Thursday, 16 October 2014

Strange Constellations and Short Stories

So as some of you may know, Strange Constellations has launched and published its first two stories for September and October. Strange Constellations does short stories under "speculative fiction", which generally runs the spectrum between fantasy and science fiction. It's all Creative Commons, so you can read it for free and generally spread/edit/repost it so long as you don't do so for profit and you remember to source it correctly. 

I wrote a short story for September, called "The God in Her Veins". It fits pretty neatly into "Urban Fantasy", and tells the story of a girl with a semi-sentient parasite living inside her, making curious demands while blocking memories about why she's stuck with It or what life would be like without It. Her life changes when she discovers a clue that might indicate her problem isn't as private as she'd thought.

The October Issue, Deborah Walker's "Drink Deep and Long the Circean Poison" is a delightful piece of science fiction that I would definitely recommend. The narrator's prose evokes an Edwardian or late-Victorian air, fitting for the sort of playwright who would write plays that would "encompass the breadth of human history". As the story progresses you'll quickly notice that something is odd about our playwright and society as a whole.

The fun of short stories in my opinion is that they're "fun-sized" stories, and whether you love it or hate it you only have to put in perhaps a half-hour or so to finish it. If you didn't care for it, oh well! Half-hour gone. And if you love it, then either it'll leave you wanting more (whether or not more exists), or ideally you'll feel completely satisfied, as if the story could never be better with any amount of extra words. 

This doesn't mean I prefer them to novels; to the contrary, I quite love novels. But there is always something to be said for knowing that you're not going to read 300 pages to find out that it is, in fact, the first part of a series. But perhaps I'm just a little jaded about the rise of "trilogies" in Young Adult Urban Fantasy, many of which end up going on after the literal 3 for another few books and/or movies. 

Anyways, all of this basically to say "I wrote a short story for this growing anthology, you should read both short stories because they're good and what have you got to lose."

Friday, 28 March 2014

Raven Absorbs Media #2 --

So I saw 3 bad films recently, and probably enjoyed the net equivalent of 2 films. Or maybe 1 and a half.

Non-Stop (2014)


So this is a Liam Neeson film about Liam Neeson playing a Liam Neeson character. He's an emotionally unstable air marshal who is getting mysterious texts and has to stop somebody from killing people on the plane. As ludicrous as the poster is, that's basically a thing that actually happens. Liam Neeson waving around a gun on a pressurized aircraft. And he's responsible for all their lives.
          Anyways, I won't "spoil" the "twists", but there are better films that are better written and probably more worth seeing. Still, if you're in the mood for a Liam Neeson action film you get exactly that.
          There's a full cast of "quirky" secondary characters on the plane, none of which are interesting, well-explored, or particularly relatable. I don't think I can name any character in this film.
          Not to be confused with the 2013 Non-Stop which is also about danger on a plane, but is completely devoid of Liam Neeson.

Need For Speed (2014)


A friend wanted to see this film and I said it looked suitably stupid and that I'd go for him. We decided at the theatre not to pay "real money" for it, and so I used a points card to get free passes and drinks and a popcorn and honestly, the review comes down to "don't pay real money for this film."
          Saying it's "predictable" is like saying this film movie has cars. If you're remotely familiar with dramatic tropes then you can predict exactly how someone's character arc will develop the moment they appear and open their mouths. The youngest mechanic who is "like a brother" to protagonist Aaron Paul is obviously going to die, and you know how he's going to die the moment he enters a three-way race with protagonist and protagonist's nemesis. British love interest appears, and the moment you see her at the car show you realize she has to not only "get" cars, but also end up driving with protagonist in some contrived scenario.
          The exception to this is of course Michael Keaton, who is some sort of quasi-omniscient half-narrator-half-god in this strange universe. He determines who gets into this dramatic race and seems to have an unnatural ability to be involved in some petty grudge match across the country and sieve out facts that nobody could possibly know as quickly as he does. He almost seems like a character who's aware that this is a film, or at least that whatever is happening between protagonist and nemesis is somehow the central element of his universe, even though he is rich and influential. He is worth at least 2 of the 3 stars I gave this review, and had the movie been about him, I probably would have given it even more.
          There's lots of driving stunts and racing things and Michael Keaton. If you're interested in at least two of those three things, you'll be passably entertained. Don't go for a story, characters, or any sort of emotional stimulation.

Divergent (2014)


This film fails to be bad or good, although if you're not interested in teen dystopian fiction it'll probably drift towards the former. It's the post-vague-war future, and civilization is in ruins, so our protagonist's city has decided that the only way to prevent conflict it to split everyone up into fixed factions based on their dominant principle: Selfless, Kind, Brave, Honest, or Smart. Naturally our heroine is too cool to fit into any of them properly, but lies and tries to fake fitting in anyways. It turns out that even though a test determines which you're best at, you can just pick some other faction when you're 16 anyways, except that when you're 16 and you choose a faction you're stuck with it for life.
         The whole thing is a clumsy allegory of high school cliques, although it can be stretched further into adult life in terms of the human tendency towards soft tribalism. The "choose forever at 16" thing is obviously regarding post-secondary education and/or employment, and maybe as someone who is not in that situation I can't properly "relate" to this idea, given that most people I know are not taking the specific path they chose in their last year of high school. Or maybe this film just isn't very resonant. None of the characters are interesting, and there's a missed opportunity among her friends who've switched from other factions: Instead of showing us what made these people abandon their families and friends and ways of lives, they're reduced to trope characters embodying the faction they left. We never get any real indication why they left; they seem perfectly fitted for their home faction.
         Also why is there both Kind and Selfless--isn't there a bit of overlap there?
         The movie is fairly acted, and at the very least provides interesting discussion regarding how poorly thought out an idea these factions are and whether or not people start using faction names as derogatory terms for literally any behaviour which doesn't fit your specific culture. Didn't read the novel, probably won't.