. Believe it or not, I'm not a big comic book reader. I've got a passing familiarity with the Marvel and DC universes and I'll certainly check out some series and titles from time to time. But, as evidenced by my debut novel, I still have a great love for masks and capes. That's part of what attracted me to the book The Law of Superheroes.

James Daily and Ryan Davidson are both comic book fans and lawyers, and they spend the better part of this book seeing how the two worlds might possibly intersect. For example, let's say that a masked hero captures a criminal. Could the hero testify in court while disguised? Could a hero sue someone for revealing his or her secret identity? If a battle between superheroes and villains wrecks a big part of a city, will insurance pay for the damages? Daily and Davidson seek to answer all of those questions and more.

Where was this book when I needed it? When I was writing Failstate, I puzzled over a lot of these questions and I didn't feel comfortable contacting a lawyer to ask my questions. Here we have a great resource for geeks and comic book fans that not only answers those questions, but does so in a way that you can learn a lot about the legal system. In short, it's an excellent book that helped me learn quite a bit. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Advice for Star Wars 7

Normally I don't pay attention to business news. I've got no mind for economics and unless it directly or indirectly impacts me, I'll only skim the business section of Google News. For example, when I see news about publishing companies merging, I'll see who bought who and maybe read analyses of what that might do for me. But then I forget about it a short time later.

But today's news? Well, that got my attention. It's not every day that you see Disney spend $4 billion to purchase Lucasfilm. That means that any future Star Wars projects will come with mouse ears attached.

In some ways, this shouldn't surprise us. At least, it didn't totally surprise me. Not the price tag, certainly. George Lucas has created quite the little empire for himself. And the fact that Disney did the buying doesn't surprise me much either. If you've been to Epcot Center recently, you've seen the theme rides and the dance parties that feature Darth Vader boogie-ing down and accepting the fealty of little girls. So there was a pre-existing relationship there. Given the fact that Disney also has bought Marvel, and that leads to some interesting possibilities in the future. Marvel vs. Star Wars fighting games, anyone? Or maybe Darth Vader and Wolverine will cameo in Epic Mickey 3.

But what caught my eye was the little factoid in there that "Star Wars 7," whatever that will be, is targeted to be released in 2015.

To quote one Dr. Sam Beckett, "Oh, boy." Or, perhaps a bit more appropriate, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

My initial reaction was one of revulsion. Yes, Episode III finally, sort of got it right, but that's only because the bar had been set so low. George Lucas lost his ways, seduced by the dark side of digital effects, focusing on that over and above such mundane details as, oh, I don't know, storytelling, characterization, and so on. And while I've heard that the Clone Wars animated series is pretty good, I've been glad that we wouldn't see any further assaults on my childhood memories.

But then I noticed this little nugget in the middle of the stories, a quote from George Lucas himself:

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

So wait . . . this new movie would be one without George Lucas in direct control?


Further reading reveals that Lucas has turned over control of Star Wars to a lady named Kathleen Kennedy, and that he's shared ideas and plotlines and all that with her, that he will serve as a creative consultant for the future movies (yes, there will be more than just #7).

Initial feeling of worry returning.

Now I've been a Star Wars fan for a long time. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the original trilogy with my family to the point that we had them all memorized. I've read many of the novels. And I've played a lot of the videogames too. I've been a loyal connoisseur for decades now. And even though I doubt that Ms. Kennedy will ever stumble across this, my humble corner of the Interwebz, I do have some advice for her about what to do with Star Wars 7, which I'll share with you now:

1) Don't make them sequels. Or, to be more specific, respect the Extended Universe. A lot of authors have spent a lot of time telling the story where Return of the Jedi left off. The Empire fell and rose again. Memorable characters, such as Talon Karrde, Corran Horn, and Mara Jade, have trod the galactic stage and left an indelible imprint on it. And the main characters have been through a lot too. They've gotten married, had kids, lost kids and spouses. One of them even died (although I won't say which one). While I know that the books and such aren't probably "official canon," it would be a shame to slash-and-burn all of it. So if Star Wars 7 is indeed a sequel, set it in the far future. Avoid the Skywalker clan and their related associates. Tell us a new story set in the same universe and leave the EU to the fans.

2) Bring in some ringers. It's great that Lucas has given you his thoughts and ideas and I would never suggest you jettison them. But maybe hire in some folks with proven track records when it comes to telling Star Wars stories. Have Timothy Zahn take a pass at Lucas's ideas. Hire Michael Stackpole to flesh out the stories. Bring Drew Karpyshyn in, especially if these movies are set in the Old Republic period. There are plenty of talented writers who know this universe who could be used to help get this project off the ground and make it a classic. Speaking of which . . .

3) Don't confuse flash for substance. I think one of the chief problems with the prequels was the fact that so much of it was focused on the visual effects. Don't get me wrong, the effects were awesome and made the movies a lot of fun. But it was clear that Lucas's focus was on the sizzle, not the steak. The story is full of plotholes (which are fun to exploit at times), the characters are lackluster, and overall its disappointing. Make sure that whoever writes the script an craft a good story. Make sure whoever sits in the director's chair can say more than just, "Faster, more intense." Definitely don't get rid of the visual effects. Just use them to support the story, not overwhelm it.

4) Whatever you do . . . don't include Gungans, midichlorians, or characters from the original trilogy as children. That's just a bad idea all around.

But hey, what do I know? It's just a thought.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The New Recruit

Is it any wonder than I'm a Jill Williamson fan? It's not just because Jill is a good friend and my "agent sibling" (seeing as we're both represented by the awesome Amanda Luedeke). No, I'm a fan because of her writing. She's done it once again with The New Recruit.

Spencer Garmond is just an ordinary teenager. He loves playing basketball and yeah, he gets in trouble from time to time. But one of those times leads him to a difficult choice: he can either go to a private military school or he can join the Mission League, some sort of special service organization run by Christians (or "churchers," as Spencer refers to them). If he goes to the military school, that would mean the end of his budding basketball career. So he decides to check out the churcher's mission whatever.

That's when he learns that this is no ordinary mission trip. The Mission League is so much more. Soon Spencer finds himself heading to Russia, where he'll find himself caught up in the middle of an adventure that could completely destroy the Mission League from within. Will Spencer finally start to accept his calling? Or will the League's enemies finally bring it down?

I really enjoyed this book. It's not just because I received a free copy to review (which I did, but I bought a copy anyway. More on this in a bit). And it's not just because Jill is my friend. It's because once again, Jill created a rich world with some memorable characters. Spencer is a deep character with some very obvious flaws, and that's good. He's by no means perfect. I particularly like his discomfort at the churchers' behavior. That rang very true to me. I also appreciated the shorter chapters, which kept me reading the entire time and didn't let me off the hook.

My one complaint, and it's a minor one, is the sheer number of characters. A few of them blended together after a while and I couldn't keep them straight. But they were minor players in the overall story, so it wasn't an issue all that often.

At any rate, this is a great new book and you should definitely check it out. And I can help you there.

As I mentioned earlier, I received a free copy of this a few weeks back. Well, that was after I bought a copy at the ACFW National Conference. I'm not big on having doubles on my bookshelf, so let's give away one of them. If you comment below with your e-mail address disguised (such as email (at) domain (dot) com, y'know?), I'll pick a random reader out of a hat a week from now (that's right, on Halloween).

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Wool Omnibus

I love a great success story, and Wool - Omnibus Edition is certainly that.

Imagine a future where the only human survivors live inside an underground silo. There's a definite hierarchy to the silo. There's the up top and the down deep. There are rules and law, the chief of which is this: don't talk about the outside world. That kind of talk gets you sent out for a "cleaning." But what happens when a young woman from the down deep to be the silo's new sheriff. This upsets the status quo and threatens to tip the silo into absolute chaos.

I can't say much more than that due to spoilers and all that, but this was a fantastic read. Hugh Howey did a fantastic job of creating a believable world with some great characters. I felt completely immersed in the silo's world and there were times I wished I could join the story to help out. I had to keep reading.

What makes this even greater is that Howey is a publishing revolution success story. Howey published the first story in this omnibus as a stand alone short story via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. It became so popular that he wrote more stories and he's even sold the movie rights.

So if you want a good sci-fi, dystopian read, be sure to check this one out.